The preparations began in January and at the weekend the club championship finally got underway for Castlemitchell and TADHG FENNIN – the man who set the pulses racing for Kildare fans a decade ago.
Training for this season started indoors around the end of January so we had a good bit done in preparation for the league. There is a new management team in the club and they wanted to start back and get things going a little bit earlier than normal. The three guys at the helm this year are John Wall, Anthony Byrne and Pajo McLoughlin. They were two of our selectors from last year and they brought in a third man with them so they are very familiar with the set up in Castlemitchell. They have their own slant on things but they are young, club men who are very enthusiastic and want to do the best they can for Castlemitchell so that rubs off on players.
Circumstances dictated that I wasn’t able to do as much pre-season but I’m back now and hopefully we will get a good run at the championship. We trained three nights last week in the lead up to our first round clash in the junior championship with Ballykelly. We’re like every other team in that we all want to win our opening game because it’s hard to know when the next one is going to be. Thankfully we were able to do that on Sunday.
I’ve been playing on the senior panel more or less since I was 16. I’ve played in the senior championship, then intermediate and now junior so I’ve seen all sides of it. There have been a few changes in the 19 years I’ve been with the club. We’ve moved our pitch and built a new clubhouse. If you don’t change with the times you’re just left behind and there are quite a few clubs around the Athy area and the rugby club is growing so everyone is working out of the one pot which means it’s important to have the facilities to entice young players.
There are guys in the club – Mark Wall, Mick Brassil, Mícheal Kelly and people like that – putting in an awful lot of work at underage level. From 13 or 14 down we are holding our own so hopefully that bodes well for the future.
Getting children involved in the GAA is hugely important to me as I am a Games Development Administrator here in Kildare. I’m involved with the Kildare under-16s this year and we do a lot of work in both hurling and football with the clubs and schools. It’s a fantastic job to have if you are into GAA. I’m five years in the job now and I’m enjoying every minute of it. Football was all I did growing up so to have the opportunity to work in football is great although the odd time it can be a bit too much football but that’s a very rare occasion. In Kildare people just want to talk about football all the time, whether it’s about the county set up or something else. That’s the nature of the business we are in and it’s brilliant.
We bring kids up to Croke Park once year to play at u8 level and it’s amazing to see their reaction to playing in Croke Park. To play there at senior level is fantastic but we never got the opportunity as children to play there but now they do and they can see what playing there is all about. It’s a long road from seven or eight to the next time you might get the chance to play there but that’s what it’s all about.
When I was with Kildare we played very little with our clubs and I’m sure the guys are finding that now. You can be out of the loop with the club players because you might only be coming in a week before the championship and they have built up a dynamic because they have been training together since early on in the year and you haven’t been a part of that. It’s good to be working with the club all the time because you’re really part of the group and not just coming in to play championship or important league games. Everyone would love to play football for their county but when you go back to your club and are involved on a regular basis it’s a good feeling as well. I wouldn’t have got the opportunity to play with Kildare if I hadn’t been playing with Castlemitchell so it all comes down to the club.
I go to Kildare’s home games as I’m involved with coaching in the county but I have a young family so I’m not always available for away games in the league but I’d be hoping to get to all the championship games anyway and cheer them on.
Football has been an enormous part of my life since I was very young. I haven’t really known anything else. My parents and family are all involved in football and my wife, Lisa, has a great interest in the game and supports me in everything I do. We have two young children, Sadhbh and Sean, but they’re a little small for the game yet although Sadhbh is starting to play a bit so maybe one day we will get to Croke Park with the next generation of footballers from the family.
It can be difficult to combine football, work and family life. I live in Ballitore where myself and Lisa have a pub, The Harp Bar, and that takes up a bit of time as well. Between the two of us we look after the pub and it is time consuming but we’re very grateful to have work and very thankful for what we have.
ONE GAME AT A TIME
We are just looking at each game as it comes in the league and championship. We are holding our own in Division 3 at the moment so we are happy enough with our progress in the league. We haven’t got to a junior final in a while but we’ve been knocking on the door. We have been a quarter-final or semi-final team so we are just looking for that extra little bit or a rub of the green that will help us take the next step.