Brendan O Sullivan

The Committed Kerry Supporter

by Brendan O'Sullivan

The waiting is over. It is almost five  months since the team wearing green and gold last took the field. The All-Ireland Final of September 20 2009 seems a long time ago but the winter was   shorter because of the warm glow thrown out by the success. It is good to be preparing for action again.

There are many people whose lives revolve around the Kerry football team but the most committed Kerry supporter I know is my cousin from Tralee. When he was growing up the great team were in their prime and Sam Maguire was an almost permanent resident in the Kingdom.

His work brought him to Dublin. Very convenient when Kerry were in the semi-final and final but hard work otherwise. He travelled  to Kerry for home matches, all over the country for away games, even outside the country when Kerry were amazingly in the same League division as London, the score in that match Kerry 3-16 London 0-4 He remembers the game against Kilkenny in the same year, trying to find the pitch deep in hurling country, the locals unaware that a football match was being played in the locality, the small attendance, Kerry winning by 3-16 to 0-3. When Kerry were down  as they were then, he was there. When they were up he was there. He always took a week off after an All-Ireland  final---win or lose he was back home to greet the team. During those Dublin years he  followed the  mid-week matches by ringing his mother who would put the radio beside the phone and he would listen to every moment of the match as broadcast on Radio Kerry. A  large bill---but well worth it..

The highlight of his years in Dublin had nothing to do with football. He married--a Dub. Attempts to indoctrinate her only partly worked. She supported the Dubs but otherwise indulged his passion for the Kerry team and became almost as committed a supporter as himself. The only matches they watch separately are when Kerry meet Dublin and after those matches she has had little to celebrate. Dublin haven't beaten Kerry in the championship since 1977 (before they even met) or in the League since 1999 when Kerry missed two penalties in Parnell Park.

After many years in Dublin they moved to Kerry. His exile was over, he was back in the Kingdom, back at the centre of the GAA universe.
The winter can be long but much shorter if the memories are good. There are club games to go to and the videos of  triumphant matches to be enjoyed. The League schedule is published in October and long-term planning can begin. The GAA Ticket Scheme opens and his application goes in immediately. All friends are alerted, it was great value last year and they ended up with excellent seats at the final. The championship schedule comes out nearer Christmas and his year now takes shape.

For 2010, three away games in the League. A Saturday evening journey to Cork. A Sunday afternoon in Galway, that will mean an overnight trip with the Kerry Supporters Club. A 7.30  Saturday throw-in in Omagh--perhaps a visit to the relatives in Dublin and a drive to Tyrone. 4 home games against Dublin, Derry, Mayo and Monaghan. Maybe even a final in late April.

The championship starts in May with a visit from  the improving Tipperary team. But Kerry should win, paving the way for another clash with Cork on June Bank Holiday weekend. The planning  now has alternate routes--the front or back door. The trips to Longford and Tullamore were memorable last year and one part of him hopes for some more backdoor drama. But, one way or the other, he is confident Kerry will be in quarter final action in Croke Park on the Bank Holiday August weekend. Then there are two matches to an unprecedented seventh final in a row.

And so the year unfolds in front of him. He looks forward to the travels of the League but even more to the summer championship run. He looks forward to the Kerry training sessions, very few of which he will miss. He looks forward to the discussion and arguments on the Kerry GAA Forum. His holiday plans must fit into the GAA schedule -- the couple of weeks abroad  must always be taken when there is a clear gap between matches (and  possible replays must be always allowed for).

This is the world and way of thinking of the committed Kerry supporter. My cousin is not unique---there are many more like him. The Kerry Supporters Club normally fills 2 busloads for  away games and one of the "regulars" who never misses a  trip is over 80 years old.

The dedicated Kerry supporter is not the "animal" as  affectionately described by a former manager but informed, reflective, certainly critical at times but basically supportive of the manager and team. Nor does he fit into the "we'll wait for the final" attitude of  previous generations. Next weekend the year starts with the visit of the Dubs to Killarney. We salute all committed supporters, we wish them well on their travels and hope that the final journey this year will be to Croke Park on September 19.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom