DENIS HURLEY COLUMN: A nod to all parents who help breed the dreams of children

February 27th, 2020 4:31 PM

By Denis Hurley

Our columnist Denis Hurley in his younger days at the 1990 All-Ireland football final with his father Jim and aunt Eileen.

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AN ongoing quest of mine is to cover a game at every club venue in the county.

Since October 2007, 85 different grounds have been ticked off, with 69 remaining, mostly around the perimeter of the county or else city clubs – places unlikely to be used as neutral venues, basically.

It may well be the case that the objective is never achieved – or maybe we'll engineer a few journeys, the way you could send off to Panini for the last few stickers when your album was nearly full.

Similarly, any such quest to mark off each county would be likely to suffer due to too few opportunities outside of Munster.

In saying that, Cork's sojourn in Division 3 of the Allianz Football League has allowed for some novelty, and Avantcard Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon was visited two and a half weeks ago while recently TEG Cusack Park in Mullingar added to the list.

Given that the city and eastwards is the 'hurling part' of the county, there might have been a chance that, coming from Upton, I was the most westerly traveller. Every day is a tea day – never coffee, I'm tea-total – but on Sunday it was essential. While queuing at the hut at Cusack Park, I got chatting to a Cork supporter and realised I was only in the ha'penny place in terms of travel.

Noreen Kingston was also warming up with a tea and she told me she had travelled from Drimoleague that morning – a journey of 310km door to door, the round trip totalling more than seven hours. Noreen put her presence down to the fact that her son Stephen is hurling-mad and, given the extreme weather conditions in Cusack Park, it was one for the die-hards. Stephen is 13 and his post-match summation was that it was a poor performance overall from Cork but that it's great to have two wins out of three in the league. Though, having read that, you mightn't want to take in the match report elsewhere in this section – it took me 900 or so words to say the same as what Stephen managed in just 22.

Thankfully, the Kingstons will have a shorter journey this week – 'only' an hour and ten minutes to get from home to Páirc Uí Chaoimh – but it got me thinking about parental sacrifices and how they help to shape our sporting experiences.

Of course, it's important to bear in mind that former Cork ladies' football manager Eamonn Ryan used to make the point that things like this are not really sacrifices, preferring instead to use the phrase 'winning choices'.

For a parent, it probably doesn't feel like they are giving up much to indulge a child's passion, but these loving gestures shouldn't be overlooked.

If you're reading this, the chances are that you have a stronger-than-average interest in sport and there is a good likelihood that that was fostered by a parent. I don’t think I was at Kilbrittain’s IHC final loss to Youghal in 1988, but I was there as a four-year-old for the 1989 decider against Valley Rovers, which they also lost. I still remember the flag my mother made for the day, a yellow blanket married to black corduroy. It got good use over the coming years, with another defeat to Youghal in 1993 before the glass ceiling was broken with victory over Ballincollig in 1995.

By the time I was six and a half, I had twice witnessed Cork winning All-Ireland finals and, to be honest, I expected that there would be a double every year, or at least every two or three, just to give other counties a chance.

In tandem with those days was a growing love for Cork City, Turner's Cross becoming a mecca that still dictates my schedule for eight months of the year.

The common thread running through all of those games was of course the presence of my father alongside me, nurturing the interest and answering the non-stop stream of questions, some perceptive and a lot just inane. He deserves my unending thanks, though of course, you, dear reader, might be blaming him for sowing the seed which has brought me to this page.

So here's to him and Noreen Kingston and parents all over West Cork, the county and beyond, traipsing around the countryside to help breed the dreams of their children. While we might struggle to pay it back, we can at least pay it forward to the next generation.


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