Playing into Night

As the days lengthen, Tramore Beach draws lots of families with young children for some before-bed play time.  Often you just see fathers and sons or maybe it’s just me that sees fathers and sons because when son, Harry, was young, he and his father used to go down to the beach and play hurling until it was beyond dark.

Hurling is a BIG sport in Co. Waterford and the beach is a great place for ‘pucking around.’

The other night I spotted this little chap with his father and I wondered if I will be cheering him on to All-Ireland glory with the rest of Waterford in a few years. Even if he doesn’t make the big time, I’ve no doubt that these nights will give him an enduring love of hurling, sea air and a sense of endless dusk that is part of childhood:

 

Hurler
Happiness is …

 

Flying High in Co.Waterford

I don’t expect this post to mean much to many people ~ unless, of course, they are Waterford (Deise) people with a passion for hurling.

Hurling is a Gaelic game that’s arguably the fastest, most skilful game in the whole wide world. It’s played with a hurl made from ash and a small leather ball called a sliotar. There’s fifteen on each team and the games last for 70 minutes and are not for the faint-hearted either on or off the pitch.

The highlight of the hurling year is the All-Ireland Championship which is in full swing at the moment. Today, we had two quarter-finals: Waterford v Wexford and Galway v Clare.

Waterford were victorious and will take on the might of Co. Kilkenny in two weeks time. Kilkenny are recognised as the kings of hurling in Ireland but we live in hope that we will find a way to weave ourselves passed them and head into the All-Ireland Final and beyond.

After the match this afternoon, there was a lightness about the Co. Waterford that greeted me. Waterford colours are blue and white and these were the colours that were emblazoned everywhere I looked.

Wat
Through the Ancient Window
Wat1
At Stradbally GAA Club
Wat3
Deise Dance

 

Yes, I AM a proud Waterford woman and am beaming here as I write this!

 

 

Sporting Heaven

Today is a HUGE day on the sporting calendar and it’s one I’ve been looking forward to for ages now.

Tennis is passion of mine and has been since I was a toddler. So, so many memories of watching the Men’s Singles Final and relishing all the history associated with it at both public and personal level. Today, just seeing a clip of Fred Perry had me thinking of how my late mother used to be glued to the radio listening to the crackly commentary of his matches when she was young.

I hope, hope, hope that Andy Murray can win today. He’s one of my big sporting heroes.

The final of EURO 2016 Soccer between France  and Portugal awaits tonight. That should be a great match and I feel the whole tournament has been brilliant in terms of how it has shown that national passions can be played out in sporting stadiums rather than killing fields of war.

My Waterford blood is pumping hard today too as our hurlers take on Tipperary (hubby’s county) in the Munster Final in Semple Stadium.

So, a feast of sport that builds so many bridges

C
Waterford Colours!

 

 

 

No Ordinary Sunday ~ Part 2

Passion
Passion

July 12, 2015 is winding to a close here in Ireland and it’s tinged with a sadness which I feel every year as Wimbledon ends. It has been a brilliant two weeks ~ and already I’m dreaming of next year.

I was hoping to see Andy Murray win and when he was out, then Roger Federer was my next hope but alas ….. Brings me back to years I sobbed over Billie Jean King, when son Harry was inconsolable over Lindsay Davenport.

And while Roger was losing, the Waterford hurling team were being edged out by Tipperary. My heart bled as the team played their hearts out and we now have to face the famous ‘back door’ and meet Dublin in the knock-outs instead of sitting pretty in the semi-finals. This is serious stuff for me, as you can see, and it will take a while to deal with it.

Sport is a great teacher; always has been. It’s all about highs and lows, winning and losing. Most of all, it’s character-forming and shows the importance of talent, dedication, teamwork, physical fitness, mental agility, strategic thinking and passion.

So, as always, I return to Rudyard Kipling’s great poem, If, as it never fails to bring calm and perspective about both sport and life.

No Ordinary Sunday

Stanny
Stan

Stan and I had the beach to ourselves very early this morning when the tide was out and all was calm.

However, it was like the sea was full of anticipation for the flood of sporting energy and passion that is just waiting to flood this special Sunday afternoon.

My beloved Waterford are playing Tipperary in the Munster Hurling Final in Semple Stadium in Thurles ~ throw in at 4pm ~ and the ‘boys’ have headed off with the mandatory sandwiches and bananas. Only problem is that hubby is mad Tipperary and son (like me)  is Waterford to the core and both are lunatics when it comes to supporting their teams. At least, one of them will be happy when they return! Let’s hope it’s the younger lemon!

Looking out for Waterford!
Looking out for Waterford!

Meanwhile, there’s the mega matter of the Wimbledon Final that’s almost upon us. My heart is skipping beats already and hoping, hoping, hoping that the brilliance of Roger Federer will shine through with all his grace, glory and greatness.

Legacies
Legacies

An Irish Welcome in Kilkenny City

I was in Kilkenny City this evening to hear the great American poet, Billy Collins, read at the Parade Tower of Kilkenny Castle as part of the Kilkenny Arts Festival.

The very first welcome I received was about 10 metres from where I parked my car and it came from a Kilkenny cat who purred and purred on a wall, calling for my attention.

As one with a big interest in hurling and basically being star-stuck by the Kilkenny Team, otherwise known as The Cats, it seemed just right that this would be my welcome to the place where my beloved parents met way back in the early 1940s.

Talk about ‘connections’ ~ eh?

Kilkenny Cat!
Kilkenny Cat!

Ken McGrath ~ My Hurling Hero

Ken McGrath is best known as one of the greatest hurlers who has ever played for Co. Waterford. He is undeniably one of the absolute greats and has been an inspiration to a whole generation of kids, including my son, who grew up with the height of admiration for a Waterford Team who served up some of the most inspired and magical sporting moments we will ever know.

Ken McGrath Celebrating Victory in the 2004 Munster Hurling Championship Source: INPHO
Ken McGrath Celebrating Victory in the 2002 Munster Hurling Final Victory
Source: INPHO

Ken was a true leader, battler, fighter and talent alongside Co. Waterford greats including, Paul Flynn, John Mullane, Tony Browne ….. the list goes on and on.

BUT, for me, Ken McGrath will always be associated with altruism, pure heart and two astonishing meetings associated with my late mother.

I wasn’t able to attend my mother’s cremation in June 2009 and decided to go swimming instead at one of the off-the-beaten coves along the Co. Waterford Coast with my fourteen year-old son. I was still half dressed in funeral attire when I bumped into Ken McGrath who had just been for a swim in preparation for a big Inter-County Match a few days later.

We were passing acquaintances but he seemed to recognise that I wasn’t quite myself and stopped and asked how I was. I told him that Mother had died and was being cremated as we spoke. His sympathy was overwhelming and he stayed talking for some time, noting how all that had been on his mind was his ‘knees.’

By amazing coincidence, I met him in the exact same spot the following year on Mother’s anniversary and he remembered everything about the previous meeting. Again, we stopped and talked and his supreme kindness and obvious concern for others was palpable.

Over Christmas, Ken was struck down by a very serious illness that has led to open heart surgery and the prospect of very lengthy rehabilitation.  My heart goes out to him ~ as one of Ireland’s greatest sportsmen of our time. It comes as absolutely no surprise whatever that the hurling world has united to support this man of supreme talent and heart and tomorrow evening Walshe Park in Waterford City will host a fundraising game between the legends of  Munster and Leinster hurling in his honour.

Ken McGrath: All Star Challenge Ticket
Ken McGrath: All Star Challenge Ticket

I have my ticket safely tucked away and I can’t even begin to imagine the depths of emotion that that will be unleashed as the greatest hurlers that I have ever known take to the field to honour a man who has been such a servant to Co. Waterford.

More than anything, I want to wish Ken well and thank him for being such  comfort on days when I needed comforting. Now, the roles are reversed and, yes, I’ll be there cheering my heart out for a man who is an absolute hero.

 

Up the Banner! ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 258

There are some posts that come more from the heart than others and I can tell you that this one is driven by some of the most intense feelings I know.

Flag

Today, we have the replay of the All-Ireland Hurling Final with Co. Clare battling it out against Co. Cork.  My father was a Clareman, through and through, and used all sorts of expressions like  One of our own and God’s own County when talking about Clare people and the county itself. It was like oceans of Clare blood ran through his veins and he certainly passed on that great love to us kids, through sharing memories of growing up in Co. Clare and building up a great collection of photographs of his beloved and stunningly beautiful county over the years.

He never tired of telling me how Clare was pretty much divided, unlike Co. Kilkenny, in terms of hurling and football with hurling very much associated with the East Clare and football with West Clare which was his place.

His younger brother, Michael, won an All-Ireland Football Medal with Co. Cork, of all places, playing alongside Jack Lynch, in 1945.  But, it was hurling that captivated Dad, the sheer skill, pace, excitement of the game and, of course, the dream of seeing All-Ireland Glory in his lifetime.

He was there in Croke Park to witness Co. Clare win that amazing All-Ireland in 1995 and like so many of his era, it was undoubtedly his greatest sporting moment. All talk of East and West Clare evaporated when it came to  Championship Hurling and its waving flags of blue and saffron.

Jerseys and Hurls of Davy Fitzgerald and Brian Lowan photographed at Torpey Huley Makers, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare http://torpeyhurleys.com
Jerseys and Hurls of Clare Heroes Davy Fitzgerald and Brian Lohan
Photographed at Torpey Hurley Makers, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare.
http://torpeyhurleys.com

So, as the game gets underway this afternoon, I’ll be screaming for mighty Clare, managed by that man of passion, Davy Fitz.  It’s on days like this that I’m both proud to be Irish but also forever grateful to have had a father who loved sport, shared that love, and taught me the meaning of the term Pride of Place.

Up the Banner!

Co. Waterford ABC ~ H is for Hurling

Co. Waterford ABC is a feature here on Social Bridge where I am identifying my highlights of  this diverse county in Ireland where I was born and which has been ‘home’ for the last 26 years. There will be just 26 posts ~ one for each letter of the alphabet and I hope you will join me in discussing your views about the places, people,  events, things that I select. Would you have chosen differently? In a county with such natural beauty and diversity in terms of history and heritage, one could quite easily identify 26+  highlights for each letter! 

See all previous posts in this series 

https://socialbridge.wordpress.com/category/co-waterford-abc/

Map of Co. Waterford (Click to Zoom)
Map of Co. Waterford
(Click to Zoom)


Championship Hurling is arguably the most unifying force in Co. Waterford and it evokes extraordinary pride, passion and sense of ‘belonging.’

I grew up hearing  all about the great Waterford Teams of 1948 and 1959 from my father who was working in Waterford City at that time. These were the years when Waterford won the All-Ireland Championship and the legendary  John Keane is the name that is very much associated with that golden era. It is so fitting that  Walsh Park in Waterford, which is the main hurling ground in the county, is situated on Keane’s Road.

The next golden era in Co. Waterford hurling started in 2002, the year that I happened to introduce my young son of 7 to the game here in Tramore.  So many great names and players including, Paul Flynn, Ken McGrath, John Mullane Eoin Kelly, Tony Browne …..

Hurling 2

The Waterford Team, under the management of Davy Fitzgerald, reached the final of the All-Ireland Championship in 2008.  The whole county was in a frenzy of excitement as our hurling heroes squared up to the might of neighbouring Kilkenny.  Even though Waterford lost, the homecoming for the team in Waterford was a night that will live long in the collective memory with Don’t Stop Believin’ echoing right along the Quay as the open top bus made its way through the thousands of supporters who turned out for the momentous occasion.

Hopes are again running very high in Co. Waterford at as our Minor Team is getting ready to play in the All-Ireland Final in Croke Park this coming Sunday.

My Shamrock ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 93

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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.