GIVING something back to a club that brought you so much joy as a child or as a young player is so important and, nowadays, so great to see.
Whether you return as a coach, supporter, sponsor, and/or administrator, helping your club to continue its great tradition of providing kids with a safe place to go, is a wonderful feeling.
Recently I caught up with one of Kilreen Celtic’s academy organisers, Colin Payne, and his enthusiasm and his passion for the club immediately shone through. Payne, along with Richie O’Brien, Steve Cahill, Darren Cahill, John Kelleher, Vincente Rodrigo, and Dan Bennett run the academy which is held in Ballyphehane Park, and they are thrilled to see it grow each year.
With ever-growing numbers, Kilreen are hoping that the kids will rise through the ranks in the club’s aim to have teams at every grade.
Currently, with over 200 members, which includes the academy and two junior teams, Kilreen are hoping to add U14, U16, and youths teams in the not too distant future.
This year the club will celebrate 50 years in football, and a remarkable fact is that founding member Donal Kelleher is still very active with his current role as chairman, a position he has held for 50 years.
For all clubs, to see former players come back and help out at the club is great and Kelleher appreciates the work been done by many volunteers at the club.
“It’s always fantastic to see former players return and give something back to the club,” said Kelleher.
“We are indebted to all our volunteers at the club, too many to mention, but all who give their time so willingly.”
Payne, a former player, and whose father Peter also managed at the club, is delighted to be involved and is looking forward to helping the club develop.
“It’s always great if you can give something back to a club that brought you so much joy as a player,” said Payne.
“Myself and my brother, Graham, played for the club while, also, my dad managed so we’ve always kept a close eye on the club as it was a big part of our lives for a good few years, so it’s great to be back in a different capacity.
“The academy came about really when the coaches that are in place now started bringing their kids back to the club in 2016. The academy was initially started by Dave Foran, Darren, and Steven Cahill.
The coaches are made up of former players, current players, and people who brought their kids along and started helping out from the early days.
“We all clicked from the start and we all get on, which is important.
“We are all here for the benefit of the kids in trying to provide them with a safe and fun environment. We all know how important sport can be in children’s lives and our aim is to try and get as many involved as possible.
“With the way things have been for the last 12 or so months, the hard work and hours that go into organising and setting up sessions have doubled, but we are in it for the love of it more than anything else, which I’m sure a lot of other sporting set-ups can relate to.
We started one morning out in Ballyphehane Community Centre with approximately seven to eight kids and we now have age groups in U6, U9, U11 and U13 with a mixture of over 200 boys and girls attending the sessions regularly.
“We also hope to have a girls team in the very near future which would be brilliant to see. I think all those numbers show how far we have come as a group and as a club over a short period of time and we will continue to help grow the club and help it progress in the coming years.
“We take great pride in giving the academy kids a platform in their early years to enjoy sport and keep active in a positive and welcoming environment.
“I think the parents see that every time we turn up and that gives us, as coaches, a massive boost to know that we are contributing to the development of every child from the moment we start engaging with them. It’s so much more than just turning up and kicking a ball.
“We are always looking for people to come along and help out in whatever way they can no matter how irrelevant they think it may be. Believe us, every extra pair of hands and eyes help! That’s how we all started as parents bringing our kids along back in 2016.
“The club is 50 years young this year also and we plan to recognise and celebrate that when it is safe to do so.”
They are asking anyone interested in bringing their child along for the first time or thinking of returning, to keep an eye on the club’s Facebook page.
“A special mention also has to go to people who have supported us and shown unbelievable generosity towards the academy and other teams in the club over the last few years. Derek of DSK Construction, James of Cost Plus Tyres, Shane Nott of Teamwear World and Diva Dollz Pearse Square.
“It wouldn’t be possible to provide such a successful academy for the kids without their support. Let’s hope our 50 years in football can be celebrated with the return of football for all our members.
“We cannot wait to see Ballyphehane Park a hive of activity once again.”