Our first trip to New Zealand as part of the Kiladangan Abroad series sees former Kiladangan Camogie & GAA player Ailish Kennedy talk about her memories of the club and how life is treating her in New Zealand. Enjoy!
1. So, let’s wind the clock back to a time before you left Kiladangan and tell us what your connection was with the Club?
When I was young I always seemed to have a hurley in my hand and I was always out pucking around. Unfortunately, back in the early days there was no camogie team so I played with the boys. U10, U12 and U14 age groups. I also played football. I was honoured to captain the U14 football team in 1997 and we managed to win the North Tipp B football final. That was a great year and thanks to Tom Kirwan who put in an enormous amount of time and also made a girl a captain (controversial!). They were great times and I remember good oul Tom got us all yellow t-shirts and little blue bags to mark the occasion. I still have them at home! I remember Liam McHale was brought down to Ballycommon for the medal presentation. I was a huge fan of Liam! Pity he never won an All-Ireland with Mayo.
Ailish with Mayo footballe Liam McHale
Tommy Ryan was coaching and training the hurling team and he had great drive, good sense of humour and trained us well. We had no luck in silverware in the hurling but we came close. It was a great time, between hurling and football, it kept me out of trouble.
Kiladangan started up a camogie team and what a laugh it was! There was a great bunch of women playing. There was passion and spirit on the team and poor Niall Kelly (thanks Niall) trying to get us to do laps of Puckane field was often a challenge! There were some great games and we came close on many occasions that a few decisions didn't go our way but it was fun and entertaining. Thanks to Eddie Tucker, Willie Connors and my father (Larry) for leading us on a journey and opened to the door for camogie in Kiladangan to flourish and remain strong.
2. When did you move and what was it like getting settled in and established?
In November 2011 I left Ireland to travel around Australia to see what it was like 'down under'. Had a brilliant year travelling around Australia, met some great characters and enjoyed it. When the year was up, I wasn't yet ready to return home so I decided I'd pop over to New Zealand and see how that would go. When I arrived in New Zealand, I knew I needed to get a job and so headed to Wellington to start working in November 2012 and I haven't left New Zealand since. It was very easy to get settled in. The kiwis are very welcoming. When I went to look at a room to rent in Wellington, a south Tipperary man opened the door - who would have thought of all the places to rent that I’d bump into Tipp man. It made watching the hurling and rugby easy!
3. Can you briefly describe to us your life now, work, family (if any) and have you time to be involved in GAA activities?
I work in IT in a government department. I get up about 6am and head into the city and have a coffee (Wellington has a massive coffee culture, I’ve big expectations for the cafes at home!) with a friend and a chat before starting at work at 8am. As they say, you need to ease yourself into the working day. I then finish work around at 5pm. There’s usually something going on in Wellington so catch up with friends in the evening and go for a meal and a laugh. It’s a pretty laid back life in New Zealand. I have not got involved in GAA since leaving Ireland. I think with all the going and coming with training and matches when I was young the legs gave out. I’m now a spectator from afar.
You cant beat Wellington on a good day
4. Looking back again at your time in Kiladangan, what would be your prominent memory of being around the GAA field in Puckane?
I think it would have to be during camogie matches when Róisín Hackett-Ryan would advocate passionately on poor referee decisions and keeping full backs in their place. It was brilliant. Unfortunately, the referees didn’t listen too well. Gwan Róisín!
5. We’ll assume you manage to get back ‘home’ for the odd family reunion, holiday etc, can we ask what do you look forward to the most?
Catching up with family and friends is a definite. White pudding - I have sourced a likeness to white pudding from Christchurch but its not quite the same.
Double glazed windows and central heating – It’s only coming as standard in New Zealand now.
Taytos and Barry’s tea – they are gold dust in New Zealand. You’d nearly smell them out if someone was hiding them.
6. Tell us a little bit more about your life away from Kiladangan, for instance, what’s your weekly routine, how do you attack the weekend, and what’s a holiday from where you currently live?
There’s always plenty going on in Wellington, there’s normally food markets going on at the weekend, street festivals or shows to go to. Brunches are a must and there are plenty of walks around Wellington to out in the fresh air. There are amazing places around New Zealand to go and explore and the list is long whether it’s a weekend in Christchurch or heading to Taupo for a weekend, the choice is endless.
Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey World Premiere Wellington All Blacks Word Cup Rugby Winners 2015 parading through Wellington
7. Do you have a message to send home to Kiladangan?
Well done lads and ladies for your successes so far. There is plenty left in the tank so keeping going and keep training and the trophies will come.
In these strange times there are two words in Māori language to hopefully keep you all going: Kia Kaha (stay strong).
8. Who is your favourite Kiladangan player, past and present?
Brídín Hackett – was always consistent and a fantastic player.
Emma Mulqueen is an outstanding camogie player and it’s great to have Kiladangan representation on the county team.
9. Have you any funny memories/stories from your time involved with Kiladangan, be it whilst playing, supporting etc.
I remember when playing underage football, I can’t remember if it was Ballina but I think it was in Puckane and I ran to get the ball and the young lad behind me decided with would be a good idea to grab my ponytail to pull me back except my elbow came back as quick instead and met his nose. He didn’t do that again. Not sure the referee knew what to do either.
And a few random questions to finish:
10. If there was a transfer market in hurling, who would you buy for Kiladangan?
No need to buy anyone, there’s plenty of talent in Kiladangan – drive on lads!
11. Name any 4 people (dead or alive) that you would invite to dinner?
Michelle Obama, Richie McCaw, Ryan Reynolds and Paul & Gary O’Donovan
12. What’s your favourite sporting moment of all time?
There’s more than one:
Ireland beating the All Blacks twice (2016 and 2018) - Just brilliant!!
The Lions tour game in Wellington 2017 – great atmosphere and the Lions won 24 -21 to draw the tour.
The All-Ireland Hurling final 2019 – Tipp v Kilkenny. Watched it live with a Mayo woman drinking tea and eating homemade brown bread. What a game. Went to work that day. Think a few Kiwis thought we were mad! If you need another county football team to support - help Mayo cure the curse!
Don't forget - the Kiladangan Lotto has resumed with the next draw taking place this Monday night with a jackpot of €10,200. Enter online at kiladangangaa.clubifyapp.com/products