All is well in the Kingdom of Kerry. Sam Maguire is at home. The famine is over. Puck Fair is back. The county is healing, our traditions are intact. In a few weeks I will be attending one of the main signifiers of the Kerry summer – the Rose of Tralee.
In early June I was voted the 2022 Kerry Rose. Since then, life has been a joyful whirlwind. Events, visits, pictures, hello and goodbye have become an important part of my weeks. I’ve had some time to reflect on what the role means to me.
As a child, I wasn’t gifted with athletic ability. I couldn’t kick, catch or run a mile. My body was built for walks, not sprints. This lack of physical ability means it was highly unlikely that I would ever represent my county in the sport. I would never set foot in Croke Park from the sacred depths of Hogan Stand.
So this is my moment to put on some sort of invisible Geansaí. My sash is a different take on a green and gold leotard and I couldn’t be prouder to wear it. In these situations, whether on stage or in a square, you can forget why you are there.
I believe everyone is a product of where they come from. Communities have been my roots all my life, and a week ago I was reminded why I continue to care for them.
I come from a small GAA club called St. Senan’s. They’re two-time North Kerry champions, you may not know them, but your club is pretty much the same. Small, tight-knit, full of weirdness and mischief, and willing to go the extra mile for himself.
They recently put together a celebration at the clubhouse in honor of my trip to the Rose of Tralee. It was a night of singing, dancing and poetry. Musicians and dancers of all ages performed and a man named Sonny Egan wrote a poem about me. No man in my life has ever immortalized me in verse, so now my expectations of men are higher than ever.
It was a night I’ll never forget, but I should have known people would gather around me and support me. Because they do. They strengthen you when you succeed and bring you back together when you don’t. There is no doubt that Galway residents are hugging their footballers after last weekend. You will comfort them, tell them how proud they are, and push them through the excitement.
The same is true of every village, town and county in Ireland. Whether you’re five years old and experiencing your first competitive loss, or 35 and experiencing your first long-fought victory, the Fellowship is with you through all your trials, tribulations and triumphs.
Sitting on that stage, I realized that every person in the room had played a role in who I am today. They have never left my side through the good and the not so great. If you listen closely to success speeches, you will usually find a reference to a collective of people. You may not be the group you were born into; They may be the ones you found solace in along the way, but they are key to your experiences. No All-Ireland winner has ever reached the top of the mountain unaided, no rose has ever bloomed without water and care.
The truth is we need other people. Moments of happiness and success are only half the fun without someone to celebrate. I’m sure I’ll have countless highlights as Kerry Rose. With a tour, a ball, a parade and a night on stage, the list of possibilities just keeps growing.
This night at the clubhouse will be the standout though, a bright moment in a glittering summer. Denny Street in Tralee was lined with people last Monday – people honoring the green and gold.
While I didn’t have the streets, my people lined the walls of the hall while I donned the geansaí. In both cases, people cheered and clapped, expressing pride in the country and community. Because that’s where it begins and ends. It’s the heart of everything.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/power-of-community-helps-raise-us-all-up-41878138.html The power of community helps us all rise