All - Ireland Island football competition.
September 19, 2018
By John Bohane
Bere Island GAA Club recently hosted the All-Island All-Ireland football championships.
The annual event for the island teams nationwide proved a huge success revealed Bere Island GAA administrator Jim Hanley. “It was a very successful weekend. There were some great games. Whiddy Island player and former Cork underage footballer Seanie O’Leary was a class above. He was brilliant all weekend,” revealed the current Beara GAA chairman.
Whiddy Island emerged victorious in both the men’s and ladies All-Island football championships capping a great weekend for the West Cork based island team. Their ladies team regained the championship title for the second successive season. Among the star players on the Whiddy Island ladies were Cork minor footballers Rachel and Eve Murphy. “Eve and Rachel are very talented players. They were key players on a very strong Whiddy ladies team. They were very worthy champions.”
Jim was pleased with the displays from the various Bere Island football teams in both the men’s and ladies section. “We were very happy with our progress. Our ladies team had not entered a team in recent years and they put a lot of work in prior to the championship. They did very well. We had a lot of very talented young players on the panel who played very well. This augurs very well for the future.”
The competition was once again run off very smoothly. Bere Island proved great hosts for all the island teams who competed in the tournament. It takes a huge effort on behalf of the whole island community to ensure the weekend passes off so successfully. Jim was thrilled with the voluntary effort displayed by the local community. “A lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes in the successful organising and planning of this weekend. It takes a huge and united effort from everyone in the community. The last time we hosted it was back in 2010. We have to make arrangements to ensure we have enough food and accommodation for all the various teams and their supporters etc. Everyone on the island played their part in helping ensure the weekend proved so successful.”
The annual All-Island All-Ireland football championships was initiated to promote unity among the plethora of islands located throughout the island of Ireland. It was designed to bring the islands closer and promote their culture on a national scale. Jim and his Bere Island colleagues relish playing and hosting the annual tournament. “It was a great idea to bring all the islands together. The football is taken seriously and is played at a very high standard. There is a whole other aspect to the weekend also. We also ran a park run for the first time this year which proved a great success. There is no reason for islands for all the various islands not to have more co-operation on a wider basis throughout the year. It has been a great success since it was established 20 years ago. It has brought island people to all the other islands in Ireland. It shows us how people and industries on other islands survive. What works for them might also work for us. Bringing together all the islands for a weekend of fun and football is mutually beneficial for everyone. There is a huge social side to it, making friends and connections is vitally important going forward.”
Bere Island junior footballers continue to line out in adult competition in the Beara championship every year. Emigration is a constant source of worry for Bere Island GAA administrators and coaches revealed Jim. “Numbers are very tight. Our population on a permanent basis is around 180. Our major challenge is when our players finish second level education, they leave for college or employment etc and due to our isolated location we are very exposed. We have one adult team in the club. We do very well. We have always kept it going. Our age profile is against us however. The future is looking very tough.”
Bere Island underage players generally line out with Castletownbere underage teams before they return to their beloved Bere Island. There are very positive signs for the future with regard the progress of their primary school teams. “We had an U8 team for a small while, but our numbers are tight so the underage players normally play with Castletownbere. The Sciath na Scol team in the local primary school are doing very well. There is a big effort being put into them. Brendan Murphy and John Mullins amongst many more are doing great work with the young kids. They regularly get to finals in the Sciath na Scol which suggests a bright future with these players coming through. We also had a very successful Cul Camp this year with a big number participating. This is all very positive stuff. Hopefully this emerging young generation will take it on and continue to play for Bere Island going forward.”
GAA facilities in Bere Island are very impressive with the club boasting state of the art facilities. “Traditionally all the islands possess very good football pitches. Ten years ago we put a lot of money into our pitch and built a clubhouse. We have done a lot of fundraising and this year we are now debt free which is great. It is an asset for the whole community. We have a great community spirit. We are constantly looking to build on it.”