Sunday 19 November 2017

'I didn't want to be the parent who stood on the sidelines and gave out'

Photographer Kyran O'Brien at daughters Molly and Abbey's camogie and gaelic football club

Kyran O’Brien at camogie training with his daughters Abby, 16 and Molly, 13, at Fingallians in Swords. Pic: Arthur Carron
Kyran O’Brien at camogie training with his daughters Abby, 16 and Molly, 13, at Fingallians in Swords. Pic: Arthur Carron

Photographer Kyran O'Brien has two daughters, Molly (13) and Abby (16), who play camogie and ladies Gaelic football for Fingallians GAA Club in Swords, Dublin. Kyran and his wife Sandra are coaches at the club.

"I didn't want to be the parent who stood on the sidelines and gave out. We call them 'hurlers on the ditch' - parents who never contribute but as soon as something is wrong they give out. I wanted to be the parent who got in there and did something about it.

"Parents sometimes say to me, 'She doesn't want me to come down because I embarrass her', and I always say, 'Listen, forget about that, just come down and in a couple of years' time she'll be delighted that you came down'. It's a teenage thing, and it's just a phase, but at the end of the day they'll be happy that the parent came to watch and support them.

"Some parents just drop their kids off, ask what time they should pick them up and drive off. Sometimes I say to them: 'why not get out of the car and watch your son or daughter playing and see the impact it has on them when you watch them?'

"I came from an age where my parents just sent me off. They never came to see me play and they had no interaction with what I did. That was just the age it was. They were great and everyone's parents were like that, but if they had more interaction, then maybe things would have been different. So I didn't want that for my daughters and my son, and my wife feels the same.

"Sandra coaches Abby and we both coach Molly. It gives us plenty to talk about. We can talk about how she played today, how she's going to kick the ball out, or how Dublin did yesterday in the Championship Final. We don't talk about fashion and things like that. She talks to her Mam about those sorts of things and it's not that I'm not interested, it's just that sports gives us a huge common interest.

"We do at least one thing together every day and we're very close. You find that the kids that really go on to better things through sports tend to have their parents behind them 100pc.

The knock-on effect, we always say, is if you're healthy in your body, you're healthy in your mind, so the kids who are exceeding on the sports field, doing well and holding their own, are often quite good with their studies and also with interaction and relationships.

"My daughters have now travelled the world and have got to know people through GAA. They were in New York with The GAA Association and they were told that if they wanted to come back and do their J1, they would look after them because they play football. It opens up a whole new world to them.

"My son started college this year and he's already on two fresher teams and he has made lots of friends. Molly started secondary school this year and, after only two weeks, she is playing on the camogie and football teams. She's delighted with herself and she has fit in really well."

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