Local Kenmare stars create buzz ahead of All-Ireland football final replay
Two of Kerry’s top stars, Stephen O’Brien and Seán O’Shea, play with Kenmare Shamrocks
Lydia O’Shea, mother of Kerry sharpshooter Seán, hangs a photo of her famous son in the window of the family business in Kenmare, Co Kerry ahead of the All-Ireland Final replay. Photograph: Don MacMonagle
Mary O’Brien, mother of Kerry forward and player of the year contender Stephen, proudly displays the county colours at her home in Kenmare, Co Kerry. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Dr Siobhan Griffin, Seana Quane and Muireann Quane from Ballybunion show their support for Kerry footballers during ladies day at the Listowel Races. Photograph: Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus
The All-Ireland replay has the town of Kenmare buzzing. Two of Kerry’s top stars play with local club Kenmare Shamrocks and since the drawn final two weeks ago almost every young boy in town is puffing his cheeks and taking frees like Stephen O’Brien and Seán O’Shea.
Stephen O’Brien’s mother Mary is leading the charge with a huge banner outside the family home, the Hawthorn Guesthouse, in the town centre.
Stephen, a contender for player of the year, holds an All-Ireland medal from 2014, but shortly after he won that medal, his father Noel who was ill at the time, died.
“People are saying it’s a pity his father is not here to see him this weekend. But it’s lovely that Noel was there to see his son start for Kerry in 2014,” Mary said.
There is more excitement in the household when Stephen, a chemical engineer in Ringaskiddy, is at work than when he is at home at the weekend, Mary said. “When he’s here, we’re all very calm,” Mary said of herself and Stephen’s three sisters.
Downtown though, the story is different and people who Mary thought would have no interest in football are coming up to her saying they are lighting candles and praying for Kerry success and for Stephen.
“It’s so lovely for younger people especially,” she said.
Mary has been told that since the All-Ireland two weeks ago, two-year-old boys are out in the back gardens of Kenmare with footballs and puffing their cheeks like Stephen, or lining up like Seán to take a free. Mary believes it is because all of the team are so humble that they have captured people’s imagination.
“It’s powerful. It’s great. It’s done so much good for the town,” she said.
Nearby on Main Street, Lydia O’Shea, mother of Seán O’Shea, has a photo of Sean on the shop window in the family dry cleaners and photo shop.
The UCC student has been playing football since he was four years old and works in the shop during the summer. “Children are peeking in each day now and asking is ‘Seanie’ there,” Lydia said.
Seán (21) enjoys the attention when he is home. Local people are dropping in with cards and good wishes. And there is a great buzz on the street.
Confidence is high in Kenmare and there is huge support. Parents know how hard their children train and how much effort is made by the families, the clubs and the communities.
Bonane school where Seán went to national school was instrumental in his football career and he was inspired by Gooch Cooper’s brother Vince Cooper who taught football there and other primary schools across Kerry. But Seán O’Shea did not pick up the talent for football off the grass. His father Seán snr was a Kerry minor alongside Kerry manager Peter Keane in 1989.And Seán snr is now chairman of Kenmare Shamrocks club.
Today Seán and Lydia’s oldest son Dara, will be turning up in Croker wearing that 1989 Kerry minor jersey his father wore 30 years ago. “It is in perfect condition,” said Lydia.