Eamonn Fitzgerald gives his take on Killarney’s ambitious plans to build a Kerry Cultural & Sporting Experience on the grounds of the Fitzgerald Stadium
Lockdown 3 on Level 5 looks like continuing for some months and sport, for the most part, has come to a standstill once more, with sporting arenas silent and waiting to come alive.
The Fitzgerald Stadium is a case in point here on the Lewis Road in Killarney. However, efforts are underway once more to resurrect the ambitious plans to build the Kerry Cultural & Sporting Experience (KCSE hereafter) on the outside field on your way into the main pitch.
The project is ‘shovel ready’ with everything in place except the necessary finance to get it over the line.
Cllr Michael Gleeson first mooted the idea in 2010. I spoke to him earlier this week and first asked him what was envisaged for this centre.
“This proposed KCSE would provide a family-friendly, all-weather amenity in Killarney, the home of Irish tourism. It has two main objectives. First, it would provide a central location to encapsulate and celebrate the long and noble traditions of sport in Kerry as well as its rich traditions of history, music, literature, and folklore. It would be a provision for all genders and also, of course, catering for the necessities of people with disabilities.
“Secondly, there would be a significant spin-off for the tourism sector, providing an amenity that has long been missing in Killarney to cater for visitors on the many wet days we get here in the Kingdom.
“This all-weather amenity has been long called-for by tourist interests and by Killarney Town Council.”
A retired teacher, Gleeson has a huge interest in local politics, the environment, local history, an Ghaeilge and sport. Winner of two All-Ireland medals with Kerry in 1969 and in 1970, he was a key player with the East Kerry team which won three County Championships between 1968 and 1970. He also captained the team to the inaugural All-Ireland Club Championship in 1971.
Incidentally, Donie Sheehan trained those winning teams and it’s great to hear that the 94-year-old is as alert as ever, living directly across from the Fitzgerald Stadium. I have no doubt he would be very happy to see this project get underway.
I also spoke to Der Brosnan, the hard-working volunteer chairman of the Fitzgerald Stadium Committee for the past 10 years, and asked him why the committee offered a free, gratis site for the project, and if the offer still stands.
“Many people believe that the Fitzgerald Stadium is the home of Kerry football, hurling and camogie and this major project would tie in very well with our ambitions to make it more attractive for all, not just on the days of big matches. I can envisage a tour of this fine stadium, just like the tours in Croke Park and the big soccer stadia in England, which many people have experienced. We have the ideal site for the building to cater for all needs.
“We were delighted to offer a free site for this KCSE project back then and that offer still stands.”
So, what would KCSE be used for?
Kerry, Killarney, Sliabh Luachra and many other places have rich histories that need to be preserved and made accessible to the general public. KCSE can provide that accessibility.
Think of the rich musical culture of Sliabh Luachra, from Tom Billy and Patrick O'Keeffe to Denis and Julia 'The Weaver' Murphy, to Johnny O'Leary, Jimmy Doyle and Jimmy O’Brien, Bryan O'Leary from Tureencahill and the Moriartys from Kilcummin.
The GAA in East Kerry and Kerry played a crucial role in the context of the fight for Irish Independence, the centenary of which will be celebrated this year. So many Kerry people played their part for the cause. They too should be remembered.
The story of the development of the Fitzgerald Stadium is also well worth telling. After the untimely death in 1930 of Killarney man Dick Fitzgerald, his local admirers set about building a sports stadium in his memory. A five-time All-Ireland football winner, author, referee and member of the Killarney UDC for so many years, he was also a staunch freedom fighter and was incarcerated in Frongoch jail for his part in the 1916 Rising.
There he became great friends with fellow inmate Michael Collins and after their releases the latter made many visits to Killarney in the subsequent years, calling in to see Small Jerh in Main Street. Margaret O’Leary, daughter of Small Jerh, still lives there. Canon Tom Looney of Park Road documented Dickeen’s life story in his meticulously researched biography, ‘King in a Kingdom of Kings’.
The Fitzgerald Stadium staged the 1937 All-Ireland senior hurling final and over the years it has attracted in excess of 45,000 spectators to Munster football finals, before health and safety regulations limited the capacity significantly.
Indeed, I have very happy memories of watching from the Michael O’Connor Terrace the All-Ireland Athletics Championships staged there up to the seventies. I was particularly thrilled to see Rás Tailteann cyclists Gene Mangan, Mick Murphy, Dan Aherne, Johnny Drumm and others in action, as well as high jumpers Brendan O’Reilly (RTÉ) and Mick Spillane, of course. The Fossa man was a mighty high jumper.
Kerry's wonderful tradition of cycling and athletics would be remembered in the KCSE.
EDUCATION IN KILLARNEY
There is a great tradition of education provision in Killarney, from Inisfallen Monastery (Brian Ború) and Lough Léinn (Lake of Learning) to the arrival of the brothers and nuns to establish their schools in the 19th century.
Technical and vocational education was first established in 1920. Thankfully, the primary and post-primary service continues unbroken down to the present day. The town schools are continuing the wonderful work in Ballycasheen and in the New Street/New Road areas, even if it is causing traffic chaos there.
Not to be forgotten are Filí Móra Chiarraí, An Spéir Bhean agus Fr Patrick Dinneen.
KSCC would house a theatre for exhibitions, performances and seminars. I have great ‘meas’ in the local Dóchas drama group, but they have no place to call their own and must be fed up of waiting for the conversion of Áras Phádraig to a theatre. How long is that going on, or will it ever happen? Exhibitions would be staged, inviting people to visit such locations as Listowel (literature), The Blaskets and Sceilig with an interactive interpretative provision developed for Star Wars.
The story of the Brownes and Lord Kenmares from 1596 to 1985 needs to be housed and the history associated with the great buildings in Killarney, such as the Pugin-designed Cathedral, Presentation Convent and the Old Mon.
There is the story of the development of the railway to Kerry and the subsequent branch lines all there to be made available. During the lockdowns many people became very interested in local history and genealogy. The KCSE working in tandem with Killarney and Kerry library service could make it all possible in our own doorstep.
One could see it as an ideal location for the memorabilia of that historic Killarney man, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty. Great work was done some years ago erecting that wonderful life-size statue on Mission Road and wall plaques highlighting his achievements. He was credited with his heroics during World War II, saving 6,500 Jews from death in the Nazi gas chambers. However, there is so much more memorabilia from the life of the Mangerton View man and there is no suitable place to display it. KCSE would solve that dilemma.
Under the chairmanship of Liam Chute, Park Road, a working committee of 12 local people did all the necessary preparatory work back in the early 2000s. The working group had representatives from Killarney tourist interests, Killarney Town Council, Kerry County Council, the GAA at Kerry, Munster and Croke Park levels, as well as educationalists.
They drew up building site plans, costed them, submitted them and were approved for full planning permission in April 2012. This has since been extended to April 2022. It will provide the most up to date multimedia audiovisual amenities. Also it can provide for demonstrations, and workshops for hurley-making, crafts and Irish food displays.
Inspired by the rich history of education in Killarney, this one location would cater for the needs of local students and also foreign students coming to Ireland to further their academic studies. I feel that the Irish diaspora market, particularly the second generation Irish-American students researching their family roots, genealogy and traditions, would bring the desired spin-off for the local tourism interests.
An innovative dimension provides for interactive areas for skills challenges such as puck, solo, catching, dribbling, kicking to interactive simulation screens as used by golfers, who go to a professional for lessons. The patrons could learn the perfected skills as demonstrated on bigger stages by people such as Gooch and Mike Lenihan.
Enthused by the skill displayed in the archives by the big sports stars, the young, budding stars could run out through a tunnel hearing all the sound/video images on to the pitch where some daydreams might merge into reality.
Great sporting achievements would be presented from the archives gallery with commentary from Micheál O’Hehir, Micheál Muircheartaigh, Weeshie Fogarty and others. Adults and youngsters could don the headphones in the interactive commentary booth to record their own commentary on a match or a race. It would also provide a home for the Radio Kerry archives as well as a collection of memorabilia such as jerseys, boots, old medals, programmes etc.
A very detailed business plan fully costed at €3.5 million, or a more elaborate one costing €5 million, was prepared for the various interested parties. A combination of loans and grants from interested agencies, both statutory and non-statutory, would provide most of the money before it became self-financing, which is the desired aim of the working committee.
The 13,000 square metre building as outlined above will also have a café and merchandise and gift area.
It was estimated at the time the project was granted full planning permission that an average of 1.5 million visitors came to Killarney annually, second only to Dublin in tourism footfall. No wonder at that and the great news this week is that Killarney came second as a litter-free place. Take a bow all the voluntary litter-pickers we admire daily on the streets and roads around Killarney. Maith sibh uilig. If everyone could be so civic minded...!
The costed business KCSE plan was based on a realistic target level of 87,000 customers and the business would generate operating profits of €170,000.
Based on operational costs (and creating some jobs) the break-even number of customers paying an entrance fee of €5 (with certain concessions for family, OAPs, unemployed) would be 67,000 and the whole centre would in time be self-financing.
The plan set the realistic target level of visitors to the centre at 87,000, considering the high visitor footfall to Killarney, and therefore profit-making.
HAVE YOUR SAY
The proposed KCSE would be much in demand, especially on the wet days. There are many other Kerry men and women who could also be honoured. What do you the readers think of the proposed Kerry Cultural & Sporting Experience, as Liam Chute’s working group launches another bid to get the centre over the line?
If you have a viewpoint, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Séamus Moynihan tops Kerry manager poll ahead of Jack O’Connor and Peter Keane
by Adam Moynihan
Although it now appears as though he could be a selector on the Stephen Stack ticket, four-time All-Ireland winner Séamus Moynihan has topped our ‘Next Kerry Manager’ poll by collecting over one-third of the overall vote.
Around 37% of respondents said that Moynihan should be the next Kerry boss with 23% of fans backing former manager Jack O’Connor. The team’s most recent bainisteoir, Peter Keane, received 18% of the votes.
Another former manager, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, is next in line on 10%, although it is believed that he is not willing to return to the fold due to work commitments.
In addition to the four main candidates mentioned above, readers were also invited to nominate their own preferred candidate. This open field threw up 16 more names with former Kerry and Dr Crokes manager Pat O’Shea the most popular entry. The Killarney man received around 3.5% of the vote.
Donie Buckley got roughly half as many votes as O’Shea, and the other prospective managers ended up with less than 1% each.
Glenflesk native Moynihan enjoyed a glittering playing career for The Kingdom between 1992 and 2006, the highlight perhaps coming in the year 2000 when he captained his county to All-Ireland glory. He has since taken on coaching roles with his own club and with Fossa and was part of Darragh Ó Sé’s Kerry U21 management team in 2015.
It had been suggested that Monaghan’s defensive coach Donie Buckley would be part of the Moynihan ticket. Buckley was also a member of Peter Keane’s backroom team, but Keane relieved him of his duties in the early stages of the 2020 season.
However, after this survey was completed, Tony Leen of the Irish Examiner reported that Moynihan and Buckley are, indeed, part of the same ticket, but the manager’s name attached is that of current Killarney Legion boss Stephen Stack.
Stack himself had a long and distinguished playing career with The Kingdom and as a manager led Austin Stacks to the County Championship in 2014 and Legion to an East Kerry Championship in 2019.
The Listowel native is also rumoured to be calling on Dara Ó Cinnéide and Mickey Ned O’Sullivan as selectors, with Joe O’Connor filling the role of strength and conditioning coach.
Stack was not considered to be a realistic candidate at the time of the survey; he was one of the 14 managers who received less than 1% of the vote.
KERRY SUPPORTERS SURVEY
Q: Who should be the next manager of the Kerry senior football team?
Séamus Moynihan 36.7%
Jack O’Connor 23.4%
Peter Keane 18.1%
Eamonn Fitzmaurice 10%
Pat O’Shea 3.5%
Donie Buckley 1.6%
(Carried out online on September 21/22. 431 respondents.)
*Mike Quirke, John Sugrue, Jim McGuinness, Jim Gavin, Jerry O’Sullivan, Maurice Fitzgerald, Tomás Ó Sé, Johnny Crowley, Stephen Stack, Kieran Donaghy, John Evans, Paul Galvin, Marc Ó Sé, Liam Kearns.
Jordan’s new role with St Paul’s
By Sean Moriarty Killarney’s Paralympic hero Jordan Lee is to take on a new role with Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club. Jordan began his sporting career with the local basketball club where he created history by becoming the first amputee athlete to represent their country at international level. The High Jumper then switched […]
By Sean Moriarty
Killarney’s Paralympic hero Jordan Lee is to take on a new role with Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club.
Jordan began his sporting career with the local basketball club where he created history by becoming the first amputee athlete to represent their country at international level.
The High Jumper then switched to track and field and qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics where he made history by becoming the first Kerry athlete to act as a flag bearer for an opening ceremony and lead an Irish team into an Olympic Stadium.
Now back home and preparing for the next Olympics in Paris, he has returned to his first love and will join the backroom staff at the local Division One basketball club ahead of their National League campaign which begins next month.
His father Jarlath Lee is head coach with St Paul’s.
“Jordan is joining us as our strength and conditioning coach,” Jarlath told the Killarney Advertiser.
Meanwhile, Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club National League team will have a distinctive feel to it this year after securing the services of three overseas players it for the season ahead.
The club’s biggest signing is Canadian professional Ben Miller. It was originally hoped that the former two-time Manitoba Player of the Year would play for the local side last season but the pandemic got in the way and the National League was never played. However, he did play two training games this time last year before returning to Canada until travel restrictions lifted.
“He is a good guy, very approachable and very good with the young members,” Jarlath said.
The club has also signed Bulgarian International Emilian Grudov.
The 20-year-old has already represented his home country at U16, 18 and 20 level.
“He is young, athletic and very good offensively,” added Lee.
The returning Lithuanian Dianius Varanaukus completes the club international line up for the 2020/21 season.
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