'It's done so much good for the town': Kenmare buzzing for All-Ireland replay

The All-Ireland replay on Saturday has the town of Kenmare buzzing. Two of Kerry’s top stars play with local club Kenmare Shamrocks and since the drawn final two weeks ago almost every boy is puffing his cheeks and taking frees like Stephen O’Brien and Sean O’Shea.

'It's done so much good for the town': Kenmare buzzing for All-Ireland replay

The All-Ireland replay on Saturday has the town of Kenmare buzzing. Two of Kerry’s top stars play with local club Kenmare Shamrocks and since the drawn final two weeks ago almost every boy is puffing his cheeks out and kicking points like Stephen O’Brien and Sean O’Shea.

Stephen O’Brien’s mother, Mary, is leading the charge with a huge specially-printed banner outside the family home, the well-known Hawthorn Guesthouse in the town centre.

Stephen, a contender for player of the year, holds an All-Ireland medal from 2014 but shortly after that his father, Noel, who was ill at the time, passed away.

“People are saying it’s a pity his father is not here to see him this weekend. But it’s lovely that Noel was there to see his son start for Kerry in 2014,” Mary said.

There is more excitement when Stephen, a chemical engineer in Ringaskiddy, is at work than when he is at home at the weekend, Mary said.

“When he’s here, we’re all very calm,” Mary said of herself and Stephen’s three sisters.

Downtown, though, the story is different and people who Mary thought would have no interest in football are coming up to her saying they are lighting candles and praying for Kerry success, and for Stephen.

“It’s so lovely for younger people especially,” she said.

Mary has been told that since the All-Ireland two weeks ago, two-year-old boys are out in the back gardens of Kenmare with footballs and puffing their cheeks like Stephen, or lining up like Sean to take a free.

All of the team are so humble and that is why they have captured the imagination, Mary believes.

“It’s powerful. It’s great. It has done so much good for the town,” she said.

Mary O'Brien, proud mother of Kerry forward Stephen, proudly displaying the county colours at her Hawthorn Guest House in Kenmare. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Mary O'Brien, proud mother of Kerry forward Stephen, proudly displaying the county colours at her Hawthorn Guest House in Kenmare. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Nearby on Main Street, Lydia O’Shea, mother of Sean O’Shea, has a photo of Sean on the shop window in the family dry cleaners and photo shop.

The UCC student has been playing football since he was four years old and works in the shop during the summer.

“Children are peeking in each day now and asking is 'Seanie' there," Lydia said.

Sean (21) enjoys the attention when he is there. Local people are dropping in with cards and well wishes. And there is a great buzz on the street.

Confidence is high in Kenmare and there is huge support - parents know how hard their children train and how much is put into it all by the families, the clubs and the communities.

Bonane school where Sean went to national school was instrumental in his football career and he was inspired by 'Gooch' Cooper’s brother Vince Cooper who taught football there.

But Sean O’Shea did not pick the talent for football off the grass - his father Sean Snr was a Kerry minor alongside Kerry manager Peter Keane in 1989. And Sean Snr is now chairman of Kenmare Shamrocks club.

This Saturday Sean and Lydia’s oldest son, Dara, will be turning up in Croker wearing that 1989 Kerry minor jersey his father wore 30 years ago.

“It is in perfect condition,” said Lydia.

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