Kerry's diaspora turns Chicago green and gold

Stephen Fernane

A little piece of Chicago turned green and gold for one night as Kerry's diaspora gathered at The Drake Hotel for a special occasion that served as a fundraiser for the Kerry GAA Centre of Excellence.

Words alone don't do justice to what football means in Kerry, where it's a source of huge pride for generations of people - home and abroad. This event was a prime example of just how strong the bonds are between Kerry's diaspora and football, as Chicago's Kerry community came out in force. Denis Neville is Chairman of the Kerry Supporters in Chicago, and he said that ever since the club started five years ago, its goal is to support the completion of the Centre of Excellence in Currans.

"This is a forward-thinking initiative to not only ensure the future relevance and success of Kerry senior teams, but also to instil a continued passion and interest in the youth of Kerry towards the game and provide a central home for this development," he said. Mr Neville added how the project resonated with Kerry people abroad, and its members decided that if they could not help on the ground in Kerry, they wanted to help in some form. "We continue to raise funds where we can, and this gala dinner was a great success with a strong attendance across all sectors of Chicago. Our thanks to the international committee led by Jimmy Deenihan, which is doing tireless work in organising these events," Mr Neville added. The chairman of the Kerry County Committee, Tim Murphy, said the occasion was an opportunity for all to enjoy and reflect on the best traditions and proud history of Kerry GAA. 

"The GAA is an amateur organisation central to the lifeblood of communities throughout Kerry and to Kerry people all over the world, no more so than here in Chicago this evening," he said. Guest speaker on the night was one of the most respected NFL players ever to play the game, John Lynch. John is a five-time finalist for the Pro football hall of fame and is the current General Manager of the San Francisco 49ers. John played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winning a Super Bowl in 2003. He also starred for the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.

John became a popular and respected analyst and commentator for Fox Sports. His father (John Senior) was also a promising player with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Kerry connection extends back to John's great grandfather, who came from Ballybunion.

"John is very proud of his Irish and Kerry ancestry. His great-grandfather, Harry Lynch, emigrated from Ballybunion in 1910 to join his four brothers in this great City of Chicago," said four-in-a-row-winning captain, Jimmy Deenihan. Jimmy added that Kerry's future success will be bolstered by the new Centre of Excellence, and he spoke of the pride people have in their Kerry roots; a pride demonstrated by people like John Lynch.  "John epitomises everything that's great about America, but he himself would be the first to accept that it's very much based on his Irish DNA derived from his Kerry roots," Jimmy said.