By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Féile 2012 gets under way in Dublin today (Thursday July 5th) with a host of hurling and camogie games taking place around the city from this afternoon and throughout the weekend, before culminating in the finals on Saturday.
The annual tournament is a celebration of both codes, and just like the big-ball equivalent, it is also a celebration of work being done at grassroots level by unheralded volunteers, as well as the tradition of passing on the love of the games from generation to generation.
Family connections throughout the wider Gaelic games community are very evident. Erin’s Isle is one of the local clubs that has been preparing for this extravaganza for many months and included in their panel are Róisín and Aisling Byrne.
It is no surprise to see them flourishing with the camán, given that their father was such a gifted performer himself.
Joe Byrne was a member of the last Dublin squad to win an All-Ireland minor hurling championship in 1965 and bagged another couple of Leinster medals after that. He has served ‘The Parish’ faithfully since then, turning successfully to management and coaching in both hurling and camogie when his playing days came to an end.
Having performed on the biggest possible stage 47 years ago, things have travelled full circle now, with Rósín and Aisling getting their chances to shine.
The last time Féile came to Dublin in 1983, that famed Kilkenny hurling club, James Stephen’s emerged victorious. A youngster on that squad, Niall Mullen still holds the medal as a treasured reminder of that thrilling day.
Nowadays, Niall has long since moved to Dublin and in a neat piece of symmetry, as Féile returns to the capital for the first time since his memorable visit 28 years ago, his daughter Chloe will be hoping to emulate him, as a member of the Faughs Celtic camogie team.
The Camross team making the trip from Laois has four groups of sisters on its Féile squad: Lynda and Emma Keyes, Molly and Isobelle Donnery, Michelle and Patricia Lalor, and Sarah and Áine Cuddy.
The family connections don’t end there, as Donnagh Mortimer and Lara Drennan are first cousins. So too Donnagh and Zara Mortimer. Kirsten Keenan is a first cousin of the Cuddy sisters, and their Aunt Therese was on the first team from Camross to win a Division 2 Féile title in 1995. So too was Kirsten’s mother, Mary. Zara Mortimer’s Aunt Jennifer, who is looking after first aid this weekend, was on that team as well.
Zoe Cuddy is a first cousin of Aimee Collier and their Aunt Karen also was one of the Camross history-makers 17 years ago. Chloe Kirwan’s mother, Sinéad was another of those trailblazers.
Zoe Cuddy and Cora Cuddy are first cousins. This year’s captain, Aoife Collier hopes to follow in the footsteps of her sister Niamh, who was skipper of the victorious 2004 outfit.`
Little wonder the games continue to thrive.