Weeshie's Week

'Caid is God' - A Great GAA Kerry programe not to be missed

January 11th, 2012
by Brenda Ni Shúilleabháin

The programme "Caid is God" goes out on TG4 on Sunday 22 January at 9.30pm.

Even if you hate football, you'll like this programme. It is about a passionate, lifelong commitment to a cause, a sport, an objective, a topic of discussion, a hero tale, a tale of woe, a tale of jubilation, a thread that binds the men of the parish together.
All the same, there are authentic stories of stabbed footballs, attacked by irate farmers into whose cornfields they – and the boys pursuing them – had strayed once too often.
Tom Long talks of the old days. He remembers a school league final, thirteen a side, in which only one boy had football boots, the other twenty five barefoot. Boys often wore a single sock on their kicking foot, to protect from abrasion by the heavy leather ball. If they had a leather ball, which was a rare enough thing. They tell us how to make a ball out of a pig's bladder, and out of rags and rope. There was no pitch in the parish, they played with coats as goal markers, on the sandbanks behind the strand, in the smell of spearmint and sea. In spite of all this, Ventry always turned out class footballers, the men can name them back through the generations.
There was one who captained Dublin to All Ireland victory in 1944. In those days if your own county didn't select you, you could make yourself available to other counties, so Joe Fitz, then a young Garda, captained Dublin. Times were really different. After the match, he changed, and went on duty at 6pm, and was sent to direct traffic on O'Connell Bridge. The first question he was asked by a member of the public who didn't know him was "Who won the match?"
In the fifties, emigration decimated the parish. Breandán Ó Cíobháin remembers that they had just the makings of a team, and they would gather in Ventry village, watching all corners to see who would arrive, and cheer when they had the fifteen. Tom Long says "There was no point in selecting. You depended on who turned up on the day. And if you were short, you put Johnny Compranny (a local character of whom more later) in goal, his socks pulled over his trousers, and a fag in his mouth."
Tom Shea played on that last Ventry team. He was only fourteen, playing senior, but they were short of men. All the same, they were good. "We wore the Ventry gansey, and we were proud of it," he says. In the end, they had to give up. They could no longer field a team, and neither could  most of the surrounding parishes, so they amalgamated to make the current Gaeltacht club.
"You start with the Club, and you end with the Club," Tomás Ó Sé says. "The club is crucial, it is very important to me." And indeed it is, he comes home from his work in Cork to train and to play.
"Marc was the youngest," his brother Feargal says, "And when he was small he used to annoy us. We'd put him in goal, and then hit him wallops of the ball. He'd often go in home crying, but he'd come back out again, furious, and keep going. I think in the end he was the most dedicated of all of us, and the most skilled."
Liam Rohan remembers when Tomás started out. "One of the selectors was saying to me that maybe he was a bit young," he says. "I said 'Put a Kerry jersey on him, and he'll grow six inches, and play ten times better than he has ever played before.' And I was right."
"The Kerry jersey is no joke," says Tomás. "You are proud to wear it, and as well, other teams are always a bit afraid of it. That's worth a couple of points in any match!"

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom