They were selling pots of fresh shamrock in SuperValu here in Tramore yesterday. The pots were sitting in a cardboard box lined with newspaper at the entrance to the store so I did my whole shop with shamrock on my mind and the pot staring up at me from the trolley with its green Irish eyes.
Oh, lots of memories of Mother pinning shamrock onto the duffle coat of my youth on St. Patrick’s Day; making shamrocks from cutting up old Cornflake boxes and mixing paint to try to get the exact shade of green; but most of all what dominated my thoughts was the village of Ballyhale, Co. Kilkenny.
For years, I used to pass through Ballyhale on my way from Dublin to Tramore ~ that was in the days before the new motorway was built. I always thought of it as a sleepy little village and the one that indicated that there was only Mullinavat and Waterford before the home strait to Tramore.
However, my perception of Ballyhale changed forever on a September night in 2009 when I was one of thousands in the village at the homecoming of the victorious ‘four-in-a row’ All-Ireland Kilkenny hurling team. Many of the key members of that team were from the Ballyhale Club ~ Ballyhale Shamrocks ~ Seamróga Baile hÉil. We’re talking about absolute greats like Henry Shefflin, T.J. Reid, Michael Fennelly, James “Cha” Fitzpatrick, Colin Fennelly …..
I just had to go and have a look at the grounds where these men had trained since they were kids ~ Páirc na Seamróg. I was half expecting to see a miniature Croke Park but here was typical village set-up and the pitch even looked a bit lopsided to my star-struck eyes.
The shamrock symbolises so much; it has given its name to thousands of places all round the world. (I g0t 58,800,000 results when I googled it today). But more than anything, the shamrock evokes a pride and passion about Ireland and Irishness and I can tell you I never saw such pride as was shown for the Ballyhale Shamrock boys that amazing night.