VINCENT STOKES will reach a special milestone next year when he celebrates an amazing 50 years service to St Vincent’s Hurling and Football club on the heart of the Northside.
Vincent is a very humble a quiet man who goes about his job with very little fuss, however, when he speaks about the kids in the club his passion is clear to be seen.
Stokes has a simple motto that he explains to all the players in the club when they join, and that is the kids' education comes first, discipline comes second, and the winning of trophies will look after itself.
Vincent grew up on Baker's Road in Gurranabraher with his late grandparents Thomas and Susan, and he still resides in the same house today.
His parents the late Noel and Josephine moved to Churchfield with his other siblings the late Pat and William, sisters Susan and Michelle, and brothers Malcolm and Trevor, however, Vincent stayed with his grandparents.
He first joined St Vincent’s at a young age when his teacher John Flaherty from Churchfield National School invited him and his classmates to join him for a game of football after school at the pitch on Kilmore Road in Knocknaheeney.
“My first day in Vincent’s field was when I was nine-years-old when our teacher at the time John Flaherty (a Kerry man) got our class together for a game of football.
”It was a far cry from what facilities we have today as when we arrived he pointed to the shed in the corner of the field to get togged off in, unlike the state-of-the-art dressing rooms, and clubhouse we have today.
“I was hooked immediately, however, I only played for a couple of years before I found I was happier looking after other teams.
“My first team as a selector was an U13 hurling and football team with the late Kieran Dunne when I was 14 years of age. Kieran, Fr Nassan and the late Dave McCarthy had a huge influence on me as a young man.
“They always knew the right thing to say whatever the situation would be. Kieran and myself coached many different groups in a 30-year period along with a young Keith Ricken before Kieran’s untimely death 20 years ago.
”We had some successful teams along the way with the U13 Knocknaheeney Gaels coming to mind, where Kieran, Joe McCarthy, Kevin Barry, and myself were selectors.
“Some very good players with that group were Anthony Long, Brian Collins, Brian Barry, and Jonathon Nagle, and with the help of their teammates went on to win the football, and hurling championships for two years in a row.
”We also managed a very good minor team that went on to win both league and championship titles, and again we had some excellent players with the likes of Paul Ahern, Kieran Lynch, and Daniel O’Donoughue, to name but a few.”
Stokes and his fellow club members take a group of kids away to Paris every two years, as he thinks it's very good for the kids to see other sports working in a different country and experience a different culture.
We try go to Paris every two years when we can as the club thinks it’s very important to try to learn about different cultures.
“In these difficult times when we pick a group we would be aware of the financial difficulties of some families, however, that wouldn’t stop us picking those kids, as the club and myself would come up with the funds they can travel.
”One funny story from when we were in Paris was when we travelled to the Louvre Museum. We met a nice lady who was our guide for the day. All the boys wanted to is see the Mona Lisa picture, and had the guide pestered.
“When we did get to see the picture I don’t think the lads were that impressed, so on the way down the stairs, one of the lads asked the guide how long did it take to paint the picture?
“She replied it took several sittings over a two- or three-year period.
“His response was 'Did she have to sit there for three years so like', to a huge burst of laughter from the rest of the group.”
Vincent has filled many roles in the club from being club secretary twice for a 10-year stint to chairman of the underage and is now president of the camogie section.
“I have filled every role from being president of the camogie, volunteer manager of the sports complex to filling the water bottles at game days, as to keep the club running smoothly everyone needs to help out no matter what job you have to do.
”One of our greatest achievements to date was the building of our magnificent complex.
“We had great people on that committee with William McCarthy, Sean Murphy, Frank Coughlan, and Jerry Curbert at the forefront of everything we did.
“With Covid things have been very challenging for all clubs both on the field and off.
We are totally aware of the players' mental health issues, and we have as many Zoom calls with all the groups when we can.
"We also have people in place if any of our members need to speak to somebody.
“I would be also very aware of some of the kids' difficulties with their schooling, and I would help out buying books for any of them when need it.
“For me and the club, the kids come first all the time and whatever we can do for them we will."