“If you want to see grown men cry, you don’t go to a funeral, you go to a football match” -. They had written themselves into the history books -Valentia Island win a Munster Club title – Deirdre Lyne reflects on what Valentia Young Islanders achieved for themselves and the whole Island community…
Being from Valentia is something special, it’s something that makes us different from everyone else; it’s unique. I am going to try to put into words what made yesterday such a special day for our community. You see, in a community as small as ours, days like Sunday brings everyone together for a joyous occasion. We’re good at putting the shoulder to the wheel on all occasions, whether it is fundraising for our local hospital or being a steward for the Triathlon club. Hell, we are even great at funerals. Moral has been very low in Valentia over the last 12 months. This was very evident yesterday as tears of joy and of fond remembrance of our loved ones were shed.
Every man, woman and child, even the dogs, left the Island in the early hours of Sunday morning to head for Knockaderry. It was reported that attendance at Sunday mass was considerably down; something that hasn’t been seen since the days of Ger Lynch playing in Croke Park. The Valentia Young Islanders Supporters’ Bus departed the football field bright and early just after the supporters’ Club Chairman, Seanie O’Sullivan and his Secretary Sean Curran, were fuelled up with a Margaret Curran special fry. “Of course no fry is complete without a slice of Margaret’s apple tart” Seanie told his fellow travellers on the specially chartered bus.
What was very evident on Sunday was the number of Valentia people in attendance who are not residing on the Island. Cars came from Dublin, Galway, Cork and Louth. Supporters flew from London for the special occasion. It resembled regatta day on Bank holiday Monday minus the seine boats. Of course not everyone was lucky enough to travel. Some had to stay and keep watch for the lifeboat and Eileen Healy was left minding The Ring Lyne.
West Limerick Radio streamed the match live and well wishes poured in from London, Swansea, Abu Dhabi, Seychelles and way down under in Australia to name but a few. The Club’s twitter account was inundated with messages of good will, not just from our club supporters but from other clubs around the County.
The team kept us waiting. Kildimo Pallaskenry were already on the pitch, photo taken and the ref was holding the ball in the middle of the field, but Fionán Murphy hadn’t finished pepping our boys. Finally Brendan raced onto the pitch followed by his team mates, and the crowd erupted. There was no disputing that we outnumbered the opposition’s support 2 to 1. There was no more talking. The chit chat was over and we had a game to concentrate on.
The first half left us weak at half time. We were trailing by a point at the break and Kildimo were all over us. This was not going to be easy. Fionan hurried his boys into the dressing room. There was another half of 30 minutes left and Valentia would need to get on top. The second half started as I suspected. Shanahan pointed twice to take a lead for the first time and just looking at the boys you knew they were going to die finishing this game. Brendan O’Sullivan was towering at mid field and fielding balls that were touching the heavens. His brother Paul was like a terrier in defence; like a dog with a bone. Shanahan was kicking balls at the goal posts that showed Kildimo why Kerry teams are a classier outfit. We pulled away to a four point lead and we were into injury time. Surely our name was written on that cup. Three minutes of an injury free game and the ref blew for a free, thirteen yards outside of Brian O’Connor’s goal and Tralee IT star Peter Nash walked up to take it. The red and yellow Island boys lined the goal but damn it, Nash buried it into the back of the net. We hadn’t a hope; he was adamant it was going in. Holy cow! We now only had a lead of one point. I must apologise to the elderly lady in front of me for when I shouted some expletives at the referee to blow up the beeping game. I don’t know what came over me as I am usually a lot more composed. The ball was kicked out and still no whistle. Brendan fielded once more and finally the whistle was blown. Our boys had done it. They had written themselves into the history books as the first team to win a Munster Club title. If you want to see grown men cry – you don’t go to a funeral, you go to a football match. Fathers hugged their sons; mothers kissed their boys; and I kissed them all. They think I’m a pain in the rear end most of the time. I’m the one that sends the texts: training in the morning, don’t be late; or pay your membership or I will be after you. As secretary of the club, it can be a thankless bloody job. Endless phone calls in a male dominated world, but when the captain of the team thanks you personally in his acceptance speech (under some duress) it makes it all worth while. After nine years as an administrator in the club in various jobs, I have watched nearly all of those players progress from U16 through to the senior team and I don’t know of a more deserving team than the one that lined out on Sunday.
Pride of the parish, pride of the club. Munster Junior B Champions 2014, we thank you for bringing the community together for such a joyous occasion.