What the club means to me

Shane Jordan

“For as long as I can remember, Blarney GAA has been a major part of my life. The earliest memories I have are of indoor hurling with St. John Cremen and Michael Horgan in the secondary school in Blarney on Friday nights. Coupled with this are the vague memories of the 1999 Intermediate final. Some of my fondest memories with Blarney GAA come with the Parish leagues. This is where hurling really started. All week in school in the old boy’s schools, all we could talk about was the Parish Leagues. ”

It is also here where I have some of my best memories with the biggest influence of my career, and I’m sure my brothers would say the same, my grandfather, Joe Bradley. He never missed a night of the Parish Leagues. He may have shouted the wrong names (one time even calling Joe my sister Kate) at us when trying to encourage us on the pitch but we got the message loud and clear.

I can still remember my brother Joe buying me my first hurley in New Ross, Wexford where my father is from. What you may not know, however, is that my first love is football. Unfortunately, at underage level the football was quite the opposite of the hurling, where in this case it was quite seldom we won. Over the last number of years Blarney has seen a rise in football both at underage and adult level. A major influence on this has been that of Colm O’Connor. For me personally, Tom Hallahan and Terrance Ryan must be acknowledged when it comes to the efforts they put into minor and U21 football throughout my time at these grades.

Over the last number of years playing with the Junior Bs has been a pleasure. It was the first time we really got involved with the legends of the club such as Colm Sheehan, Niall Hayes, Cormac O’ Keeffe and co. Much praise has to be given to Frankie Downey, Donal O’Donovan and Denis O’Donovan who have been the main driving forces of the Junior B team, not just since I have been playing but for long before my time.

Back in August, I took up the role of Secretary in the club. It has only been over the last number of months which I have really began to understand the work that goes on behind the scenes. From hosting championship matches to hosting car boot sales, the work that goes on within the club which may not be seen is phenomenal.

Blarney GAA really is the heart beat of the village and whenever the club is doing well you can feel the buzz all over the village. We are extremely lucky in Blarney to have such a close knit village, which transpires out onto the pitch. From Mairead Sheehan and Dan Dilworth with Club Beag and Club na nOg, to Michael O’ Mahony with the Intermediate team, the running of the club, on and off the field is in tremendous hands.

Blarney GAA has been a major part of my life, even giving me a nickname which is now likely to stick for life, for as long as I can remember and I don’t see that coming to an end any time soon”

Barra O’Connell

“I picked up my plastic hurley at the age of five and since then have had a long love affair with the game of hurling. The lads that day that held the same plastic hurleys are still my friends along with the many other friends I have met along the way – so life-long friends are definitely a trait of not only the Blarney GAA but GAA clubs in general.”

Hurling is central to my every day and without it I’m not sure what I would do. The Blarney GAA Club is run by numerous remarkable individuals who collectively contribute to the development of each and every member of the club. The club itself is not only in the centre of the village but it is indeed central to the community of Blarney.

Not only are individuals educated in terms of hurling, football or camogie but life skills are also learned through actively participating within the organisation. Of course young people need to learn basic manners, respect and self-confidence in the home, but the GAA fosters these qualities and while the battles on the pitch may be fierce, we all shake hands at the end of the game and thank our coaches after each session.

There is a sense of togetherness – family even, which is vital to any team or club whether it be on or off the pitch.

Paul O’Leary

“My first memories of playing hurling and football for Blarney were the parish leagues – which was over 20yrs ago and thankfully I am still playing with and involved in the club. There is a great atmosphere around the club throughout the year as it is the centre of a lot of activities in the village from training & matches to car boot sales.”

In the last few years the club has gone from strength to strength with success on the field coupled with major developments off it – most recently the club installed a state of the art gym which has been a major addition to our team’s preparations. Blarney GAA is a big part of my life & my family’s life, and hopefully will continue to do so for many years.

Brian Hurley

“I still remember my first morning playing for Castleowen in the Parish Leagues and the sheer excitement surrounding the day – it was probably on the same level as playing in an adult final for Blarney almost 20 years on!!”

Throughout the year the club is a hive of activity and particularly on Saturday mornings during the summer where it’s amazing to see the amount of effort and organisation being put into coaching the young players of the future within the Club Na Nóg structure. It just reinforces the fact that the club is a constant cycle right from the Club na Nóg through to the underage and adult teams, with no one single event in the calendar more important than another.

A huge amount of effort has gone into the club so far again this year with some very successful fundraising for the development of facilities while on the pitch results for the both the underage and adult teams have been very positive.

The club continues to attract a huge amount of new members every year and this is a great sign that people who move into the area feel like it’s something they want to be part of. Blarney GAA has been and always will be a very important and enjoyable part of my life.

Colin Murphy

“Indoor hurling in SMGS Blarney at the age of six or seven, that’s where my hurling career began with the club. It was the first time I picked up a hurley and since then I’ve loved every minute with Blarney GAA. Blarney is a small village with fantastic people. You only have to take one step through the gates of Blarney GAA to notice it. The commitment of the people that volunteer for the club is staggering, whether it be the car boot sales, hosting matches, lining the pitches, etc but is very noticeable with the time given to the under age.”

The time those volunteers put in to train the kids is fantastic. It always has been and I am very grateful to the people who put in the countless hours to train me, while also teaching me the values of teamwork. The club has given me great coaching with the likes of club legends PJ Sheehan, Brian Sheehan, James Coakley, James Hughes and many more teaching me the skills and sharing their passion of the game with me. I think its important senior players in the club try to give back to the club, particularly try to get involved with underage teams, which most players have already done. It is another great thing about our club, people are willing to put back in what the club have given them. Blarney GAA is where I’ve built serious friendship with my closest friends since an early age and all the way up by training & playing together, winning and losing together. I have also picked up many valuable life lessons along the way.

Blarney GAA has brought very happy and proud days to me and the people of Blarney. In recent years the likes of 08 and 09 winning the treble and giving the people of Blarney an unforgettable day up in Croke Park which marked an iconic day in our club. Blarney GAA plays a big part in my life and I hope to be involved for many years to come.

Niall Hayes

“Blarney GAA is an institution in itself. It is a club with culture, spirit and talent within the community of Blarney.”

For years I’ve been playing both hurling & football and I am still enjoying the friendships I made down on the pitches with players, managers, coaches and those who come down to watch on and encourage friends. In times of hardship and need, it is those within the club who rally around you as friends to support you and your family when it matters the most.

I have two small little rascals, 3 & 6, who both love coming down to the ball wall with me, running around making friends and testing their skills in hurling & football which are mentored every Saturday morning. They enjoy a boost in confidence every time they meet the older generation who heap praise on them regularly when playing both codes. The kids really enjoy the friendships they make on Saturday mornings when over 60 kids train on the pitch over various age groups.

I enjoy watching them run around in a very safe environment and in the club’s magnificent facilities having FUN, which is the main aim of Blarney GAA for all the kids involved. The club is a place where one makes friends and enjoys a social scene, while all pulling together to have a positive impact on the wider community.

Blarney GAA was always a place of comfort and enjoyment for me growing up, but now that has extended to my own family.

Mark Cremin

“The parish leagues were the start of my hurling and football days with Blarney and since then, I have loved playing for the club at all levels. Blarney is a great club on and off the field. It has always looked after me and offered me a safe environment to play growing up. I remember spending all my spare time down at the pitch, watching and learning from the senior players at the time. It is great seeing younger players doing the same today.”

The friends I have made through the club and the people I grew up with, went to school with, are the same people I play long side every time I put a Blarney jersey on today.

Whether we win, lose or draw we always stick together. While it is nice to win, there is more in the friendship and bond we have made.

Countless volunteers that put so much effort into the club over the years make it a great club to play for. From training the underage teams, helping out at car boot sales and various other events throughout the year, one can easily see how big the club is within the community.

Blarney GAA has brought so many great days in my life. The highlight to date is winning the county title in 2008 and going on to win the All Ireland in 2009. Such memories will be with me for a long time to come and I am very grateful to all of those who helped me along the way.

Darragh McSweeney

“Blarney GAA Club has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember, I followed in my older brothers footsteps by lining out for Killowen/Castleowen in a parish leagues which were an extremely competitive affair at the time. From there Saturday morning trainings with Kevin Murphy, PJ Sheehan and Pat Harrington proved to be a great stepping stone to an enjoyable underage career with Blarney, a definite highlight was the u14 county final success against Douglas after a reply.”

I feel I have been extremely fortunate to have been afforded the opportunity to wear the Blarney jersey over the years, play with what I would consider legends of Blarney hurling like Ray Coleman and Brian Sheehan and have the opportunity to represent the club in Croke Park. The memory of our journey to Croke Park and the support will live forever.

Recent developments like the club gym is indicative that the club is always looking to grow and improve, which makes being a member of Blarney GAA that bit special.

The club has definitely become like a second home to me. I’ve formed life long friendships, shared great victories and endured some heartbreaking losses along the way. I look forward to many more years representing the red and white.”

Cian O’Mahony

“My earliest GAA memory is from when I was about 4 years old and my grandfather took me to get my first hurley. My grandfather was a proud Limerick hurling man and he had convinced me that I had the greatest hurley that was ever made. The hurley lasted a good couple of years and it was with this stick that I made my first forays with Blarney GAA.”

Ann Holland and Pauline Hegarty used to train the under 8’s on a Saturday morning at the time. I suppose that they were the precursor to the club beag that we have today. They taught us the basics and did a great job given that a lot of the team that won the minor county in 1997 would have started under their tutelage. The club has given me many happy memories from the under 8’s right up to playing with the adult teams. I never quite made it to Intermediate level but have had plenty of great days soldiering on with the Junior A’s and Junior B’s. I have made some great friendships through playing with Blarney.

There are many people that I would never have met had it not been for the club. I didn’t play for a couple of years when I was living up in Dublin but I started again when I returned to Cork. I would really encourage anyone who used to play when they were younger, but for whatever reason stopped playing, to return to the club and start again. It is a decision that I am very happy that I made. It is hard to beat the feeling of satisfaction you get be it from a training session or a match.

The underlying strength of the club comes down to the people that give their time and effort in all the different aspects of what makes a successful club. Training and mentoring teams are the bread and butter of the club and Blarney has a lot of great people driving it on – from Niall Hayes and co. in the Club Beag all the way through to Mick O’Mahony and his team with the Intermediate hurlers. There is also all the “behind the scenes” work that isn’t seen – from our club delegates through to the organisation and running of car boot sales. Every effort comes together to make the club work as well as it does and I have huge respect for everyone involved.

My time playing with the club is nearly at an end but i’m looking forward to getting involved in coaching and seeing my own children wear the red and white of Blarney in the future.

Stephen O’Brien

“Like many others my first involvement playing with the club began with the parish leagues and the very successful Monacnappa side of the early 90’s. And well over 20 years later I’m still playing and involved with the club. The club continues to provide a wonderful opportunity to the youth of the village in promoting our games, there is fantastic work being put in from club beag level right up to our premier intermediate hurling and Junior A football teams.”

There are some fantastic people volunteering their time to help run the club and it’s very heartening to see such great numbers training our future stars on Saturday mornings, manning the gates for our very important car boot sales and stuck in the board room dissecting every day issues during our committee meetings! It is very easy to help out when there are so many others doing the same.

It’s great to see the club continuously progressing and making development plans to cater for our future needs, our club gym is a fantastic facility and it is hoped that our all weather pitch will be built during 2016 and this will ensure that there are training facilities available for all teams, all year long.

Blarney GAA is where my closest friendships have been formed and is like a second home to me. It plays a huge role in my life where I hope to be involved for many years to come.

Colm Sheehan

“My first memory of playing hurling & football with the club was back in the early eighties, in the parish leagues, where all careers start. To this day, it truly is the heartbeat of the club.”

My father Pad Joe introduced me to the club along with my two brothers Padraig & Brendan. There is a strong tradition of GAA in the Sheehan family where my father played hurling & football with Rathpeacon in the 1950s & 1960s and then joined Blarney GAA Club in the late 1960’s. My family has been involved in the club since then and have made great friendships over the years through the club.
I really enjoyed my early years at underage. While I learned the skills of hurling & football on the field as a player, the encouragement from my coaches and the teaching of respect & teamwork helped me develop as a person off the field. I had great fun & enjoyment in those years and eventually won my first medal with the club in 1998 at U21 level.

But the club is not just about winning silverware. It is all about enjoyment & taking part, while also making friends for life. We are so fortunate to have great people volunteering their time for club activities both on & off the field.

In the last couple of years I’ve being playing Junior B hurling and we’ve had some great success. There is a great spirit within the squad and it really highlights what Blarney GAA Club is all about. I still get the same buzz playing now as I did when I started all those years ago! I would strongly encourage players to continue playing the game for as long as they can, no matter what the grade. There is no better feeling than wearing the Blarney jersey and lining out with the friends you have made over the years.

This is my second year involved with the club executive and I only now realise the tremendous effort invested at administration level. There is a place for everyone in the club, be that in playing, coaching, assisting for a few hours at our car boot sales or supporting our teams from the bank. Everyone is welcome in what is truly a community club.
I’ve now come full circle. I am now bringing my own son to Club na nOg with the under 5’s every Saturday morning. I hope he gets the same enjoyment from the club, as I have all these years.