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Kids make long-awaited return to sport

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Eamonn Fitzgerald offers some sage advice to the youth of Killarney as GAA academies resume after a lengthy lockdown

They were up this morning waiting for the day when they could join their friends in the academies of the local GAA clubs, learning the skills of hurling, football, camogie, and doing it all with their friends.

It has been a long time for young boys and girls of primary school ages to be denied access to the playing pitches, not just in Killarney and surrounding districts but nationwide, as the government ruled it out based on the health advice from NPHET.

While I agree with the government’s reluctance to give permission to the sports clubs to re-open, I believe that it has been far too conservative a timeline. These young sports-children have been meeting up in big class groups indoors at school since Easter and now they will be operating in smaller pods in the wide expanses of the local GAA pitches and elsewhere.

Neither can it come half soon enough for parents, often demented by their children, who are so full of energy that modern technology will only partly suffice.

PREPARATION

The clubs have been very busy preparing for today's return to play, particularly the workers in the juvenile sections of the clubs.

There is an awful lot of red tape involved in following the protocols so that everyone is safe and endless paper trails to be followed; registering, checking in, sanitising, and getting into pods before the coaches take over. They too have been active during lockdown, mainly through Zoom or Team meetings, completing courses on safeguarding with children and updating their garda vetting status.

Parents or guardians must also play their parts, ensuring their children have individual water bottles with names on them, and while COVID protocols are still in place make the trip to your local club pitch with the mantra of ‘Arrive, Drop, Go and Return to collect’.

It all seems very onerous, but it will work out and everyone will return home safely.

What no one wants is opening up and then lockdown once more.

FIRST DAY OF SUMMER

Today, May 1, is the first day of summer 2021 and best of luck to all those young boys and girls who can’t wait to run on those green fields. For a very small number, it may well be the first steps on the road to glory to wear the coveted green and gold of Kerry. For the majority, it will be the opportunity to sample the games on offer, learn the skills and have fun. Some will progress through the juvenile ranks and go on to spend the best years of their lives proud to represent their clubs at senior level.

Others may sample the GAA, but find out it is not for them and that is perfectly alright too. They may like other sports in Killarney, in other codes and clubs that are well organised and have proud traditions. I think of rowing, Killarney’s oldest sport, soccer, basketball and many more.

My heart goes out to the latter. As I outlined in this column some months ago there is a great tradition and success of basketball in Killarney. The local clubs cater for so many young people and crucially it serves males and females.

As a sport played indoors for the most part, they have a low priority in the eyes of the government in the roll-out of opening up the country. Basketball and several other indoor sports could go ahead quite safely now, following the guidelines.

Juvenile academies start today, but already in action since Monday last are outdoor sports for people up to the age of 18 and for adults tennis and golf, which also got the go-ahead.

SCARAVEEN

The sun is streaming down today as this column goes to print and that splendid good weather spell has been with us for the past 11 days. However, one swallow never made a summer yet, even the few that have returned to Killarney within the past few weeks, but I am mindful of Scaraveen. ‘Scara-what?’ you may well ask.

Many readers may not have heard of that term, but the farmers are mindful by nature and are their own forecasters, ever before the meteorologists inform us on radio or TV.

Scaraveen runs from mid-April to mid-May and is an Anglicised term for Garbh Shíon (rough weather), or, to give it its full title, Scaradh Shíon na gCuach meaning the rough weather of the cuckoos.

The cuckoo winters in sub-Saharan Africa and returns to Europe in early spring. She is a solitary bird, more often heard than seen. The familiar "cuck-oo cuck-oo" call heralds late spring/early summer, when the cuckoo returns to Killarney.

The cuckoo is a parasite, living off the state as it were, but in this case living off of nature. She lays her eggs in the nests of small songbirds with precision timing. Once hatched, the cuckoo chicks eject the true occupants and are then fed by the unsuspecting foster-parents. The cuckoo chick is already a true master of deception.

Folklore has it that Scaraveen is nature's way of exacting retribution on the cuckoo for the havoc she causes in the bird world and that is no piseóg. From about April 15 to May 15, mild spring weather has been known to revert to cold, wet miserable weather, which is more typical of winter. Unfortunately, we all pay the price for the cuckoo's misdeeds. I wonder if any of our readers heard as yet the 2021 ‘cuck-oo’ call in the Killarney area. I must check out the first call of the cuckoo in 2021 with Killarney’s great environmentalists, who are always out and about: Peter O’Toole and Risteárd Clancy.

It was a much-prized claim to fame in our early days in the Old Mon to claim to have heard the cuckoo in The Demesne, Ballycasheen, Woodlawn, or wherever.

How do such connections stray into the stream of consciousness advising parents and young children about the opening up of the academies tomorrow?

In years past academies did not exist in Killarney, but with the lengthening hours of daylight and the long evenings of mid-April onwards, the outdoor games got underway in Killarney, the Half Moon, the Cricket Field, Fossa, Spa, Firies, Glenflesk and elsewhere.

I was fortunate to be a son of a father who encouraged me to go kick a ball with my friends, but there was always one proviso, a nugget of ageless wisdom. Be sure to wear two geansaís and a woolly cap in Scaraveen weather. During Scaraveen you can get the 4 seasons in the one day, rain, storm, hailstone, snow and a false sunshine.

He was a wise man, a man for all seasons and all weathers.

SNOW-CAPPED MOUNTAINS

I well remember the snow-capped Carrantuohill in late April, enticing such great landscape photographers such as Valerie O’Sullivan to capture it all for the newspapers. Nowadays she doesn’t even have to do the long early morning trekking. Drone photography provides the technology, but her trained eagle eye is still necessary to capture that magical unseasonal majestic miracle of nature.

And so it will be for the young ones today, come hell or high water, they won’t mind the Scaraveen weather. All they want is to run out on the verdant green grass of their local pitches and have fun with their friends.

Children are great imitators and the good coaches will know tomorrow that showing the skills in a fun way to the eager boys and girls in the company of their friends will prepare them well for life.

That will be a life of respect for all, encapsulating diversity and inclusivity.

Even if you cannot get the hang of cutting the sliotar from the side-line, dribbling around several players like Messi, or perfecting the punt kick that you had practised endlessly against the back-garden wall during lockdowns, the academies will demonstrate for you the way to shimmy your way to future success, whatever obstacles life puts in your way.

Have fun and hopefully tomorrow the sun will shine brightly.

SCARRED

We are halfways through Scaraveen, mostly sunshine filled, so there must be rain, cold and wind on the way, or even a sprinkling of snow on the mountains. Maybe not such a bad idea to hide the shame and the anger one felt last weekend, when fire, whether started deliberately or accidentally, scarred our beautiful mountains, not to mind the incineration of too many little creatures.

Mindfulness? No. More like needless mindlessness.

 

Main Photo: Firies U11 boys awaiting instructions during their first training session back after the latest COVID-19 lockdown. Pic: Firies GAA.

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Killarney Races celebrates 200 years

Killarney Races celebrated 200 years of racing yesterday during the opening day of AugustFest, an exciting three-day summer horse-racing festival that will run until tomorrow (Saturday) inclusive. Kerry Senior Football Captain […]

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Killarney Races celebrated 200 years of racing yesterday during the opening day of AugustFest, an exciting three-day summer horse-racing festival that will run until tomorrow (Saturday) inclusive.

Kerry Senior Football Captain Sean O’Shea, with a host of fellow teammates and back-room staff, escorted Sam Maguire to the racecourse arriving by jaunting cart to take part in the bi-centenary celebrations.

Racegoers of all ages were thrilled to get up close with the Sam Maguire Cup and our fantastic Kerry football legends.

AugustFest at Killarney Races offers patrons great racing, history, socialising, entertainment and so much more at Ireland’s most scenic racecourse. A special bi-centenary admission package was available on the opening day offering patrons admission, a racecard and a €5 free bet all for €20 which went down a treat with punters. With many bringing their jerseys and cameras along to make the most of the double celebrations at the Kerry track.

The first race at Killarney Racecourse was recorded in 1822. In the early days, the meetings were supported by Lord Clanmorris and the Earl of Kenmare, the feature race being the Kenmare Stakes from 1826 to 1830. The current racing venue located at Ross Road held its first race meeting on 20 July 1936 and Ontario was the first ever winner at the track, winning the 1½ mile handicap hurdle, in the hands of jockey Willie O’ Grady.

During the August racing festival, a special commemorative marquee featuring a wonderful collection of memorabilia and photographs from the last 200 years is open to all in attendance for the duration of the festival.

“We celebrated a major milestone here at Killarney Races, two hundred years of racing in Killarney which is amazing,” Killarney Racecourse Chairman, Gerard Coughlan said.

“I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all locals and visitors to Killarney to come along and be part of the 200 year celebrations during AugustFest!

With two more fantastic days of racing in store and lots of ticket levels and packages including food and beverage options to choose from, whether it is close to the action general admission tickets or silver service fine dining, there is something for everyone at Killarney Races. Live music, fashion, and fun for all the family complement the best of summer racing at the track this August.

Patrons are advised to book online and come along early to enjoy the stunning views, facilities, delicious food, live music on the lawn and soak up the boutique festival atmosphere for which Killarney Races is famous.

Adult tickets and packages are available from €20 and children under 14 go free ensuring a great day out for all the family. For those who love a deal, the punter’s pack is a great value-added option and if you want to live it up check out the Maurice O’Donoghue Suite and Panoramic Restaurant options. For all ticket details and festival programme information visit killarneyraces.com.

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Glorious weather for Kerry County Coastal Rowing championships

It was a day of glorious sunshine yesterday (Sunday) as Flesk Valley Rowing Club hosted the 2022 Kerry County Coastal Rowing championships for the very first time in beautiful Castlelough […]

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It was a day of glorious sunshine yesterday (Sunday) as Flesk Valley Rowing Club hosted the 2022 Kerry County Coastal Rowing championships for the very first time in beautiful Castlelough Bay on Lough Lein.

Hundreds flocked to the Valley shore to see the coastal clubs of Kerry race in crews from Under 12 to Masters. As well as clubs from around the Ring of Kerry, there was a strong representation from the Killarney clubs with the Workmen, Commercials and Fossa wearing their colours with pride. The atmosphere, colour, fun and fierce competition produced a spectacular day that will live long in the memory.

The event was opened by the Councillor John O’Donoghue, vice chair of the Killarney Municipal District who congratulated Flesk Valley on their centenary, which occurred during 1920, and wished all of the clubs a successful day’s racing.

The first race was preceded by a special blessing of the boats by Fr Eugene McGillycuddy, who also remembered Brendan Teahan of Cromane Rowing Club in his prayers.

Afterwards John Fleming, chair of Flesk Valley, expressed his immense pride and satisfaction with the success of the regatta.

“It’s our first time ever hosting a regatta, but we wanted to do something special to mark our 102 years in existence,” he said.

“It was a lot of work, but we have a fantastic hard-working committee in Flesk Valley who really pulled out all the stops to make it happen, and we received fantastic support from our members, parents, other clubs and local businesses.”

John also thanked the Kerry Coastal Rowing Association, in particular Mary B Teahan and Andrew Wharton, and the staff of the Killarney National Park for all their support and encouragement in hosting this event.

This was a qualifying event and the Kerry clubs will be heading to Wexford next weekend to complete for honours at the All-Ireland Coastal Rowing Championships.

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