My daughters are attending Cúl Camp for the first time this week. They never wanted to go before. During the school year a coach from the local club, Aghada, was in to school to provide coaching and both my girls got hooked. How bad. They’ve even joined the club. Dry evenings are now spent practicing skills in the garden. I mostly climb over the wall to get the ball back.
Cúl Camps consists of both football and hurling. The girls had no camogie gear so first stop on Monday morning was the sports shop. We weren’t alone. Last minute helmet and hurley shopping is a regular thing apparently. Open mouthed shock at the price of a helmet is also a thing. Better than a broken head I guess.
Arriving at Aghada G.A.A. ground Monday morning was a very uplifting experience. There is truly no other organisation like the G.A.A. in Ireland. Probably anywhere. It is a proper community organisation. There was no shortage of volunteers with parking supervisers, registration table people and a ton of coaches, many of whom weren’t long past attending themselves. Young people teaching the next batch. Every one of them eager to help and answer questions. The place was buzzing.
Unsurprisingly, the girls are having a great week. It got me thinking about my own interactions with Gaelic Games over the years. I grew up in Swords and played for Fingallians for a few years. I was a better spectator though and thoroughly enjoyed attending matches. Being born and raised in Dublin, I of course shouted for the Dubs. It was the early 90’s and Dublin were going through a barren spell. Hard to believe looking at the current situation. I particularly remember the 3 draws with Meath in 1991. I attended all four games with my father and they were fantastic games. Dublin lost the fourth game but even at ten years old there was a sense that the meetings would have a place in history.
So I was a Dub. For the football at least. My father was a proud Wexford man and brought me to a lot of Wexford’s Hurling matches. We would travel around Leinster and I was a Yellow Belly those days. I was even lucky enough to attend the All Ireland final with him in 1996 when Wexford won for the first time since 1968. I have my fathers prized picture of that final (pictured above) in my hall. They are still waiting for the next victory. This year’s Leinster Championship is hopefully a step towards it.
My mother is from Kerry and my family moved there when my brothers were young. I had spent many early summers in the Kingdom and my brothers are die hard Kerry fans. One of them even playing senior club football. Although I’ve never lived there, Cahirsiveen is where my family are. It’s a home of sorts. I have Kerry sympathies.
In 2004 I moved to Cork. They’re not lying when they tell everybody about it. Cork is great. The people are genuine and welcoming. The craic and banter is always 90. Although they complain about the traffic, it’s not really that bad. It’s a great place to make a home and raise a family. I am growing more and more sympathetic to the Cork G.A.A. cause.
I also married an Offaly woman in the middle of all that. Thankfully she hasn’t brought anything to an already full G.A.A. supporting table. There simply isn’t room. Although a proud G.A.A. county, things are bleak in Offaly on the Gaelic games front. They’re all golfers now anyway.
So where do my loyalties lie now? I’m still a Dub with a yellow belly but I have strong and growing sympathies for a number of other suitors. And the Kids are from Cork like. Up Aghada!
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