Excellence knows no bounds: sports ability should never be suppressed by geography or gender

The founding of ‘The Comp’, aka Tarbert Comprehensive in 1973, was instrumental in shaping the life prospects of students in North Kerry and West Limerick, in West Limerick by Loughhill-Ballyhahill (My Own), Glynn and Athea. in the parish, and the Kerry villages of Moywen, Lenamore/Ballylongford and Tarbert.

Here I and many others were given the tools to be successful in education and sports. This school’s catchment area softened the ideological influences of the county boundary line between Glynn and Tarbert, with a mix of Limerick’s green and Kerry’s green and gold.

Comp’s school sports teams drew from the region’s rich Gaelic and athletic traditions, winning provincial and All-Ireland titles.

The Rose of Trolley and Listowel Race were our major cultural festivals. In celebration of 25 years of Carey’s last All-Ireland Ladies Senior title in 1993, the team broke into the unofficial county anthem below the Hogan stand, giddy with emotional memories as we walked the pitch at half-time in the 2018 final Went . “The yellow moon was rising above the green mountain…”

Congratulations came from both sides of the county boundary for Carey’s nine consecutive successes and my part in our last Croke Park win. For those who live in county border areas, the game is a tool for the expression of a variety of identities. It is a reference point that both celebrate and reject county boundaries and is important for those whose identity and sporting allegiance is more fluid.

For historical reasons, common day-to-day practices in education, business, and the exchange of music and culture, as well as being ideologically linked to an adjacent county, meant that the peoples bordering the county are still connected to one another. .

Some of the Listons in West Limerick and North Kerry are actually closely related. Me and the male Kerry are not full-forward of the same surname though. Our Anglo-Norman heritage points to Münster as the family ancestral home.

Ireland’s 32 counties were not always like this. At one time there were 41 including urban administrative centres. Limerick was a functioning county until 1520 and so was the independence of Kerry. Independence referred to an area usually larger than a county, which enjoyed autonomy, largely independent of the Crown, and located in peripheral areas. Not to be confused with the power or scope to act according to one’s will.

But today’s county boundaries are now deeply embedded in Irish life, imperceptible to outsiders and especially cherished through Gaelic games. Competition is emotional between border rivals, not between parishes, townlands and families divided across these county lines. We have county flags, county colors, county anthems and even county associations within the Gaelic Games family.


Kerry’s Lorraine Scanlon. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

But there are also local areas, such as the 13-mile stretch between Foynes and Tarbert, in which the lived experience blurs this dividing line. We find a distinct cultural identity and a shared way of life, shaped in relation to the landscape and proximity to the Shannon estuary. The more picturesque routes of the former North Kerry railway line were through Limerick than those of Kerry, with a branch serving Foynes. There, families share musical traditions and culture, including mutual sporting allegiance. Not everyone accepts when Limerick plays Kerry, of course, but local tradition and lore celebrate the success of both counties alike in many homes along this stretch of N69 and inland.

When senior club and county football was not available in West Limerick, as a player under the age of 16, I was encouraged to join my nearest club, Abedorney, located more than 30 miles away in North Kerry. This required a nine-mile cycle along the N69 to Tarbert, where Donal Sheehan traveled from Abedorney to meet me or, when the Liston family car was free, time of driving, fuel, financial and emotional support. Parental investment which is the basis of youth sports. Playing basketball at Moywen meant an arduous journey through the Tullyleg Cross at the county border.

Over time I graduated to a yellow moped, which often left me stranded on the side of the road. By the time the Limerick Ladies County Board was formally revived in 1991, Comp’s Ladies Gaelic team had reached the All-Ireland Senior Finals twice, losing in consecutive years. I still bear the emotional scars of a valid point against Ramsgrange Community School in 1990, which was not honored. By then I had been embraced by Abedorney and Kerry LGFA and mentored by the All Stars. Being in the Kerry talent pool, I competed regularly against top players in club football and county training. That group included Mary Lane from the Limerick side of Abefele, as well as school friends from Tarbert and Ballylongford. Comp also attracted a newly qualified PE teacher from Mayo who would later join the Abedorney and Kerry women.

Sports coaching experts talk about talent identification and development and the hotbed effect. How does Carey manage to create such an expressive Gaelic football player? What explains their success in the code of men and women? No scientist or coach can argue for genes at the expense of exercise, or vice versa, especially not in the face of complex patterns of living and loving across county lines.

The culture established within high functioning sports teams is important but the selection of players is also important. When exposed to good coaching and competition systems, people with the optimum physical fitness for sporting success can flourish. Those with higher participation numbers can ascertain county sporting potential which is then understood by coaching expertise. This ensures that potential future talent doesn’t slip through the cracks. In some sports genetics matters less and training matters more.

Many of these insights were already felt by the county manager, Mick Fitzgerald, and all-stars such as Margaret Lawler (Slatree) and Mary Jo Curran, who supported Kerry in the 1988 under 16 panel of which I was a member. . His presence on the coaching grounds and on the edge of the match was a prism for young players through which they could practically imagine and achieve success, following in his footsteps.

In 1988, Mary Jo spoke to me personally, under the age of 16, after losing to Laos in All-Ireland, to bring me perspective through wise and helpful words. Months later, in the midst of on-field celebrations for Carey’s sixth consecutive All-Ireland title under Mary Lane, Margaret told me that I would also be at Croke Park a year later, this time as a player. Both were right.

This summer, Münster’s Young Footballer of the Year in 2007 Carey legend, Lewis née Mhuirchartigh, continued the tradition of giving back by taking time out to support a smaller team in its pursuit of success. The holder of several All-Ireland titles in handball, she also highlighted the now perennial issue of access to county training facilities for female Gaelic players.

Her teammate Lorraine Scanlon, the daughter of Mary Lane, wants to add another All-Ireland medal to the family collection today. Twenty-nine years after Carey’s previous All-Ireland senior success it is unimaginable but plausible that issues like this remain. Both the GAA and LGFA county boards in Kerry do not require their respective central councils to take the next steps. By executing on their commitment to equality, they themselves can and should be path-makers.

All players wearing the Kerry jersey from N69 to N71 and everywhere in between are entitled to it.