BY DENIS HURLEY
IT’S 30 not out for John Kennedy at Cork City, with the club recently honouring the Skibbereen native’s three decades of service as a volunteer.
Hailing from Upper Bridge St in Skibb, John departed for Dublin in 1981 and returned to Cork seven years later. Having been involved in youth and community work, he joined Ógra Chorcaí in 1988 and remained until 2013, when the organisation merged with Foróige, for whom he still works.
All along, his affinity for City has grown and developed, with his genial presence in the family enclosure a feature of Turner’s Cross match nights while he organises supporters’ buses for away games.
‘I had been to a few City games while I was in Dublin,’ he says, ‘then in 1988 I brought a group of kids from Farranree to a match in Turner’s Cross.
‘I met Noelle Feeney, who gave her life to City, and as I attended more games I got to know here and was asked if I would get involved and become a volunteer.
‘Initially, it was as a general steward and making teas and coffees but when Brian Lennox took over he wanted the club to become fully embedded in the community and be family-orientated. Since City became a supporters-run club under Foras, that ethos has continued.
‘There have been a lot of ups and downs a lot of near misses in the time since but I’ve loved it!’
John certainly didn’t think that he would remain involved for so long.
‘No,’ he says, ‘but, like I said when I received my presentation two weeks ago, it’s easy when there are good people around.
‘In the family enclosure and with the buses, and at underage games in Bishopstown, when I used to do the gate and things at half-time, there have always been lots of people there to help.
‘Volunteerism is the backbone of the country, whether it’s soccer, Gaelic, athletics or whatever, volunteers run the show. Collectively, Cork City save about €20,000 a year thanks to volunteers.’
Obviously, there hasn’t been a shortage of highlights during John’s time involved, but the one he chooses is perhaps not the one you might think.
‘I would actually pick 2011, when the club won the first division,’ he says.
‘It was the first big success under the ownership of Foras, we achieved something special that night, it was fantastic to think that 2,500 Cork people travelled up for a first division game, phenomenal really.
‘Obviously, winning the double in 2017 was brilliant and the runs in Europe too. Through it all though, you were made great friendships that last a lifetime.’
A presentation was made by City chairman Declan Carey to John at the game against UCD at Turner’s Cross on October 6th, but it was a surprise to the man himself.
‘I was completely taken aback,’ he says, ‘normally I hear what’s going on around the club but I had no idea.
‘It was well set-up by Pat Sisk and I was presented with a lovely poem written by Tony Tobin, I have it framed and hanging up at home in pride of place.
‘I was honoured but I was accepting on behalf of a lot of volunteers that have come and gone, like Noelle Feeney and Pat Shine.’
And will he manage another 30 years?
‘I’d like to think so!’ he laughs.
‘I always use the phrase, “City till I die – and beyond,” one of these days I will go beyond but I’d like to think that, wherever I’m floating, I’ll still see the games.
‘I’ve rarely missed a game in the last 30 years and I’ve made great friends travelling on buses the length and breadth of the country – last summer, people were even asking if I’d be doing a bus for the game in Luxembourg!
‘We’ll be taking a double-decker bus to Dublin this Friday for the game with Shamrock Rovers to see out the season. It hasn’t been great but we’ll pick up the pieces and be ready again in January, to see what we can do to improve and what new ideas we can implement.’