Templenoe delivering for Kerry
By Cian O’Connell
“When we go to a football match there is nobody left at home,” Templenoe GAA Chairman Tomás O’Connor laughs about the endless fascination with the sport in south Kerry.
Saturday’s intriguing All Ireland SFC Final replay at Croke Park marks another landmark day in the history of the proud club which supplies Tadhg Morley, Gavin Crowley, Adrian Spillane, and Killian Spillane to the green and gold panel.
That neighbours, Kenmare, provide Sean O’Shea and Stephen O’Brien ensures the replay is dominating everyday life presently.
“It has gone cracked to be honest with you,” O’Connor admits. “The tickets, everything. I suppose the last day Kerry people went up in hope more so the last day, we were hopeful we'd win.
“Now there is nearly an expectation that we will win. The town and the area, because we are part of the Kenmare parish.
“With two lads from Kenmare and four lads from Templenoe, we have six people who all went to school together. To have them in a Kerry team together, it is unreal.”
The Spillanes delivered during the salad years of Kerry football, but the next generation from that decorated family are now on the inter-county beat too.
Did people in Templenoe ever envisage that so many players would be involved with Kerry at the same time? “I'm an accountant myself so numerically it would never have made sense to us,” O’Connor replies instantly.
“We knew our guys were very good guys, but to displace other people has been a massive thing, and it is how they have improved. This didn't happen by accident or overnight.”
To emphasise his point O’Connor stresses a brief interview Gavin Crowley carried out a number of years ago. There was never any shortage of ambition. All that some of them needed was a chance.
“They have dedicated their lives to this,” O’Connor states. “I have a programme from when we won the Under 21 County Championship a few years ago, Kenmare District. Gavin Crowley was one of the main men on that team.
“I will always remember in the player profile he was asked where do you see yourself in a couple of years time.
“He said he'd love to be a Kerry senior player with his position marked down. How he has done that, he was a Kerry minor, Kerry Under 21, Kerry junior, and now he is a Kerry senior. All the four players have gone that route. They have worn the Kerry jersey at different levels over the years.”
The lack of playing numbers, though, remains an issue in the underage ranks according to O’Connor. “Things have got worse more recently,” O’Connor reveals. “Back then we used to amalgamate with Tuosist. So that team they were involved with was with Tuosist.
“This year Tuosist, their club this year unfortunately weren't able to field a team in the County League. They fielded in the Championship, but they weren't able to in the County League. We on the other hand have been able to drive on and move on with things.”
Templenoe, who have performed in Division One football, have suffered relegation from the Kerry Senior League, but to be operating at that level was a monumental achievement.
“It never happened before, even in the Spillanes' heyday we only were a Division Two club,” O’Connor says.
“To be fair we have to say that Killian Spillane wasn't really part of the Kerry senior panel last year. He was only on the periphery, having Killian in the club last year and having lads fit and healthy helped.
“We got knocked out of the Intermediate earlier last year, that kept us up in Division One last year. Our panel is so small this year, we had four lads gone for most of the year with Kerry.
"We've been in a couple of semi-finals and final, and we have won the Junior All Ireland. The year before that we got knocked out of the Junior early.
“Our club has been nearly in a final of some sort every year for the past seven or eight years at different levels.”
All the hard work carried out is now being reflected on the grand Croke Park canvas. “It is an amazing thing,” O’Connor continues.
“It is the culture in the club. You had the Spillanes in the past, you must also realise we have had a lot of Kerry minor and underage players in recent times.
Gavin Crowley's brother, Colin, he was a Kerry minor this year. We had two on the junior panel, the top scorer in the junior team, Stephen O'Sullivan. Kerry South won the All Ireland Under 15 competition with two of the starting team from Templenoe.”
Even when times are tough, hope is always there, Templenoe’s defiance and willingness to deliver matters.
“You have maybe 700 or 800 living in the place, but we have a lot of retirees in Templenoe,” O’Connor remarks. “It is a nice area to retire to so you'd have 700 or 800 which includes retirees. The playing population basically is very small.
“We only have enough for one adult team, we have no junior team. This year was the first year we had to concede two games because we hadn't enough to field a team. We were down so many lads in the Kerry senior and junior teams.”
So a bond and unity exists. “There is a massive spirit, we might fight amongst ourselves alright, but God help you if people say a word to us,” O’Connor chuckles.
“You know that type. It is very intense. We really live for football, it is all about football in the area. Everybody is involved, you've a huge amount of people behind the scenes.”
That they have all contributed to the Templenoe tale means a lot on glorious days like these.