My Club: Shane Enright - Tarbert
By John Harrington
In this week’s ‘My Club’ feature, Kerry senior footballer Shane Enright tells us all about Tarbert GAA club.
Tarbert GAA club in North Kerry was established in 1904, but football was played in the area before then by a team known as ‘The Tarbert Magpies’.
Located on River Shannon Estuary and close the Limerick border, Tarbert have won the North Kerry Senior Football Championship seven times, most recently in 2010.
Enright is the club’s most notable player, and their first to win Senior Munster and All-Ireland medals.
Q: For those that might not know the geography, can you explain where Tarbert is in Kerry?
A: We're out in North Kerry. About ten minutes from Listowel and right on the border with Glin which is in Limerick. We've got the ESB station, that's how most people would know Tarbert. It's a real small place, a small village.
We're a small Junior club, but I've always really enjoyed playing my football with Tarbert. I came up from U-10s all the way up along. I wouldn't have had my chance with Kerry without Tarbert.
Q: Can you remember your first involvement with the club?
A: I was about eight years old playing U-10s with Tarbert. They start a bit younger these days, but back then you started at U-10 level. The John Kelly Cup was what you competed in. You played two or three games and that was it until U-12s.
It was just great to get involved. My parents were always involved in some way too. My father would have trained the underage teams and my mother was always big into it as well. They travelled in the supporters bus to every game and they were big influences on my sporting career.
Q: Tarbert sounds like a tight community?
A: Exactly, yeah. A small place of maybe only 1,000 people so you're well known by everyone and everyone is behind you going into big games.
Q: Had you much success with the club coming up through the underage grades?
A: We had one good team in my age-group. I think we won a North Kerry minor title and a few county titles at a lower level. We had some good players, but we weren't up there competing with the big clubs. But I definitely wouldn't be where I am now without Tarbert and all those experiences.
Q: What level is the club playing at now in the senior grade?
A: Junior. We have Junior Championship coming up now against our local rivals Moyvane soon enough. It was meant to be on in two weeks, but I'm not sure now if the Kerry U-21 team's involvement in the All-Ireland Championship will change that. I'm looking forward to that anyway whenever it's played.
Q: Would Moyvane be the local grudge match?
A: It would be, yeah, exactly. We played them last year in the Championship and we beat them, thank God. They're up the road, only about five miles away, so there would be a big rivalry.
The two clubs have actually joined up at underage level though because both clubs are so small and neither would have enough players. I suppose when you're used to playing with fellas and that level and then you have to play against one another a few years later, there's a great rivalry there.
Q: Are a lot of clubs in rural Kerry struggling for numbers like that now?
A: I'd say you'd have a lot of the smaller clubs alright who wouldn't have the numbers. Next to us as well, five minutes in the other direction, you'd have Ballylongford and they'd be joined up with Asdee. I've even seen where three or four clubs have joined up together to field teams for different competitions, like the U-21s, because so many players have fallen away and they just don't have the numbers. It's a pity really.
Q: It's been said that North Kerry produces the hardiest footballers. Is that true?
A: It's a tough championship. We won it back in 2010, so I've just the one medal, but it's always a tough championship to win. It's tough football.
Usually they play the Final on St. Stephen's Day so the conditions mightn't be the best and there can be a bit of rooting and tearing. But, no, it's a great championship and a nice one to win.
Q: Who did you beat in the 2010 Final?
A: We beat Listowel after a replay that went to extra-time. That was a bit one. I think they were going for three or four in a row and we hadn't won one in 20 years, so it was brilliant, we enjoyed that one. It's great to win with people you've grown up with. We haven't won too much with Tarbert, but that was a great one.
Q: Did you always play in the backs for Tarbert?
A: I actually played in the forwards when I started out and when I was going for the likes of the Primary Game trials and that, but I always played midfield with the club.
The reason I actually dropped into the backs was when I was playing with the school and I realised I wasn't good enough for the forwards. So I dropped into the backs and the rest is history.
Q: There's a good tradition of tough defenders from North Kerry playing for the county team.
A: Yeah, exactly. You would have had the likes of our manager now, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, and the likes of Eamon Breen. A lot of good backs have come from North Kerry. Tough, tough, tough men. It's great to follow in their footsteps.
Q: Is there any hurling played in Tarbert?
A: No. There's none at all. The closest to us would be Lixnaw which would be the Finuge club. And then there's Ballyduffy. Most of the hurling would be in North Kerry alright, but we wouldn't play it ourselves in Tarbert. I've pucked a ball around once or twice, but I never actually hurled.
Q: As well as playing football with Tarbert at Junior level, I presume you'd play at senior level with the North Kerry district team?
A: Yeah, I would, with Shannon Rangers. I suppose the hardest thing is trying to get that team together. We made a semi-final three years ago, I was captain the same year, but since then they've brought in a new thing that one divisional team can't play in the county championship.
So they went back over the last few years and whoever had the worst record had to play off against each other in a preliminary game. That didn't work out well last year. The game was on a Friday night and we had to play Monaghan in the League on a Sunday.
I played the game and we were beaten by St. Brendans (another Kerry district team) so we didn't get into the first round proper of the championship.
I don't think it's the best system because it doesn't matter whether they beat us or we beat them, if whichever team wins that game then loses in the first round then we're still going to be the two worst teams and we'll just be playing each other every year until one of us goes on a bit of a run.
Q: How well do all the North Kerry clubs come together with Shannon Rangers considering the rivalry?
A: It's tough because you're such fierce rivals when you're playing one another in the North Kerry Championship and then you're trying to come together as a team. But, no, look, we've some good players there now. A couple of Ballydonoghue fellas are on the Kerry U-21 team and they'd be in training with the seniors and they're very good players. HOpefully this year now we can give it a good crack and get into the actual county championship, at least you're guaranteed two games then.
Q: It means a lot to small clubs when they have a representative on the county team. Have you noticed that yourself with Tarbert?
A: Yeah, look, they're all delighted to see me playing with Kerry. They all give me great support. When I played in the Munster Final in 2011 I was actually the first Tarbert man to start a Munster Final. And in 2014 I was the first Tarbert man to play in an All-Ireland Final. So it was great. Even though there are a couple of medals in the club, they never actually played in those matches.
You'd have the young fellas looking up to you and I'd try to do my bit for the club where you'd give out medals and stuff like that. It's a great club to be a part of.
Q: What would your big ambitions with Tarbert in the coming years?
A: The Junior Championship is a big one. But it's so competitive at the moment. Glenbeigh won the All-Ireland this year and they were playing Division 1 County League Football whereas we're a Division 4 team at the moment. We were Division 1 about six or seven years ago but we've gone down a bit. I think we're in transition at the moment, we've a lot of young fellas coming through and they'll need time to build themselves up.
But, look, you'd want to be doing well in the County League this year and have a good run in the Junior Championship, that would great.