O'CONNOR PARK, of the Valentia Young Islanders GAA club, was purchased and developed in 1962. However, with the major increase in GAA activity in recent times it needed to be upgraded and so a major development scheme commenced in the year 2000 under the chairmanship of Micheál Lyne.
Since then over €300,000 has been spent in developing the grounds. The pitch has been extended, levelled, graded, drained, sand-silted and coated with a three-inch sand carpet. It has also been fenced and walled all round. Endline netting has been put in place and the entire pitch has been floodlit. The roadside wall has been removed to make way for a car park and a new entrance has been put in place.
The dressing rooms, which were first built in 1982, have been extended to accommodate a meeting room and kitchen. Two juvenile dressing rooms, a referee's room and an office have also been added. The club has built a stand for supporters and an electronic scoreboard has been put in place. The club is also very grateful to the surrounding landowners, John Falvey and Diarmaid Lynch who were more than helpful in providing the extra land required for the extension of the playing area.
Thus, today the park is a state of the art facility and being one of the best grounds in South Kerry it is very much in demand for senior and underage South Kerry championship matches. It is also currently well maintained by FAS workers John O'Sullivan, Bobby Burton and Donal Murphy.
Two major games in the calendar of the South Kerry Board were played there on Sunday week last with the meeting of Skellig-Valentia and St. Marys-Renard in the South Kerry under 16 final and St. Marys and Ballinskelligs-Foilmore in a South Kerry Senior Championship semi-final. Weather conditions for both games were dismal and wet not only for the players but also the huge attendance from surrounding Iveragh who had to endure worsening conditions as the day progressed.
The under 16 game proved to be a cracker from start to finish with prolific scoring -some of the top drawer variety. The encounter never saw any team achieve utter dominance and it finished on a score of 3-13 for Skellig -Valentia to 2-17 for St. Marys-Renard.
Skellig-Valentia were leading by two points with time almost up when the big and very effective Mark Sugrue of St. Marys-Renard crashed the ball to the net from some distance to give his team a sensational one point win. The game hardly deserved a loser as both sets of players served up admirable skill and classic scores in very wet conditions. The referee was Paul O'Sullivan of Dromid Pearses.
Scorers: St. Marys-Renard:Jack Daly, ( 9points, 7frees), Mark Sugrue, (1-5, 2 frees), Darren Casey (1goal), Sean O'Connor (2points), Keelin Moriarty (1point )
Skellig-Valentia: Diarmaid Keating (2-5), Mikey Moriarty (1-1), Senan Lynch (1point), John Murphy (2points), Donal O'Sullivan (4points, all frees)
The following game, the senior semi-final between St Marys, Cahirsiveen and Bally-Foilmore, which was also played in very wet conditions, was not as close and finished on a score of 2-9 to 0-7 in favour of Bally-Foilmore. A fortuitous goal by Bernard Kelly, followed by a goal by Cian O'Connor, set them on their way in the first half, from which 'De Marys' were never to recover. The referee was Paul Hayes of Kerins O'Rahilllys, Tralee.
Interestingly, St. Marys were this year managed by Michael Anthony O'Connell from Valentia, who won numerous honours with the Young Islanders and South Kerry in days of yore. A win for St. Marys would have pitted him against Dromid Pearses in the South kerry final, a team whom he last trained.
Footnote: Referee Paul Hayes had as his linesmen Ger 'Cap'Murphy and Mikey keating of Skellig Rangers, Portmagee. Their flags consisted of 'buzzer' technology that was in direct contact with a device attached to the referee in order to alert him of anything happening off the ball or whatever. The former chairman of the referees association Bart Moriarty of Over The Water in Cahirsiveen is credited with this innovation. Is it a first for the South kerry championship?
DEATH: Prior to the senior semi-final a minute's silence was observed as a mark of respect to Dr. Donal O'Donoghue, whose recent untimely death at the age of 62 took place in London.
Donal, who was originally of Cahirsiveen and lived in Cork, was the brother of the former Fianna Fáil TD John and also Councillor Paul. Sincere sympathy is extended to all family members.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh sé.