When I attended a very special event last Thursday night in Griffith College, Dublin I was uplifted. The occasion was the launch of a strategic plan for the St Kevin’s hurling and camogie club, writes Nickey Brennan.
I was asked by the club some months ago to chair their Strategy Steering Group. And now the real work starts to deliver on the plan’s objectives.
Many challenges lie ahead for the club’s players and supporters, but the targets which are set out in the Strategic Plan will be achieved judging by the enthusiastic manner in which it was received last week.
What makes St Kevin’s a special club to its members and indeed to myself is its location in Dublin. It operates in the Dolphin’s Barn district, a part of the city which has experienced chronic social problems which afflicted numerous families.
The people of this part of Dublin are certainly resilient and this is especially exemplified by the local St Kevin’s hurling and camogie club.
My first association with the club came at the turn of the century when I was vice-chairman of the Leinster Council.
We undertook an initiative with a number of clubs in Dublin at that time by supporting the employment of Coaching Officers.
In addition, the Council outlined and monitored a specific coaching programme aimed at increasing participation and improving standards.
St Kevin’s was selected because it operated in what was viewed as a deprived area of Dublin. The enthusiasm shown by the club thirteen years ago convinced us to invest in its coaching and development programme.
A young and enthusiastic coach, Paul McManus, was appointed to implement the coaching programme. At the strategic plan launch last week, Paul spoke with pride of the club’s many achievements in the intervening years.
Over the years the club’s core catchment area has sadly seen the lives of many men and women ravaged by the scourge of drugs.
Amidst the social turmoil, members of the St Kevin’s club refused to concede defeat and worked harder than ever to encourage young boys and girls to see sport as a healthy leisure activity.
Club personnel would regularly enter the local flats complexes to encourage young players to come to the local Dolphin Park for hurling training.
Little encouragement is required in Kilkenny to get young lads down to the local GAA pitch.
It can be a very different scene for St Kevin’s as some parents can so easily get subsumed into a difficult social environment with deadly consequences.
Despite the difficulties and immense human suffering, the St Kevin’s club never gave up on the young people and continued to offer them a sporting outlet through the games of hurling and camogie.
Like many Dublin clubs, some of the St Kevin’s officers are not Dublin natives but their loyalty is unquestionably towards their adopted city and county.
The club’s rural influence is matched by plenty of dedicated Dubs among its officers and membership.
The plans which were outlined last week are challenging but achievable. There is a strong focus on greater engagement with local schools and the response from teachers to date has been superb.
Greater family participation is also a key target for the club, while increased player participation and improving standards always remains high on the club’s agenda.
St Kevin’s does not operate at the highest level of Dublin hurling, but like many clubs they dream of glorious days in the future.
The club structures in Kilkenny are defined by the parishes of the county. Pride of the parish is a well-known GAA slogan and one we all cherish dearly.
It is very difficult, practically impossible, to develop the concept of the parish in Dublin and particular in inner-city Dublin.
But that is not stopping the St Kevin’s club promoting the notion of ‘The Village in the City’. If you are driving around Dolphin’s Barn or along the South Circular Road and you spot the banner proclaiming ‘The Village in the City’ you are in St Kevin’s territory.
Two weekends ago the St Kevin’s under-14 hurlers won a Division of Féile-na-nGael. The young players received a rapturous reception last Thursday night. Already some of the plan’s targets are being achieved.
We love our hurling in Kilkenny. They also love their hurling in ‘The Village in the City’. The club has survived against the odds and it is now re-emerging with fresh ambitions to grow and prosper into the future.
It is going to be an exciting time for ‘The Village in the City’.