Years of hard work building up the juvenile structures is starting to pay fruit at the southside club steeped in history
A PLEASANT day on the banks of the Grand Canal. Patrick Kavanagh looked on from his seat. No doubt hoping for a good season for Monaghan.
A woman came out to feed the pigeons. Suddenly, her little patch of grass sparked memories of Trafalgar Square.
Up over the narrow Bridge. Onto Donore Avenue. The old St Teresa’s Gardens. Pictures hang on the railings outside the closed-up flats. Of happy locals enjoying good days. One of the photographs is of a visit from Mother Teresa.
Across the road is the clubhouse of Kevin’s Hurling and Camogie club. History whispers from its walls. The building played a role in the 1916 Rising.
It became derelict. The club got a government grant. They refurbished the building and it’s now the engine of the club.
The meetings are held here. There’s much to discuss. Vincent Hennessy is the Chairman. There’s over 1,000 members. 550 players and 64 coaches. And the club continues to grow.
A cluster of the faithful arrive - John Ryan, Paul McManus, Jim Nolan, Jenny Kearns, Louise Tuite and Eoghan Redmond.
The decision to focus on the juvenile structure became the brickwork of the modern Kevin’s, the south inner city club that was founded in 1902.
“We produced a strategic plan. The biggest part of it was to have teams at every age bracket,” outlines Paul.
“It took us 14 years to achieve that. Now we have a conveyor belt. From the kids at four years of age right up to adult level. We have over 250 children at the nursery.”
Every Saturday morning, as the children gather, the club flags decorate the streets around Loreto College, Crumlin, and Dolphin Park.
“We have three adult hurling teams. In camogie, we have juvenile teams at every second year, and next year we hope to have a second adult camogie team,” Paul said.
Last season, an U-15 Camogie and U-19 Hurling Championships were won. The happy, winning presentation picture of the hurlers after the final in Ringsend includes a greyhound.
“That’s next year’s winner of the Derby!” quips Paul.
The Under-19’s victory was a huge boost. They played Clanna Gael in the final. They won by a finger-nail. The previous season, Clanns pipped Kevin’s in the U-18 final.
“Two wonderful games,” recalls John Ryan. “The great Nicky English was a Clanns’ mentor.” John, from Tipp, has been decades with Kevin’s.
He produces a match programme from 1973. Kevin’s against St Ita’s in the Junior Hurling Championship semi-final.
A page of the programme includes a Roll of Honour. “So many of those clubs are gone, but we are still here,” said John.
He talks about the strong roots Kevin’s always had with Synge Street.
When Synger came along in 1945, the two clubs struck up a gentleman’s agreement that Synge Street would focus on the big ball, and Kevin’s on the small ball.
Synger had some gems. None better than the Panther.
Kevin’s had many jewels of their own. John marvels at the quiet revolution that has taken place.
“There’s been such a big change from my playing days. I went up to Dolphin Park one day and there were three games going on. Three juvenile matches taking place, side-by-side. Amazing,” John said.
Paul adds: “So much work from many people has gone into making it happen, and we want to keep putting in the effort to ensure the chain is never broken.”
Local schools and the business community have been so helpful. The club lotto is a pillar of the club. There have been some excellent fundraisers. The comedy night was a big hit.
“We have a welcome for all. All ages and all abilities. Our door is always open,” Paul said.
Jenny Kearns adds: “It’s all about community. It’s about getting the families involved.
“We want the children to play hurling and camogie, but we also want their parents to feel part of the community.
“And that’s important, especially in a city where people mightn’t know their neighbours. But club is parish. And it’s an excellent way to get to know each other.”
The Kevin’s Heroes is one of the most popular projects. “It’s for children with additional needs,” explains Jenny.
“It’s only for an hour a week, but it’s about much more than that. It allows the parents to meet people who are in a similar situation to themselves and who face the same issues.”
Kevin’s contain many chapters. Rounders continues to flourish. There’s Scór, a choir, while handball is beginning to bounce again.
Optimism overflows. With the upgrade of Dolphin Park. And the prospect of acquiring playing facilities with the regeneration of St Teresa’s Gardens.
“It’s all about having facilities for the children. Sport is so important for young people,” John said.
Eoghan Redmond says he “joined fifteen years ago”.
“It was a small enough club then. Things have changed so much in that time. We are getting new members all the time,” he said.
John takes out a list of the club’s achievements. It could stretch the length of the South Circular Road.
Last year, Kevin’s had their 120th birthday. They went to New York and played a match in Gaelic Park. Trips to America have taken place in the past.
“We get such big crowds at all our matches,” says Louise Tuite. “Parents and grand-parents. Often, you’d have family members on the sideline who travel up from Kilkenny and other counties to cheer on the kids.”
Across the table, Jim Nolan captures the essence of the club in one sentence. “They say we are the village in the city.”
Jenny Kearns adds: “I was talking to someone recently who said they come for the hurling and camogie, but they stay for the people.”
On this mild morning, in such a charming part of the old town, you’d well believe it.Do you have a Dublin story?
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