DENIS HURLEY caught up with Garnish captain Eanna Murphy to chat about Beara football, the high seas, life as a fisherman and the challenges facing clubs in the far west
GARNISH junior football captain Éanna Murphy isn’t just a skipper on the field – he is currently in the middle of an intensive BIM college course in Castletownbere which will allow him to take charge of a commercial fishing vessel.
No stranger to the high seas, in the summer he combines trawling with the running of his own mobile catering unit and that’s before the football commitments are taken into account. It’s far from easy but it’s a life he enjoys.
‘The course is four months,’ he says, ‘roughly half nine in the morning until half seven in the evening.
‘You have to have had two years’ sea-time in a vessel of 15 metres or more. For the last couple of years, I’ve been full-time fishing in the morning and then come in at around midday and go straight to the chipper. The two of them go hand in hand!’
Being in the fishing industry is a way of ensuring that he is able to remain local.
‘Yeah, it’s pretty much all that we have,’ he says.
‘I grew up with it and I enjoy it, my father and uncles were fisherman and my grandfather too.
‘The days can be long, depending on what size of boat you’re on, you might be out from seven in the morning until six in the evening, but after I get the skipper’s licence I’ll be away for a few days at a time.
‘I’ll have to get used to that, but realistically it’s the only way you can make money out of it. With the smaller boats, you can’t get out as often as they wouldn’t withstand the more severe weather, so you wouldn’t be able to make a living from it.’
Murphy, 25 since the end of November, isn’t the only fisherman on the Garnish team, meaning that the availability of numbers for training and matches can fluctuate wildly.
‘It’s the biggest thing, really,’ he says, ‘you can’t control when you’re out and there are a few lads who’d be fishing.
‘It the weather is good and fine, there’ll always be some missing and that affected us big-time this year, we only played six games in the whole year, including the two in the championship against Urhan and Ballymartle.
‘Four league games was all we could get numbers for. There were a few of us playing for Beara, so we got an extra four or five matches but, going into a Beara final against Urhan, you’d want to have had at least ten games played.’
Unfortunately, it’s not a trend that’s going to reverse itself any time soon.
‘Definitely not,’ Murphy says.
‘For 2019, we’ll have only one player coming through from minor, then after that there’s two and then a gap where there’s nobody.
‘We have a lot of fellas playing on into their late 30s and 40s, just to keep the club going. It’s all you can do, just trying your best to keep the whole thing running. It can get hard at times.’
And yet, on the field, things are in quite rude health for Garnish. In 2018, the club won the Beara title for the third year in a row, something they last achieved from 1995-97, also managing it from 1951-53.
Fintan O’Sullivan scored six points as they beat Urhan by 0-11 to 0-7, with Paul O’Neill getting three and Seán Terry O’Sullivan with two. Full-back Murphy got to lift the trophy, though he admits that the victory came as a surprise.
‘Nobody really expected it,’ Murphy says.
‘It was the first time in 20 years that we had done three in a row but it had been a bad year all-round with injuries and finding a manager and getting players for games.
‘We weren’t expecting too much, so it was nice to win it that way.’
That they had lost Cork U20 player Rory O’Driscoll to a cruciate injury before the final made it all the more impressive, though the injury gods dealt a further blow ahead of the county championship outing against Ballymartle as Seán Terry, who has played junior for Cork, broke his hand and a 0-16 to 1-6 defeat ensued.
As 2019 dawns, the club will seek to go for what would be a first four in a row, though Murphy is more than aware of the challenges.
‘We don’t have that many players living down here, only about seven, I think,’ he says.
‘We have some in Cork and Dublin and then David Harrington flies home from England for games.
‘Before the Ballymartle game, we trained in Newcestown to make it easier for fellas but even at that, we had lads injured and missing. That was a two-hour journey so there’s no huge point doing that if you only have ten lads.’
That there are just two teams in the Beara JAFC is something which is also detrimental, Murphy feels, though he accepts that it’s just the way of things.
‘It’s a strange one when there are just two teams,’ he says, ‘ourselves and Urhan are probably sick of each other now at this stage!
‘When both go on into the county championship, it’s hard to get much out of it, it would be better for everyone involved if you had four or five teams playing, like Castletownbere’s second team or Glengarriff, but everybody is struggling for numbers so you just have to get on with things.
‘As a club, we’ve never done the four in a row so it’s great to have that to aim for next year, it’d be nice to be the first team to have done it.’