UNDER a sweltering Madrid sky, 20-year-old Cork goalkeeper Caoimhín Kelleher looked at the gold Champions League medal hung around his neck, and could barely believe his eyes - over 1,500km away, on the shores of Lough Mahon, hundreds more who have believed in him throughout his career were watching on.
Like former Irish international Shay Given, Kelleher spent his early years playing up the other end of the pitch, until father Ray volunteered Caoimhín in goal for Eddie Harrington’s Ringmahon Rangers schoolboy side.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“It’s surreal to be honest, overwhelming to see him picking up a Champions League medal having just started in goal a few years ago,” said Harrington, the morning after Kelleher’s triumph.
“He was sitting alongside some of the best players in the world and he still took the time out to send me a message back, thanking myself and the club for what they’ve done, which shows you what kind of guy he is.”
The youngster’s humble character also something which former Kennedy Cup teammate Matthew Murray was at pains to point out.
“I remember when we won the All-Ireland, there were a shortage of medals between the players and coaches, so Caoimhín gave his up, and now he has a Champions League one.
“I played with him for three years once he came in as a goalkeeper having failed to make the squad as a striker, he was so quiet off the pitch, but you knew once you saw him on it he’d never stay in Ireland.”
“He comes from a fantastic family,” says Harrington, ”he’s an extremely hard worker, and that’s what makes Ringmahon what it is, the hard work of all our players and coaches to produce players like Caoimhín and Alan Browne.
“It’s only when you step back do you realise how much time the club takes up, and there’s huge credit due to everyone in the club for what they’ve invested.
"These are the sort of moments where you sit back and think ‘we must have done something right."