TWIN sisters Daire and Eimear Kiely are focussing on their studies before returning to the playing fields and representing their club, division and county.
The Cork, West Cork and Valley Rovers duo are currently studying at home whilst the Covid-19 curve is flattened. As with every household around the country, things are busier than usual right now and the Kielys are no different.
At home are dad Denis, mom Sheila, eldest brother Johnny (23), older sister Ellie (22) and another set of younger identical twins, brothers Niall and Dinny (18). Unsurprisingly, the 2017 All-Ireland minor winning duo are finding a quiet study area hard to come by – but putting up with a bit of noise is worth it just to be safe and sound at home with their family.
‘It is difficult enough with eight people in the house all the time!’ Daire Kiely laughed.
‘It can be hard going when you are studying as there is always someone banging a ball or sliotar against a wall somewhere close by. We are like any household really. There is always something going on and a bit of noise around the place.
‘Peace and quiet is hard to come by and would occasionally do your head in, but we love being at home at the same time. There is always someone to talk to or kick a ball around with.
‘This is a complete change from the college environment when it comes to studying. You are unable to get any (direct) help from your friends. Thankfully, we keep in contact through social media. Our lecturers have been very good to us too, helping us with our online assignments. It is not the worst situation to be in and we are like everyone else just getting through it as best we can.’
Daire is a full 20 minutes older than her sister and not shy when it comes to reminding Eimear. The twin sisters have always been close though as underlined by their decision to become primary school teachers and study at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick.
‘Being twins is even more apparent when it comes to our studies,’ Eimear commented.
‘We are both up in Limerick studying or at least we were until Covid-19 happened. We are staying in the same accommodation complex but not with each other (this year) as we see enough of one another at home. Giving ourselves a bit of break when we head to college isn’t a bad thing really.
‘This is our second year studying in Mary I. This was around the time both of us were due to begin five weeks of work placement but that had to be cancelled until November.
‘We are not too concerned because at least we know that we will get to complete the work placement later in the year. It is something we need to do, so it is good that the college has kept it in place for third year. As for exams, our course has changed in that we are completing a lot more assignments.’
Away from home comforts and on-line studying, Daire and Eimear’s football careers remain on an upward curve. They broke on to Ephie Fitzgerald’s Cork senior squad in 2019. Since then, the Valley Rovers players featured sparingly during Cork’s dominant start to the 2020 National League campaign, but it is one of the strongest inter-county squads in the country and time is on their side.
Interestingly, football was not the Kiely’s first love. Soccer was number one during the sisters’ fledgling years but it wasn’t long before Valley Rovers came calling and success quickly followed.
‘Eimear and I started playing with Valley Rovers when we were about six years old,’ Daire stated.
‘Living near Ballincollig, we were more into soccer than GAA when we were younger. A lot of our focus was on soccer in the early years as it was difficult to get down to Innishannon for training sessions. It was only when we reached U12 that we started to take GAA more seriously. Valley Rovers were never the most successful team but then we won a few West Cork titles. It just seemed the county championships were always a step too far.
‘Valley Rovers did okay at U14 and U16 before we reached minor level. That is when Eimear and I first made a Cork (minor) panel. We were able to bring what we learned from the inter-county All-Ireland winning set-up back to our club.
‘We won a minor league, West Cork and C county final that year which was a great achievement. So, Valley Rovers has won C and B county championships over the last three years before getting to last year’s U21 A county final. The club is progressing well with a close-knit group of players since we entered the minor grade.’
Lifting club trophies and winning All-Ireland minor medals represent terrific career accolades. Yet, the Kielys are quick to mention lining out for the West Cork division in two Cork senior football county finals as equally important milestones.
'Playing for West Cork has been a new experience for us but something Daire and I absolutely love,' Eimear said.
'It introduced us to a much higher standard and gave us an opportunity to train and play alongside established Cork seniors. Initially, we were not sure if we would be capable of playing at that level but we loved it from day one. All the West Cork squad players were very friendly and welcoming. Before we knew it, we were playing and very successful in our first year (2018).
'Our determination to show that we belonged amongst the likes of Orla Finn and Áine Terry O'Sullivan was important to us. We were fortunate to be part of such a successful squad. Playing with West Cork helped us get our foot in the door with the Cork seniors as Ephie Fitzgerald got a chance to see us competing at senior level.’
For now, staying safe and keeping up with their studies is vitally important but Daire and Eimear Kiely’s best footballing years are right around the corner.