The Kerry Supporters Club - The Heart and Soul of Kerry Football

March 29th, 2016
by Weeshie Fogarty

The Kerry Supporters Club are an intrepid group of men and women, hail, rain or snow they are on the road following their beloved Kerry football teams. In many ways they are a breed unto themselves, a close knit group and in victory or defeat they always see the glass half full and are forever looking forward to the next match, the next journey and the eternal optimism of glorious summer victories just around the corner is always there to be discovered when you fall into discussion with a member of the club.

They are a massive part of the heart and soul of Kerry football, the real grass roots of the organization in the county, their lives, families, and working week revolves around Kerry football. The first overnight trip organized by the Kerry Supporters Club was to Donegal in November 1990. To spend time in their company is a humbling experience; they literally wear their Kerry hearts on their proverbial sleeves and week-ends away on the road just like the recent trip to Monaghan brings out in no uncertain fashion all the love, passion, admiration and huge respect they have for their county players and all they represent.

And so it was last weekend I was fortunate to spend time in the company of these exemplary men and women and indeed a fair few children. The Four Seasons Hotel is situated in Coolshannagh Monaghan town just thirty minutes' drive for Clones where Kerry defeated Monaghan. This was chosen as base camp for the two busloads of supporters from The Kingdom.  Garry o Sullivan and I were on Radio Kerry duty for the game and we spend the Saturday evening with the supporters club in that hotel and it was a delightful experience.

Over one hundred supporters, young and old, men and women sat down at 7-30 pm for a lovely dinner and of course conversation during the pre-dinner drinks for those who like to indulge when away for the week end centered entirely around football.  The troubles of the country and even the world in general are put on hold and rarely surface. It was a wonderful evening of Kerry football education and during long debates any mistaken date, a wrong score or even selection of your greatest ever Kerry player  would be swiftly debated. 

Not all supporters travel on the busses, many with young children and family's travel by car but are booked in for the meal with the supporters and here officers, Donie o Leary, John King and PRO Martin Leane are on hand to ensure everything is spot on. Music chat and song will be heard long in to the night. People like Jerry Brosnan, Dan Dwyer, Kathleen o Sullivan, John Creedon and so many more too numerous to mention typify in the most complimentary possible manner  the real true quintessential Kerry supporter.

The foyer of the hotel on the Sunday morning is a virtual hive of activity, it's the meeting point for all, the talent of the previous night's singers are openly discussed with great humor be it good, bad or indifferent, football discussions continue to rage, team selection for the day, Sunday newspapers sports sections are browsed through, Brian Sheehan's absence is a majour topic and who will be the teams free kicker for the game. And the weather is another big talking point; anxious eyes scan the darkening clouds. Long serving Mike Allen from Fries sets minds at ease around a crowded table when he declares, "don't worry about the weather, these Kerry players can win in any conditions".

But for many Sunday mass is top priority and a series of taxi runs ferries supporters to and from St Macartans Cathedral about thirty minutes away. And time ticks on, you can sense the excitement beginning to build, match time is fast approaching, watches put forward an hour that morning are constantly checked, mobile phones are buzzing. Martin Leane gently steers his charges to the buses. Destination Clones is reached in loads of time and the Creighton Hotel in Fermanagh St is commandeered as second base, standing room only, soup and sandwiches are the order of the day. I meet Ann Marie o Sullivan, Birmingham born, just flown in from that city. Her father was a renowned old Killarney boat man, Mickey "Cut" O Sullivan. He instilled in her a burning g passion for Kerry football. " I just love mixing with these wonderful Kerry supporters, their passion is infectious", she tell me.   Now it just a five minute walk up the hilly street to St Tiarnach's Park.

Former Kerry player and selector Kevin Griffin with Bernie o Riordan and others arrive at the hotel to join the discussion having left their homes at 7am. Kevin's lovely son Cathal has travelled with the supporters and informers his father he is not travelling home with him in his car because "there is a far better craic in the supporter's bus". Kevin and Bernie laugh heartily at this.  Long before throw in the center of the main stand is taken over by the Kerry supporters, "birds of a feather flock together" comes to mind. They are within touching distance of Garry and I in our commentary position. I find their presence very reassuring for some reason, its home from home, friendly faces, green and gold, waving, smiling, chatting laughing, anxious, passing messages for friends at home to be called out on the electric radio. Great stuff.

The supporters stand as one when Aidan o Mahoney leads out his Kerry team, the Rathmore warrior would go on and play a blinder. They are in great voice and join in as the National Anthem is beautifully sung by fourteen year old All Ireland champion Katie Boyle. And Eamon Fitzmaurice and his men give them something special to discuss on the long road home. Level at six points apiece at the short whistle the second half passes in a flash. Kieran Donaghy has his bets game for long time as he ranges from goal to goal, Colm Cooper is back to his very best selling dummies all over the place and the supporters are furious when he is refused a blatant penalty in the first half.  David Moran Johnny Buckley and Shane Enright and indeed all the players and subs introduced turn on a superb display.

They hold their breath when Kerry are awarded a penalty. Paul Murphy hauled to the ground, David Moran expertly goals from the spot, hats, flags and hands in the air. Kerry are coasting, fresh, fit, all movement.  Monaghan are shattered. Kerry are now pushing up on Rory Beggens kick outs and the game dynamic changes completely.  Paul Murphy, Colm Cooper, Alan Fitzgerald and Star all raise white flags within minutes, real Kerry points, class and style, seven players on the scoring list, ruthless efficiency. Eamonn's half time talk has worked wonders.

Lovely touch as each Kerry player runs off to be substituted the supporters stand and applause, then full time whistle, 1-17 to 1-9 win.  Many of the delighted supporters walk on the field; smiles as wide as the mouth of the Shannon, happy days are here again. Photographs, autographs, chatting with their heroes, reluctant to head for the bus. Eamonn Fitzmaurice leaves the dressing room boards the busses to his supporters, thanks and praises them for their support. A class act. This is the icing on the cake.

The mood will be buoyant on the long bus journey home. Expert and critical analysis, more singing, another pit stop just outside Dublin, then thoughts and debate on the next game. For the Kerry supporters club there is always a next day, always another journey to undertake, bad days and good days. Their friendship, friendly welcome and courtesy leaves me with that worm glow of something special.  You asked what's the Secret of Kerry?  Must be its supporters.

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