Still on the ball

FOR as long as he can remember, Chris Herlihy has been involved with football, and he credits it with keeping him mentally and physically active at 70 years.

Not surprisingly, Herlihy is really looking forward to the Euro 2012 final on Sunday, but he is still very disappointed by Ireland’s performance and lack of “grit.”

“We were never going to win it, but we might have expected to have a chance against Croatia,” he says. “I just did not expect us to get so hammered.”

For the last 40 years, Herlihy, a retired bookmaker from Ballinlough, Cork, has been involved with Avondale United football club and is currently working with their administration team, raising sponsorship for the up-keep of the pitch and club.

“I started with Avondale in 1972, just as they were forming,” he explains. “I have been chairman, I forget how many times. I would do a stint, then step back for a season. The best thing is to have new fresh people, younger people, as they have new ideas. It most certainly has kept me young. There can be certain stresses when you become an officer in any club, but then you have to rise to the challenge. ”

This season was Avondale United’s best ever — with their senior team winning three cups — and two of their younger players have just signed contracts with Celtic FC in Scotland.

“It might not be too long before they are playing for Ireland, hopefully,” he says. “I go to a lot of the matches. I actually have to have my football fix every weekend. Our season has just finished so I don’t know what I will do now for my weekly fix.”

Avondale United’s season will start again in mid-August and Herlihy can’t wait. “It is a long season, especially for the senior team, they can play around 40 matches which is quite demanding — the schoolboys would play about half of that. But I’ll be at the matches, I really do enjoy it.”

Herlihy’s second love is singing. He is in an all-male harmony group, The Polyphonics, who are the current Irish Male Barbershop Chorus Champions — having won the title for the 11th time.

“Singing also keeps my brain lively and the voice ticking over. There are lots of useful exercises that you learn from being in the choir, like breathing properly, in fact being in the choir is like being in a football team. You have to ork together, you have to practice, and you have to perform.” The camaraderie is also important, and he always looks forward to their weekly practice sessions.

“Afterwards we might go to a local pub, have a few drinks and sing a few songs, if the people in the pub don’t mind,” he quips, laughing.

* The Polyphonics welcome new members, of any age. They practice every Thursday night at 7.30pm at Douglas Lawn Tennis Club, Cork.

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