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I was surprised and delighted by my warm Tallaght GAA welcome

Thomas Davis club proves that in our sport a club from a sprawling suburb or a small rural community have the same values

David Clifford of East Kerry during the Kerry County Senior Football Championship Final match against Mid Kerry. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Pat SpillaneSunday World

Tallaght, it may well be the first time I’ve referred to this huge suburb of Dublin in this column, and I’ve been writing it since October 1991.

It may be hard for rural readers to grasp, but Tallaght, just Tallaght alone, has a bigger population than Limerick City.

I’ve never been there and until last weekend I don’t know if ever spoke to anyone from Tallaght.

The mere mention of the name conjures too many images of social deprivation, crime and drug problems and sadly last weekend Tallaght was in the new for all the wrong reasons again, this time a horrific domestic incident.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by it.

But eight days ago, I watched Tallaght’s main, but not only, GAA club in action as Thomas Davis were playing in the Dublin County Football Championship.

‘Davis were a fit, well organised, spirited and very motivated team.

Despite going down to 14 men at an early stage, they defeated St Jude's to qualify for the last eight of the competition.

An afternoon in the company of their supports in O’Toole Park on the southside of Dublin made me ditch every stereotype ptyI had about Tallaght and its people.

Actually, this bunch of Thomas Davis players were no different than the players of Templenoe, Casteltownbere or Spiddal.

The spirt of Charles Kickhams ‘Knocknagow’ was evident in a club drawn from one of the biggest population areas in the country, but they were still lads “doing it for the honour and glory of the little village.”

And that’s the sheer beauty of the GAA whether it is a Dublin inner-city club like O’Connells Boys, a big club drawn from one of the sprawling suburbs of Dublin, Cork or Limerick, or a team from the Aran Islands, the truth is we’re all the same.

I spoke with so many supporters of Thomas Davis that Saturday and they were great GAA people, passionate, and with the same concerns and worries for their club as everyone else.

James McCarthy of Ballymun Kickhams in action. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

I really enjoyed the photos, the selfies and the conversations with the young Thomas Davis supporters, and, going into the match, I wasn’t even sure they would know me.

All those AIB slogans, ‘where we all belong’, ‘a club is forever’ and ‘tough can’t quit,’ well they all sum up what I saw in Thomas Davis last weekend.

Because my son Pat is playing for St. Judes now, I’ve been following the Dublin GAA scene closely for the last three years.

And yes I know how big some of their clubs are, how many teams they field, how well resourced they are.

But coming from Kerry I couldn’t but help notice a big, big difference between the club scene in Dublin and in my native county.

In the Kingdom it is the county senior side that drives success, that team drives the profile of the GAA.

Yet is it so different in Dublin. Yes, some clubs have many, many teams, but the support for the senior team, the best team, is abysmal.

Two weeks ago Templenoe played Dingle at home in the Kerry club Championship.

I can tell you this – the attendance in Templenoe was double that of O’Toole Park last Saturday week, for matches involving teams from Whitehall, Lucan, Templeogue and Tallaght.

Those four suburbs of Dublin combined would surely have a bigger population than Kerry!

And while I’m at it, a quick mention for those running O’Toole Park, they were nice people, the ground was in great condition and there was a good pint to be had to boot.

But on one of the wettest days of the year there was no covered stand and no cover even for the subs.

These are Third World facilites, the smallest club in Kerry would have a better set up than that.

I know the Dublin County Board are planning to develop the Spawell facility not too far from O’Toole Park.

But they could do something with the ground they are using in the interim.

I just wondered what Shane Walsh must have been thinking as he sat in the stand at Parnell Park last Sunday.

Many, many All-Ireland medallists were on view in another Dublin Championship double-header.

But his old Kilkerrin-Clonberne club woud get more of a crowd for a League match.

Yet two of the finest forwards of the modern game, Paul Mannion and Walsh, were playing. And no-one turned up to see them.

Down in Kerry you can keep in touch with any club match simply by tuning into the Twitter feed of one of the teams.

But there’s no effort like that from Dublin.

Maybe the clubs are spoilt with numbers, they don’t have to embrace their supporters.

The Kerry County Football Championship kicks into action this weekend.

A reader recently asked me to explain the workings of it.

To do so in full would take me all the pages of this newspaper.

In a nutshell, there are 16 teams, eight clubs and eight divisional teams.

The Divisonal system in theory is a great idea.

It gives players from the smallest junior club the chance to show their talents on the senior stage.

You can win a senior county medal and, of course, mark a current Kerry player out of a match and you’ll catch the eye of Jack O’Connor.

My two Kerry senior medals were won with Kenmare district, a combination drawn from four clubs, Kenmare Shamrocks, Templenoe, Tousist and Kilgarvan.

The reality of the Kery Senior Championship now is a little different since one of those districts, East Kerry, has turned into a monster.

Not only, do they have David and Paudie Clifford playing with them, from the archetypal small club Fossa, but none of the big clubs in East Kerry are senior at the moment.

So they have players from ten clubs in all, including Rathmore, Killarney Legion, Kilcummin and Glenflesk, all of whom would occasionally be senior clubs in their own right, but not this year.

Each of those clubs would draw from a way bigger population than Templenoe – who are the only rural club in this year’s Kerry County Championship.


Pat on the Late Late show last week

A level playing field my ass, the Kerry Senior Championship should have at least 12 clubs competing.

And, by the way, if you are looking for a winner this year – no bother, East Kerry will walk it.

Oh, and just to confuse you even more, should East Kerry or any other district team win the Kerry County title, then the winner of the club final between Templenoe and Kerins O’Rahillys will represent Kerry in Munster this year.

There are even more complications I could fill your head with, but I reckon that if you are still with me to this point you’re a genius. I won’t test you any further.

And to finish off this column, I’m sorry, but I still can’t get this split-season stuff out of my head.

In the old calendar, we’d have had the hurling final last Sunday, with the football decider to look forward to next Sunday.

Now the papers, when they write about GAA affairs, are dominated by assaults on referees, that’s great publicity!

The Tyrone County SFC doesn’t start for another fortnight – and, just to let you know, the Red Hands went out of the All-Ireland on June 5th last.

One last stat about the 2022 club season, in Kerry at least.

Kerins O’Rahillys from Tralee have had 18 matches in the last 23 weekends, and they are out on each of the next three weekends in the Championship, with more matches to follow if they are successful.

It has gone from a famine to an overload.

So all the Kerry county lads who started out with Jack on the All-Ireland road last December might get a breather next December.

And someone thinks this is a good idea.

In Dublin, top clubs like Ballymun Kickhams, St Judes, Lucan Sarsfields, Skerries Harps and Raheny are all finished for the year.

No more championship football for them in 2022, and the evenings haven’t even closed in yet. Madness.

Finally, thank you to everyone who got in touch after my appearance on The Late, Late Show last Friday week.

I was trending on social media, can you believe it?

What was even more incredible was that there was not one negative comment at all.

Thank you so much!

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