Message from a hurdler hero: everyone in society deserves a chance at sports


Happily, the old adage about never meeting your heroes isn’t always accepted. Some of the more annoyed readers might say that a girl like me shouldn’t have a hero.

Throughout the years of research that I have done, in various pubs around the globe, have told me that everyone needs heroes, and perhaps especially the elderly. So John Kiely is my hero and I don’t think I have too many others.

After nearly half a century of watching the Limerick hurdles team, that man took home the all-Ireland hurdles gold victory in 2018. Our previous win was 45 years earlier in 2018. 1973, when I was still in school, and I was quietly resigned to perhaps going to my grave without enjoying another such victory.

But “Kiely’s men” have since delivered two more goals, putting Limerick in double digits, with a total of 10 wins (although only a few light years away from the dizzying heights of home to the the “big three” hurdles, Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary). So the man from Galbally, near the border of Tipperary and Cork and in the foothills of the magical Galtee Mountains, is a hero of heroes who have helped bring joy to the people of Limerick all over the world.

So I happily accepted the invitation to hear John Kiely speak in Limerick yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Like many successful athletes, he became “success overnight” after decades of slogans.

He read a letter from “a lifelong fan” sent to him after one of his earlier less successful managerial trips. It was nothing short of a vulgar abuse, opening with a mandatory statement of lifelong support for the sport and the county. That letter was a memento that reminded him of how crunchy success and confidence really are.

After a competitive career that included interdistrict time, Kiely became involved in the management of Limerick’s much less glamorous midfield tackles. He moved through the ranks, serving as senior team picker and then manager of a successful under-21 team in the county, before taking over as senior manager in late 2016. .

The abusive letter he cited dates from his first season in charge in 2017. It was a period that he explicitly describes as a time when “progress is being made but progress is being made. that set is not visible to everyone.” In other words – they won’t nuttin’, and that definitely annoys a certain type of “fan for life”.

But yesterday’s Kiely’s work has taken him beyond the realm of sport, or rather into the intertwined worlds of education and social inclusion, which he so convincingly describes as part of the of the bigger picture of life. He notes that sport gives people a lot of positives and high on the list is a sense of belonging.

He puts a lot of emphasis on the relationship between players and supporters. The lack of crowds at matches during the two dismal years of Covid really underscores the importance of the relationship between players and the crowd.

In addition to his lifelong obsession with sport, he is also a dedicated teacher and principal of the Abbey School in the town of Tipperary, a short distance across the border from his home. He considers the decision by another Limerick man, education minister Donogh O’Malley, to introduce free secondary education in 1967 as the biggest step forward in the economic and social development of the country. Ireland.

Through the years of following this sports professional, I have noted how he tries to cut down on the limelight and be measured and focused on his current work through all his media contributions. his. But this speech was different because he was cheering for a fundraising event for the Peter McVerry Trust, the organization that brought the fight against homelessness to Limerick with its many creative projects to help vulnerable people. the poorest and the poorest.

Kiely sincerely endorses its work and warns that everyone must be given the opportunity to participate in life to the fullest. Leaving parts of the community free of economic and social progress, he warned, could cost us all dearly in the medium term.

“For Limerick to thrive into the future, every part of it, and every community, must evolve. There can’t be two Limericks – there’s only one Limerick,” he said forcefully.

A proud Limerick, he acknowledges the ongoing work to tackle poverty and inequality. But he says more needs to be done and that while progress has certainly been made over the past 40 years, more effort must still be deployed.

It was a simple but eloquent message. And on the day it came to fruition he packed the room with about 350 people paying €50 each, all belonging to the Peter McVerry Trust.

This is a very practical demonstration of how sport fits into life. Message from a hurdler hero: everyone in society deserves a chance at sports

Fry Electronics Team

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