FORMER Cork City manager John Caulfield has hailed the great work – seen and unseen – that the late John Kennedy gave to his beloved club.
Skibbereen native Kennedy, who had been involved with the Rebel Army since 1989, died recently.
Hailing from Upper Bridge St in Skibb, he 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 was still working.
Caulfield will remember the tireless work ethic that saw Kennedy give so much to the club.
‘It seemed like he was there forever,’ he says.
‘It’s a bit like Noelle Feeney, in the sense that she was there from the very start and John came in shortly after that.
‘The ‘problem’ with guys like John is that they’re taken for granted, in a way. I know he had a beautiful personality and everything else but it’s only in hindsight that people will realise the work that he actually did.
‘On top of organising the buses for away games and the family enclosure at Turner’s Cross, he did a huge amount of community work around the city and county, bringing people to events or out to training in Bishopstown, organising the Liam Miller Walk, I remember us going down to Skibbereen a few times.
‘It was all this unseen stuff and probably some people within the club wouldn’t have realised the extent of it.
‘There are always people in clubs that do all of those things and he was the one for us. It’s a real tragedy, especially for his family.’
His departure will leave a void in terms of the volunteerism he provided.
‘He always gave everyone the benefit of the doubt and he got on with everyone,’ Caulfield says.
‘Even though he may not have always agreed with what you were doing or he mightn’t have been happy with something, he never raised his voice and his temperament was very good.
‘He had a very good manner in the way he put things across and that’s just the way he was.
‘Let’s hope that all the great work John did is filled. It’s not one person that’s going to do this, it’ll take three or for people to row in and each do a piece, because that’s the level of work that John did.’
Cork City kit manager and former chairman Mick Ring feels that Kennedy embodied that volunteer ethos that keeps clubs like City going.
‘We were elected to the board together in 2012,’ he says, ‘and he was the vice-chairman with me then in 2013.
‘I would have known John from going to matches since the 1990s but when we went on the board together we became friends, he was at my wedding in 2012.
‘John was friends with everyone, he saw the best in everyone. The dedication was frightening, even when his board days were over he went back to the family enclosure.
‘He was always the first in, putting up banners and flags, out at every underage game and collecting money on the gate – there was no task that was too menial for John. He rowed in wherever he had to.
‘The untold work that he did behind the scenes, nobody will ever know. I think his legacy is already there with the family closure and there are plenty of good volunteers there, like Pat Sisk, who have stepped into the breach.
‘I was getting texts from people in Sligo, Dundalk – he was known all over the league and he’ll be badly missed.
‘It’s a pity that we can’t do a proper tribute at the next home game. There’s plenty of other things we can do but 2020 has just been one blow after the other.’
In 2019, a special presentation to John Kennedy by the club marked 30 years of service, inspired by the late Noelle Feeney. Speaking to the Star at the time, he said it was a love he was sure would last forever.
‘I had been to a few City games while I was in Dublin,’ he said at the time, ‘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!
‘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.’