Prodigal son Breen has been a boon for Beaufort
By John Harrington
Having lived the first 13 years of his life in Wales before moving to his father’s home-place of Beaufort in the heart of Kerry, it’s fair to say that Nathan Breen’s accent is very much his own.
The varying lilts veer from North Wales to Mid-Kerry from one word to another, and Breen admits when he first arrived in the Kingdom and started playing Gaelic Football he got “the height of abuse for a good few years” off opposition players for his accent.
He learned to shut them up in the best way possible – by dominating them on the pitch – but his quick progression as a Gaelic Footballer has done little to dim the memory of his first time to ever play the sport when he found out the hard way he had a lot to learn.
“It was an U-14 below in Killorglin,” recalls the good-natured Breen with a chuckle.
“My bit of football was watching Kerry on TV and having a kick-around with my cousins when I was on holidays or maybe the odd time above in the Park in Wales when I was growing up.
“My first game I was put wing-forward and I didn't have a clue what was going on. My father was on the sideline and I was looking over to him trying to take directions and he was pointing every sort of way.”
His father Gerard is what you could conservatively describe as a football fanatic, and he made it his priority to bring his son up to speed as quickly as possible.
Every match Nathan played would be followed by a lengthy debrief in the car on the way home when his many mistakes would be parsed and the areas he needed to still improve on highlighted.
Considering Nathan will lead the Beaufort footballers out onto the Croke Park pitch for this Saturday’s AIB All-Ireland Junior Club Football Final against Easkey of Sligo, Gerard will surely feel his decision to bring the boy back home from Wales and mentor his Gaelic Football education has paid off in spades.
“I don't know whether he'd admit it, but I'd say moving back home just so I could play Gaelic Football was definitely number one or two in his list of priorities,” said Breen.
“If you're a Breen in Beaufort, everyone automatically assumes you play football.
“I suppose he didn't want to let down the parish. I think in his mind that decision to come home was fully justified the first time I put on a Beaufort top!
“I went to New York playing football for a summer in 2014 and I met a girl and we had a long-distance relationship for three and a half years and she moved back last October.
“We were just around the house one day and my Dad let out a screech, 'Football is number one in this house! Whatever about family ties or anything like that!'
“Christine knew what she was in for then.”
“It served me well, in fairness. My father, like everyone else around the parish, is seriously passionate about the whole thing and I suppose when you have family members playing you have a real vested interest in the whole thing.”
Such was Breen’s rapid progress as a footballer that he would have played for the Kerry minors but for a troublesome appendix.
He made up for that disappointment by captaining the Kerry U-21s in 2014, but even that achievement will be dwarfed by the honour of leading his club out for Saturday’s All-Ireland Final.
Beaufort is a small parish at the foot of Carrauntohill who have had little to shout about on the football pitch until very recently, so this means the world to everyone associated with the team.
“You're driving through the village to training and you see all the bunting out,” said Breen. "People have their flags on the lawn.
“We have lifetime supporters who haven't really had to see any success until maybe the last couple of years. I suppose it's about time we've repaid them.
“Even just our local sponsors and stuff like that, there's a lot of work that has gone on behind the scenes, and the club has been very good to us making sure the only thing we've had to do is train and play.”
Kerry clubs have won three of the last four AIB All-Ireland Junior Football titles, but Breen doesn’t think that counts for much going into Saturday’s Final against Easkey.
The Sligo side were a senior club as recently as 2016 and have a lot of quality in their raniks.
“The success of Kerry teams over the years, people looking from the outside see a Kerry team and assume they'll be in the Final,” said Breen.
“But that way of thinking is dangerous because you can get a bit complacent. Just because you get out of Kerry doesn't mean you have the right to get to a Final.
“That's not the way it works. You could be lulled into a false sense of security and on the day it's then too late to get it right.
“There's been good success in the county and hopefully now we can give it our best shot on the ninth and get out on the right side of the result.”