Sunday 17 November 2019

'You get far more out of the club than you put into it'

Tipperary man Fielding never dreamed of being Con president

Cork Con lift the All-Ireland Division 1A trophy
Cork Con lift the All-Ireland Division 1A trophy

Daragh Small

When he hopped the fence to help out with training at Temple Hill 12 years ago, Kevin Fielding couldn't have thought it would ultimately lead to a stint as president of Cork Con.

His good friend, Noel Murphy, was in charge of a session and asked for a bit of assistance from the sidelines and, in doing so, he set the wheels in motion.

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"It was a progressive thing where I went from just helping out with coaching to being asked to take over one of the squads. Next thing I was asked to become director of juvenile rugby," says Fielding.

"It was step by step. I didn't have ambitions or a huge desire to do this. To be honest, volunteering is an unusual thing. You get far more out of it than you put into it. That was what kept me involved.

"I just enjoy, thoroughly, the reward of being involved. Especially with the kids and seeing them develop.

"One of the kids who played with me underage is Louis Bruce. It is great to turn around and see guys you had a little bit of an influence on, go on and achieve something."

But Fielding would never have played the game were it not for the outlet that Thurles RFC provided when he was a youngster.

Thurles CBS, and its strict GAA ethos back then, almost ended his career before he could ever get going.

With eight Munster senior hurling titles, the Christian Brothers School were far more interested in the Dr Harty Cup than the Munster Senior Schools rugby equivalent.

But the scrum-half endeavoured to keep up the game that didn't involve a sliotar as well. "The school didn't allow rugby back then," recalls Fielding. "I remember getting into a lot of trouble with the Christian Brothers. There was a few of us, one in particular who was a Harty Cup star, he was playing rugby with us. The Christian Brothers were terrified that we would come back in with broken hands and fingers.

"We were lucky, though, one Christian Brother played a bit of senior rugby himself and he gave us a bit of air cover so we got by."

When he finished up in his local school, Fielding was fascinated by the opportunities that UCC would afford him. He went on to study a master's there and even worked in the university subsequently.

And while he retained his interest in hurling and the GAA in general, rugby was finally given preference and he played the game for eight years with UCC.

"With UCC and Cork, more so than others, you were quite welcome and encouraged to play multiple sports and that is still the case," says Fielding.

Spatial

"In Cork Con with our juveniles, we encourage the kids to play as many sports as they can. And then if they do come back to rugby, it is fantastic.

"The spatial positioning and awareness from basketball, kicking from Gaelic football, hand-eye coordination from hurling. We are very keen on kids playing as many sports as they can.

"It does become very difficult when they get into their later teenage years. If they are playing to a serious level they will have coaches telling them they should only be playing hurling or soccer or whatever. But we say play as many as possible."

Fielding qualified as an electrical engineer and went to work with a start-up company in Dublin in 1989, where he also played rugby with Railway Union.

His playing days were almost over when he travelled to USA with work in the late 1990s. But one match for the Wolfhounds in Boston finally quenched any remaining thirst.

"It was phenomenally dangerous and I said never again," Fielding adds.

"A lot of ex-pats were playing but also a lot of guys who had been playing American football and were used to diving into tackles with padding and helmets on.

"It was far more dangerous than a Junior 1 match against Thomond."

Fielding moved back to Ireland as his family grew while sons Mikey, Jack and Will, and daughter Hope came along.

He lived in Dublin for ten years where his sons took up rugby with St Mary's in the capital, but Fielding longed for life back in the 'real capital'.

It was through his sons that he became engrossed with all things Cork Con and last summer he finally took over as president, the culmination of his hard work and efforts throughout the years.

Cork Con are the reigning AIL champions, but ironically it's UCC who sit top of the pile. And Louis Bruce, who Fielding coached through the underage ranks at Cork Con, started at centre for UCC in their victory over Young Munster last weekend.

"It is absolutely fantastic to see UCC doing well too," says Fielding.

"There are huge connections and affiliations across the two clubs between Con and UCC. My very first coach in UCC was an ex-Con and Munster player Christy Cantillon. Those connections between the clubs remain."

But Cork Con is home for Fielding and his family. He is massively proud to have taken the hot seat in 2019 and wants to see its continued growth during his tenure.

"We had a phenomenal few years. We were in the last four AIL finals, winning two of them," says Fielding.

"We have had a great start to this season as well. We are in one way lucky that we have a fantastic squad or players because the modern game is so prone to injuries at every level.

"It is a good time to be involved in Con. It is not just the senior team. Last year we had great success. It is a really good time to be involved here."

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