Festival Fit: Majestic scenery, cute hoors, Gaelic football, dance and song . . .

Mark Graham discovers all life on display in West Kerry

Majestic scenery, cute hoors and Gaelic Football; three of the most difficult things to avoid whilst galavanting through the Kingdom of Kerry. There’s no doubt that Páidí Ó Sé had one eye on the ball and the other on the till of his teach tábhairne in Ceann Trá when he kicked off a Gaelic Football tournament in the picturesque West Kerry Gaeltacht 24 years ago.

Comórtas Peile Páidí Ó Sé is a fitting tribute to him. Not only will the register of the pub be ringing out like Tralee's church bells during the Green and Gold homecoming of 1981, more than 1,300 footballers have travelled from Europe, America and possibly even Dublin, to take part in football festival 2014.

Páidí naming the football festival after himself was branding, and it had clout, but it's taken on a more sombre significance since his passing. Commemorating a person by naming an event or festival after them is a wonderful mark of respect and it's something we're quite good at. Willie Week in Milltown Malby is probably the best example. It's been a mecca for Irish traditional musicians, dancers and scholars since 1973 and serves as a fitting memorial to piper Willie Clancy who was buried outside the town in the same year the festival took his name.

The Russell Memorial Weekend Festival kicked off in Doolin last night. Originally known as the Micho Russell Weekend, it's expanded moniker also pays tribute Micho's musical brothers, Packie and Gussie. Micho's performances were as much about the introductions as they were about his virtuosic whistle. He had a firm grasp on lore, legend and lilt.


It's fitting that the weekend in Doolin has workshops running throughout. Micho was a regular feature in Milltown at the Willy Clancy Summer School, delivering his own classes, keeping traditions alive. The tunes turn and the dance continues in Doolin this weekend.

Another slant on the cenotaph session sees Limerick celebrate the Kate O'Brien Literary Festival. It features Anne Enright, Edna O'Brien and Frank McGuinness on words, with Finghin Collins on piano. By far the most impressive name I've seen on any line-up so far this year has to be that of Amélie de Mac-Mahon, Duchess de Magenta and Bean an Tí at Chateau de Sully in Burgundy. She rules a whole colour!

Either the Limerick Massive are really taking this City of Culture lark seriously or she’s good for a van load of top-notch plonk to accompany the Cahill’s cheese cubes at the opening.

Kerry has the lion's share of festival action this weekend though. Just a hop, skip and shuff-heel over the peninsula from Páidí's peileadóirí, Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh will be in full swing and slide. This five-day event has the traditional music, dance and song of the Corca Dhuibhne Peninsula at it's core. Instrumental workshops, singing sessions and dance classes a-go-go.

A weekend away in West Kerry learning to dance sean-nós, hitting up evening concerts and chasing St Brendan’s ghost round Mount Brandon has the ingredients of a prize winning Discover Ireland ad (minus the hot-stones and gaudy golf slacks).

Scoil Cheoil in Ballyferriter is a top tip for the weekend, but down the road in Killarney they've something similar on a grander scale at The Gathering Traditional Festival.

If you do head down Whesht, keep sketch for piper Leonard Barry in Ballyferriter, he'll be performing tunes from his latest CD, New Road, by night and giving classes by day. Storyteller and living legend Eddie Lenihan will be at the session in Killarney; don't miss a chance enjoy one of our national treasures if you're down by the lakes.

Liffeysiders can still catch a set of reels at Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. Hop to it in jig time though, last set is called on Sunday night and their dance card is fuller than Eddie Lenihan's sideburns.

Safe travels, don’t die.