PHYSICAL EDUCATION IS ESSENTIAL

My eldest daughter Jennifer received her degree in PE & Biology at a ceremony in DCU recently. There is a great sense of achievement for the family to bring a child through the education system for them to achieve their goals in life. It was great for the family, her grannies and her godmother to get together afterwards to celebrate a huge milestone in all our lives.  I have no doubt as Jennifer starts her career in Dungarvan College; she will continue to be successful. The area I am interested in most, is her role as a PE teacher. There is no doubt she will offer her pupils every opportunity to develop a physical sport that is suitable for them.  Like me, she is very passionate about it.

Nowadays we see so many older people out running, cycling, swimming, playing tennis, even doing walking football. Gealic4Mothers & Others is a prime example of people returning to sport and enjoying it. Many of these people have come to physical sport late in life. Many did do sport when they were very young but like a lot of people, they gave it up at an early age. A lot earlier than they had to or should have.  Its very hard to turn back and do all those sports you could have but there are still opportunities ahead. I honestly, believe that they all regret the decision to end their youthful sports participation now as they get so much enjoyment and health benefits from their chosen activity.  It may be a reason why people think they have to push their child in multiple sports when for some, one done well would suffice. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could transfer the knowledge these older people got from their experiences to our younger generations so as they wouldn’t make the same mistakes and quit activities and sports early.

Wouldn’t it be great if our politicians could really see the benefits of sport and physical activity to young people and our health systems rather than just appearing in the best seats in the stadia on big event days!  We need sport and physical activity to be a huge part of our pre-school and primary education.  We need teachers in those schools who are passionate about sport and physical activity. We must have passionate teachers of PE at all levels of our education system. We need the facilities to be available and we need an end to the school bans on running in the playgrounds and if that means legislation to call halt to stupid threatened lawsuits, so be it! There’s a referendum that might be worth having. Banning stupid lawsuits for kids falling over in the playground! That’s another part of growing up, that is being ruined by the PC brigade. On top of that we need the availability of PE as a subject and an exam subject in all secondary schools, especially with more and more sports creating a professional level.  When all that has been achieved then the politicians will have earned the best seats in the house and that includes our President. I don’t recall PE getting a mention in any presidential election debates by any candidate in the recent campaign!  Many politicians are quick to complain about the health services, but not so quick to promote PE as a means to reduce the workload on our health services!

The sports sector delivers value for money and identifiable returns on investment for Government funds. A report on sport in Ireland (commissioned by the Irish Spots Council) from 2008, stated that on a total state investment of €618.3 million, the Exchequer received €922.7 million in taxes generated by the sports sector. For every €100 investment by the Government, it received €149 in sports related taxes. The financial benefits for the Exchequer through increased economic activity and reduced health service costs are enormous. Listen up Politicians!

Physical education prepares children to be physically and mentally active, fit and healthy for life.  The benefits include

  • Improved physical fitness, skill and motor skills development
  • Provides regular, healthful physical activity
  • Teaches self-discipline
  • Facilitates development of student responsibility for health and fitness
  • Influences moral development and leadership
  • Stress reduction by way of releasing tension and anxiety
  • Strengthens peer relationships
  • Can improve self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Helps you respect your body, classmates and teammates
  • Experience in setting goals
  • Improved academics

The World Health Organisation recommendations in order to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, and cardiovascular and metabolic health biomarkers says;

  • Children and youths aged 5–17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity daily.
  • Amounts of physical activity greater than 60 minutes provide additional health benefits.
  • Most of the daily physical activity should be aerobic. Vigorous-intensity activities should be incorporated, including those that strengthen muscle and bone, at least 3 times per week.

As a GAA coach we often hear parents saying their child is doing too much.  I wonder are they really? Are they really fulfilling the daily recommendations?  In my experience most of them, think they are but are not. Is it more a case that the parent is tired of driving to training sessions every night of the week?  Do not use your apathy to restrict your child’s opportunity of physical activity, especially in a team environment among their friends and peers who can be great encouragement.  Many GAA grounds now have walk paths which can allow you to get your physical exercise in while maybe a chat with other parent friends with a comfortable underfoot. You get the same healthy benefits as your child and you set a huge positive example of the importance of physical activity.   I would encourage everyone to push the physical education and participation in sport agenda. There is something for everyone and every ability. No more excuses!

 

THE SHORT STORY

My latest Short Story, “The Pattern Of Seamie O’Connell” has been published on the Website.  Please take a few minutes to read and enjoy. It is loosely based on a true story from one of my personal experiences, like so many of my short stories. It was specifically written as an entry for the 2018 RTE Radio 1 Francis McManus Short Story Competition of which there was over 1800 entries.  Congratulations to those who won. However, without trying to be ungracious, I often wonder what these arts competition really want, particularly the ones run by RTE, our national broadcaster. This is meant to be a short story competition suitable for radio. What better theme than a story about one of our national sports, descriptive by nature, a solid story and of course an Irish theme. Ideal for broadcasting in that our national broadcaster frequently broadcasts GAA matches live. This match has the added drama and the back story. Throw in a funeral and sure it must be the near perfect traditional Irish story.

The judges were for the RTE Competition were Danielle McLaughlin, RTÉ’s Arts and Media correspondent, author Sinéad Crowley and book publicist Cormac Kinsella. The stories were limited to 2000 words. Not a lot for a writer to be descriptive and tell an epic story. Cormac Kinsella said of the winning entry, “What impressed me most was despite its length the reader is given a fully realised world that the characters inhabit.” Seriously “A fully realised world!”. What is that? And if you could do it in less than 2000 words, what is left for the story? Of the runner up, Sinead Crowley commented “It soon becomes clear that there is another layer waiting to be uncovered. Deceptively simple, with well-drawn characters and evocative writing”. Another layer and deceptively simple! Evocative writing! In my youth, the hens were good layers!  I didn’t know you could draw picture on radio. Of the third “Doesn’t shy away from its material in any way and at the same time remains nuanced, with lots of subtle layers”, said Danielle McLaughlin. Why would it shy away? It’s meant to be a story!

My issue is that words like “layers”, “evocative”. “nuanced”, “subtle”, “deceptively” and “realised” are words RTE adjudicators love to use to try to make themselves sound more educated and sharper than the common man or woman in the street. What is wrong with saying that it was a “funny story”, a “sad story”, a “dramatic story” or a “tragic story”. The common denominator is the word “story”. Yes, it’s a story, a short story and the story is the important ingredient of a short story. The story matters! RTE adjudicators represent arts nationally using taxpayer’s money. So maybe now and again they need to think of keeping things simple so that everyone no matter what their level of education can feel part of the arts and literature that this country is famed for. Ireland is famed for its story telling. Let’s not lose the art of the simple story telling to fancy words and evocative language! Maybe it explains why so many are turning away from the National broadcaster to watch, read and view the stories of other countries in their medium of choice.  Everybody loves a good story, even more so when it is Irish based.

Anyway, rant over. I would be interested in hearing my audiences’ thoughts, both on competitions our National broadcaster run and thoughts on “The Pattern of Seamie O’Connell”. In the meantime, some of you will have noticed a small restructure of the website, where the Gallery and the Contact are now part of the Main Menu, not to mention this excellent evocative Blog that is deceptively simple with loads of layers, subtle sarcasm and I just realised how nuanced it is! Don’t be afraid to let me know your opinion and connect with me on social media.

WEBSITE UPDATES

To celebrate my youngest daughter, Lisa’s 18th Birthday (no more children in the Norris household! End of another chapter in life’s journey), I have published online two new poems, “Lovely Lisa” and “My Hurley”.  I plan in the coming weeks to publish my next short story which is another based on a personal real life sports event. Stay tuned.

As part of efforts to publicise my website and in particular my writings, I have now added links to further social media options, I have a YouTube Channel, my Instagram account and my LinkedIn.  It is a slow laborious process getting my works front and centre of the minds of publishers, drama groups and filmmakers.  Please share my website with your friends. Help spread the word. Your share could be the one. Follow me on social media. The more branches the tree has, the greener it will look.

Please use my Contact Form to let me know what you think of the website, give me your advice, what works you like and what works you don’t. I begrudgingly love fair criticism.

On the sports front, preparations are well underway for the 2018 Under-14 Tony Forristal Tournament, my 10th consecutive year involved in the tournament (12th year with the Development Squads) with one Tony Forristal and one Sonny Walsh title so far. I have been fortunate to have been involved with so many top class Kilkenny hurlers over the years and with the 2018 National League title, the medals at adult level are mounting up.  Also, year three of the Gaelic Football development programme working alongside hurling legend DJ Carey is going very well with the squad of over fifty boys improving all the time. Many thought the numbers wouldn’t last. So far they are wrong, but I like proving people wrong, even if it involves a lot of graft. I savour challenges against the odds. The under-16’s recently ran Galway to three points in Nowlan Park as a curtain raiser to the All-Ireland Junior Football Semi-Final and played some very good football. Being more than competitive in the 2019 Leinster Minor Championship is still the target.  On the club side, it is great to see Piltown Ladies Gaelic Football going well with so many ladies now involved in the coaching side and a return of the Gaelic4Mothers and Others program.  Very proud of what these ladies are doing with the club which was founded by my wife Sheila in 2010.

Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.
(Bill Bradley – American Politician)

 

 

 

DREAMS AND AMBITIONS HAVE NO LIMIT

What is the point? I have published my website. I have started my blogs where I have introduced a number of aspects of my persona. I have linked my work to social media. I have printed my business cards. Now as the sun shines gloriously like the summers of old, particularly the long hot summer of 1976, (What a summer memory of hay bales, sunburn and 4 goals in an under-14 hurling championship match for Windgap versus Mullinavat and still we ended up losing!)  I wonder what the point is. What am I trying to promote?

My imagination has always been one of my most powerful talents. I love the process in my head of imagining and visualising events. Some are realistic, some are practical and some are as farfetched as you will get. Mostly, I become the personality of the hero, which can sit very awkward, because real heroes are modest and humble.  These are traits which I believe are important, but if you want to promote talents such as mine, writing and coaching, you have to have that element of belief and confidence in what you are doing and these characteristics are contradictory to modest and humble.  The stories develop in my head and the next step is to develop it into the written word. To be honest, I don’t think my written word ever does the story in my head justice, but that is the zenith to aim for, as a writer.  For a long time those stories were stored for me alone. As the power of memory will dwindle with old age, I’m sure they will be a helpful aid for recollection.

In Kilkenny GAA, terms, the stars who make it to the top of the sport of hurling always speak about leaving the jersey in a better place than when they got it.  Life should be the same.  When we depart, we need to leave the small area of earth we inhabited in a better place. There has to be some sort of a legacy, no matter how small. I’d like part of mine to be my stories.  I’d like my stories to turn into publications, solid old fashioned bound books, with pictures, titles and synopsis on the cover.  I’d really like them to turn into visual media such as films so that they are nearer to the story I feel in my head. In my head, my stories are like life, lots of turmoil, but also lots of hope and good will. Overall the process of the story in my head is always uplifting even when things are not good, because I am the God of my world and I can make it better or worse for individuals in my inner universe.  That glowing feeling of the story, I would like to think can be a positive consequence for those who get the opportunity to read, see or feel the stories.  I believe that publication in book or film of my stories can contribute to the small legacy that I hope and plan to leave behind in my quest to contribute to leaving a better world after me. That is the point!

Somewhere in the world there is a publisher, a screen writer or a producer who wants to leave their own small legacy to this world. Somewhere and sometime that individual or individuals will cross my path and find my work and together we will collaborate on delivering my stories to the greater audience. To find my knight in shining armour, I need the small number of people who currently browse and like the content of this website to help me get my profile out there. He or she will never find me hidden in the bottom file of the Internet.  I ask YOU to do what you can to promote this website, but only if you like the content. For me this is certainly not about money, this is about leaving something of more value than money as part of my small legacy to the world, stories.

I welcome your advice on how best for example I could use Social Media to promote my works without coming across as too narcissistic. Please feel free to submit your advice on the blog comment or on my writers Facebook page. I would love to hear from the members of my now small community. What should I be doing? Who should I be contacting? What do you think of particular stories? What do you like? What don’t you like? What makes you cringe? What would make my stories, plays or novels better? What topics would you like on this blog?  Do you know a publisher, screenwriter or producer that you could share my website with?  Please do. I will forever appreciate it.

“Dreams and Ambitions Have No Limit”

THE ROAD TO INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Having introduced the other areas of my interests, I now introduce how I took the career path of Information Technology. It was a far cry from my initial career ambition; to become a cowboy, a sheriff or a US Cavalry officer in the Wild West. I soon discovered that those Western films I love were a bit of a stretch from reality. As I entered my teenage years and the era of popularity for the Western began to recede to be replaced by the private detective genre, my thoughts were now more hormonal driven by the thoughts of being a private detective working alongside the likes of Charlie’s Angels, especially Kelly Garrett (aka Jaclyn Smith).  However, I soon discovered what Irish private detectives really did and the only agency I could find based in Clonmel was definitely no “Townsend Agency” with beautiful detectives. The “excitement” was never going to hold my attention where stalking alleged unfaithful husbands was not top of my ambitions. By the time I was ready to join the work force, I did summer holidays in the Tower Hotel Waterford as a Night Porter in my school and College holidays.  I had had my fill of the night shift, but that is a story for another day.

As I approached my Leaving Certificate, reality had to start taking over from the influence of television. Pity really. Those imaginary jobs were great. Sport was my thing. Unfortunately, hurling was not a profession. I was too big to be a jockey and to be honest, if the truth was known, I couldn’t really ride a horse that well, let alone like the cowboys I imagined, never mind a jockey. I was good at soccer, but not that good, so a professional soccer career was never going to happen. So having done my research, a Physical Education teacher looked like a realistic option and in my area of interest.

Unfortunately, PE was not important in the early eighties.  It is still not important to our government as they prefer to introduce sugar taxes rather than compulsory PE in primary schools to tackle obesity. Having said that, adding PE as a Leaving Cert subject is a step in the right direction.  At that time, Gaelic Footballer, Pat Spillane and Rugby player Tony Ward were trained PE teachers. Neither were employed as PE teachers at that time. If they couldn’t get a job, what hope had I? My logical conclusion was despite this being my dream job, it was not practical having come from a family with a small farm and very little funds to provide that level of education.

The farming option was never going to be practical either as the 33 acre farm could not sustain my parents and me, even back then. Although, to be honest I did like working with animals, but we were not a very modern setup and had a bucket plant milking setup with only a short time. I was good at normal Maths, but I hated trigonometry and the like. I was a logical and a practical thinker (hard to credit if you read my fiction). My research suggested a role in Computers. I attended an open day at what was then called Waterford Regional Technical College (WRTC), now Waterford I.T. I enquired about computer courses and in particular what was the best one as regards getting jobs.  I was informed of a brand new course, a National Certificate in Industrial Computing.  It was the first of its kind in Ireland at the time. I went for it and got a place starting in September 1980 for two years. I finished with a Pass with Credit. Of the 27 who started the course, only 10 of us completed it. They were Gerard Shortiss, Billy Fenton (both from Carrick-On-Suir), John Barron from Wexford, Denise Flanagan from West Waterford, Declan “Scotty” Murray from near Ballymany Stud (where Shergar was kidnapped from), Pauline Hayes from Wexford, Tina Costigan from Rathdowney, Tony Kennedy and John Carroll (both Waterford)and of course myself.  It was 1998, before I worked in the Industrial Computing area when I implemented a Shop Floor Control System in Waterford Crystal.

When I graduated in 1982, I could not get a job in Computers. So I joined an AnCo project (similar to a Fas scheme) in Kilmoganny. Although the initial few days were spent building (more labouring), something I hated having always slogged in all kinds of weather with my father who loved building, I soon got an opportunity of more value from John Sheridan who was leading the project.  John was a business man from Kells, County Kilkenny who was part owner of the Ferrum Fabrications factory in Windgap, located in the old school there. John was an entrepreneur and he found out I did Mechanical Drawing up to the Inter Cert.  So he used my skills and put me working with John Doheny of Callan, doing drawings. John was into soccer with Callan United and was a very good player. I enjoyed working with John and doing drawings as a draughtsman which included a bungalow, a set of gates and my favourite was the drawings for the original Community Centre in Stoneyford, where I had great difficulty fitting in the toilets to the front porch along with a ticket office.  I didn’t set the parameters, people of Stoneyford.

While based in Kilmoganny I never stopped trying for jobs in “computers”. The issue was a classic Catch 22 scenario where you couldn’t get a job if you hadn’t experience and you couldn’t get experience unless you had a job. I approached the government run National Manpower agency that had a scheme where they would pay you 30 pounds a week, while you work for a company and gain that invaluable experience. I then approached the Ballydine, Kilsheelin based Merck, Sharp and Dohme, pharmaceutical plant and told them under this scheme I could work for them for six months under this scheme and they wouldn’t have to pay me. They went for it and even better, they kindly matched the 30 pounds a week from National Manpower. The six months was a great success where I got experience programming mainly in RPG II and some FORTRAN working on IBM System/34. It was not in the industrial area of computing that my course was for, but more in the commercial side of computing.  I hadn’t done anything like it on my course, but I did like it and felt I had an aptitude for it. My first computing job had started.

A friend of mine Joe Grincell (RIP) who was into running would bring me to work. The first day he had to drop me at the entrance as there was a picket in place due to a strike. This was in January 1983. My boss was a man called Dermot Walsh from Clonmel and the head of the department was a man from the north who lived in Piltown called Sean McCluskey. Three other Piltown based people were in the small computing department. Mick Miller, Barry Murphy and Helen Prendergast. There was also Michael Hogan and Nollaig Slater from Clonmel. Some of my first programs were punched cards.  I wrote programmes for the in house built Ballydine Labour Information System and Ballydine Work Order System in RPG II and an environmental reporting program in FORTRAN.  It was all great experience and the scheme was such a success that when the six months was completed, I was offered another 3 month contract where I was paid a massive (to me at that time) 100 pounds a week.

When that contract had finished, I got another contract with Rexnord Fasteners BV in Carrick-On-Suir as a computer operator working on IBM System/34. I linked up with my college classmates from Carrick, Ger Shortiss and Billy Fenton who were both already there. Rexnord manufactured parts for aeroplanes. I travelled to work from Windgap on my Honda 50. Unfortunately in December 1983, Rexnord closed. I got a small “redundancy” payment of 100 pounds. My first closure and payoff.

For the next few months, things looked glum, on the dole and working at home on the farm. Then out of the blue as summer dawned, Merck offered me another short term contract. I was delighted as there was still no sign of a permanent role and the stability it offered. I still kept trying to get that permanent role. On one occasion, I went for an interview in University College, Galway as a computer operator. I left home on my Honda 50 about 6am in the morning to get a train in Thurles at 7:30am. I then got off in Portarlington and sat in a deserted railway station for about an hour to catch the Dublin to Galway train. I arrived in Galway and still had a few hours to kill in my suit. There were five interviewers. It was like an interrogation.  I then got the train back to Portarlington where I got on the Dublin-Cork train before getting off in Thurles. I remember the future President of Ireland Michael D Higgins was on the train from Galway to Portarlington. He looked the same then as he does now. I wonder could either of us predict our futures at that point. I kitted up in Thurles and got back on the Honda 50. It was absolutely freezing at this stage. I was exhausted. I arrived home about 1am, praying that I wouldn’t be offered the job, if that is what travelling to and from Galway involved. Thankfully I didn’t have to worry about it.

As the summer came to a close, I applied for a role advertised in a newspaper as a computer operator. The role did not have a company address or name, just a post office box number.  I went for it for the hell of it. I was somewhat confused when I got a call from the HR guy who was called Jimmy Savage and when I misheard the name of the company thinking he said Crime Computers based in Dublin. I was very apprehensive. It turned out to be a computer manufacturing company called Prime Computers based on the north side of Dublin in Clonshaugh Industrial Estate in Coolock.   I was offered the job. Later my boss, Jimmy Hyland, whom I became very good friends with and attended my wedding, told me three people went for the job. One was from Dublin who got sick with a hangover during the interview; the next was from Cork and me. As Kilkenny was nearer to Dublin than Cork, I was offered the job. Not sure how true, but it doesn’t matter why today and it still makes me smile.

Despite being offered the job, the decision was not easy. I loved Kilkenny. I loved home. I was honestly scared of moving to Dublin to work. It was the “big smoke” at that time and a place we only went to for the All-Ireland final or school trips. I also loved working for Merck. I approached them and asked about the possibility of my current contract turning into a permanent role? I was told it was possible, but there was no guarantee.  After much mental angst, I made the decision to go, take the permanent job in Dublin to get even more experience and meanwhile keep an eye out for a permanent job closer to home.  On the 8th October 1984, I started my first permanent I.T.  job with Prime Computers.  My salary was a massive seven thousand, three hundred punts (Irish Pounds) per annum. I couldn’t believe what I was earning. Jimmy Hyland was my boss and my colleagues were Paul Smith, a real Dub (we were like chalk and cheese given my innocent country background) and a girl called Terri Kettle.  I was to spend six and half years working in Dublin until Prime Computer closed in April 1991. The Information Technology journey had started and despite a bumpy start and many more bumps and potholes along the way, it is still going. It is now 38 years since I started my “computers” course in the Waterford Regional Technology College. The career has brought me from Merck, Sharp and Dohme to Rexnord Fasteners BV to Prime Computers to Waterford Crystal to WWRD to Avnet Client Solutions to Glanbia in 2014, my first Kilkenny based I.T. role. The journey still has plenty of road ahead.

MY HEART BELONGS TO PILTOWN

This month’s blog is the story behind my song lyrics “My Heart Belongs to Piltown”, motivated by some recent traction on social media.  Coincidentally, the story crosses both my writing and sporting interests.

The idea came for a Piltown song came about in 2005. I had dabbled in song lyrics for a few years in conjunction with my brother-in-law; US based singer/songwriter, Enda Keegan. He put my words to music based on my mood direction. In fairness Enda indulged me and my madcap ideas. The truth is I am devoid of a musical note and skill. On the other hand Enda is a superb singer and musician. I consider myself a wordsmith but I’ll leave it to others to judge if the same adjective fits. In the nineties, I entered songs in the National Song Contest with the dream of one of them representing Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest.  At that stage it was difficult to even enter the National Song Contest. You needed a promoter. Mine ended up being former Senator and radio broadcaster, Paschal Mooney. The nearest success we had was reaching the final of the Glinsk Song Contest in 1997. A contest won by Eurovision winner Paul Harrington previously. My song “Let’s Just Kiss” was performed by Maria Merry of Fiddown and Dermot Keyes of Portlaw and Munster Express fame. Evan Grace was involved in the backing track. We didn’t win, but it was an interesting experience. What I enjoyed was being in a recording studio putting together the demos.  These were done in the Poppy Hill Recording Studio in Eadestown near Naas in County Kildare. There was a pop star buzz to the whole professional studio process.

My children were born between 1995 and 2000. In sport, I was still playing soccer for Piltown as well as five-a-side in Waterford, but by the mid noughties, the toll of over thirty years of playing sport had severely taken its toll on my body. My hips were well and truly worn, eventually leading to two total hip replacements, one in 2011 and one in 2012. The idea of playing, though still the ultimate, was becoming less practical. In late March 2003, I was visiting Jim Norris (A neighbour at the time on the Rathmore Road, Fiddown and who was chairman of the Rathmore Road Residents Group, A small group that worked tirelessly at the time to improve safety on the Piltown/Fiddown Bypass). His wife Jackie was involved with Piltown Camogie Club and she asked me would I get involved in coaching the young girls on a Sunday morning seeing as Jennifer was reaching that age.  (I had previously managed Piltown Junior Camogie team back in the late eighties for a year). As I said in previous blogs, coaching and team management was something I really loved.  I jumped at the opportunity and arrived the following Sunday morning at the Piltown GAA field.  Fate works in strange ways. In my enthusiasm I had arrived a week too early. While I was standing around the car park, I met Liam Ryan, now my neighbour in Jamestown. Liam asked would I give a hand with the boys while I was there who had started back. What else would you do? So began, almost accidentally a period of 10 years coaching Piltown boys in Hurling and Gaelic Football. In 2006, Jim Norris invited me to get involved in Kilkenny Hurling Development Squads as well. Over a dozen years later and I am still involved and have added Gaelic Football to my Kilkenny resume since as well as being the only Kilkenny person to be involved in Tony Forristal and Sonny Walsh All-Ireland winning management teams.  I am very grateful to Jim, Jackie and Liam for the opportunities that they sowed the seeds for, over the last decade and a half.

In those early years involved in Piltown Juvenile GAA, Enda, on his trips home from New York, would do a concert in the GAA Complex to raise funds for the Juvenile Club. It was at one of these concerts, and again it was Jim Norris, who asked us to put together a Piltown Song. It may have been a passing request, that Jim and Enda soon forgot about but I started to think, the seed was sown. Wouldn’t it be great if Piltown had a song that could be sung at all Piltown GAA events? An inclusive song, as far as is possible. Something like the “Rose of Mooncoin”, but this time, a Piltown song. A song that could be sung after Piltown has won a county championship in celebration or even an All-Ireland title. A song that would become synonymous with Piltown, about Piltown and for the people of Piltown.  I was dreaming and dreams have no limit is my motto. I pictured Piltown winning an All-Ireland club title, with me as the manager and the song being played over the Croke Park PA being a song that I wrote the lyrics for. Thus was born the lyrics of “My Heart Belongs to Piltown”, the dream and the ambition.

It was a number of years before Enda actually added the music and the voice, but I think he did a fantastic job. Social media reaction would appear to confirm. We published the song originally on the old Piltown GAA website in 2010 while I was the website Administrator. In the summer of 2014, I went around Piltown capturing footage on my camcorder of many of the well-known landmarks and edited it to make the video which was posted on Youtube as part of a website for Piltown Girls Gaelic Sports.  I wanted to sell the beauty and the amenities that Piltown had to offer to the wider world. What struck me most was when I was recording footage from both Owning Hill and Corbally Hill, the shots of the Suir Valley on a beautiful summer’s day; what a beautiful area we live in! Almost heavenly and probably under appreciated by many. I would recommend to everyone, on one of those rare glorious summers’ days, to head to some of those vantage points, look, listen and feel.  Your worries will soak away.

When my role as Administrator of Piltown GAA website was ended prematurely, the marketing also ended.  However, when a door shuts, another always opens for those who seek it… “My Heart Belongs To Piltown”. It still does. Part of the dream is there, the other part is the ambition to lead the Piltown GAA teams to those great days. The ambition is there, the comprehensive plan is there, the supports are ready and waiting for the call to put together the best team of people possible to deliver the ambitious dream in a professional and inclusive manner because no one person can deliver it. To facilitate the fantastic players to be the best they can possibly be and enjoy the journey, because the journey is wonderful. The management team’s main qualification will be that their heart belongs to Piltown and their passion is Piltown, 24/7/365, not just the GAA but all of Piltown. Unfortunately, it looks like there is a long queue before I and my team of people get a shot having submitted my name for the team management roles over the last number of years and yet to get an interview or even an acknowledgement, but the ambition never fades. We are ready to deliver when the call comes and the Players want it.

And having said all that, the dream for the song although born in the GAA, should not just be a GAA song. Jim Norris came up with the idea and sowed the seeds. Enda Keegan delivered the music. I delivered the words, the direction and the dream is a work in progress but the Song should belong to all in Piltown, the parish, the other sports clubs and organisations, any club or any individual whose heart truly belongs to Piltown.

Click Here to check out my Song Lyrics, Music and Videos

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LEADERSHIP SEEDS

Last month, I wrote about how I became a writer. This month I will tell you how I got into coaching and team management. It started accidentally rather than by design. As a child, I loved team ball games, be it a sliotar (that is a hurling ball for visitors who don’t know), a Gaelic Football or a soccer ball. I just love the physical activity of striking a ball combined with the camaraderie of doing it with a group of friends or teammates.  I loved the competitive aspect of team games and the aim to be the best you can, though in hindsight, I never really fulfilled my potential as a player in any sport, but that is a story for another day.

When I went to Carrick-On-Suir Vocational School (the Tech), there was always an annual soccer league usually run by the teachers.  By the time I got to sixth year, as said last month, the number of boys was low. I was the only sixth year boy and there was one fifth year boy, Wayne McNamara, the school caretaker’s son who had very little interest in soccer or in any sport.  However, we became good friends that year and I grew his knowledge and ability in sport. None of the teachers took on the organising of the soccer league, so in a crazy moment, I volunteered to organise the soccer league, thus began my organising career, a trait which I now know to be essential for good team management.

I got together a number of lads who would be team captains. The better players from the older classes. Together we used consensus to grade all the players. Then one by one the captains would pick a player from the seedings with the sequence being alternated so everyone got a chance to pick the best player in the seeding group. It was like a modern-day World Cup draw. Interestingly, half my team ended up being first years. The other captains thought I had been over hard on myself to ensure the integrity of the team selections. Integrity is huge for me in sport. I on the other hand saw the positives of everyone I picked and knew it was my job as player manager to cover up any weaknesses they had and exploit their strengths.  For example, Wayne McNamara was on my team. Even though he was a fifth year, everyone knew he wasn’t into soccer. However, I knew he would never stop trying and he would keep getting in the way.  I encouraged him to get in everyone’s way and it turned out to be a good defensive ploy because I made sure my skilful lads who were first years kept out of his way.   A defender has to get in the way and a lot of his job is done. And I loved work rate. Still do. Getting in the way doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Anyway, we went unbeaten in this six-a-side league all the way to the final where we were to meet the “favourites”, although in my mind we were the favourites. Belief was and is a huge part of my managerial philosophy.  The final took place at the pitch at the back of The Tech on 4th June 1980. It was a tight tense game and it was nil all with 2 minutes to go.  Our young first years were finding it hard to break down the opposition due to their physical limitations. However, we were solid at the back. I was defending and Wayne was doing what I asked. If the ball did get past us, our goalie, Noel Mackey was a safe pair of hands. The three first years David Tobin, John Connolly and John “Speedy” Kavanagh worked hard. “Speedy” was the class player, while the other two were work horses and I loved that trait.  With that 2 minutes left, I wanted to win the game, so both myself and Wayne pushed forward. I took a shot, their goalie saved, the ball pretty much hit off Wayne on the rebound. 1-Nil to us!  Wayne was my first lesson in there can be a place for everyone in the team jigsaw, if your open your eyes and mind and find it. A minute later, with their defence opened up, “Speedy” added a second and sealed the school league.  His son Daryl Kavanagh went on the play League of Ireland. I like to think “Speedy” learned something from me that he passed on to Daryl.  It may have just been a mini school soccer league, but the thrill of outwitting the opposition was like a drug.  I had been a very shy child (A lot of people who only know me in adult life, may not believe that, but it is true). Sport had changed that. Sport gave me confidence and the chance of leadership and the mini league had boosted my confidence no end.

A few months later, a similar opportunity arose in GAA.  Windgap’s Minor Gaelic Footballers were invited to take part in one off 7-A-Side football match against Callan’s footballers as part of the Coolagh Pattern. Windgap’s footballers at that time were known as Lamogue which was my townland. The Callan footballers were known as Coolagh. We were obviously invited not just because we were neighbours but because Coolagh felt they could beat us at their Pattern which is really a Field Day. Who would blame them? Unfortunately, nobody in Windgap wanted to manage us. Who wants a minor football team that never trained? The subsequent events inspired my play “Rathmore” later.  Together with Paddy Walsh (he was later to win a National Hurling league medal with Kilkenny and an Under-21 All-Ireland and also play in the 1987 Senior Hurling Final against Galway), we set about getting 7 lads to play. We were like “The Magnificent Seven”, the odds were stacked against us. We got seven aces, lads we grew up with. We were ready, kind of. We had no ball of our own for the warm up. No water, no first aid and barely got the jerseys. I think only some of our parents supported us in Coolagh.  The seven were Sean Kelly, Eamonn Murray, Jimmy Purcell, Denis Foley, Simon Brophy, Paddy and myself who were joint Player Managers. I was also Captain and although Paddy was joint manager, I was effectively the leader. Paddy and myself were really like Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen! I arrived in Coolagh on the back of Paddy’s Honda 50, barely room for the plastic gear bag. Some team bus all the same. I cannot recollect how the other five lads got there.

Again, I looked at our strengths and although I didn’t get it fully right starting off, I was prepared to switch lads around to get the best from the team. We trailed 1-1 to a goal at half time. Simon Brophy got our goal. The partisan crowd were delighted to be leading at the break. We even heard men from Callan laughing that we had nobody managing us except ourselves. I had started myself as a forward, but I was not making any impression. I knew Paddy who had started at midfield was sharper in front of the goal whereas I could and would run forever at midfield. We switched.

Coolagh got another early goal at the start of the second half. I still believed we could win and the partisan crowd even more excited. As Seamus the player, I worked harder. As Seamus, the Manager and Captain, I shouted louder. There was nothing in mind and body that I was going to leave on that pitch. The move of Paddy to the forwards was beginning to tell, he was in outstanding form. He set up Simon Brophy for a second goal. We were a point down. With a minute to go I won a “dirty” ball at midfield, played a quick accurate pass to Paddy. He burst through the Coolagh cover and drilled the ball to that back of the net. The partisan crowd were stunned. Lamogue won 3-0 to 2-1. It was unbelievable, but true. I have the medal to this day and it is one of my most prized medals.  The addiction to team management and leadership was going from strength to strength. That was the 14th September 1980. In 1991, that became my wedding anniversary. Two great reasons to remember the past.

In 1982 and 1983, Myself and Paddy joined up with Eamonn “Grimes” Cronin to manage the Windgap Under-16 and Minor hurling teams to a period of success, although maybe slightly under achieving too. I was learning all the time about players and their strengths and how to utilise them as best we could. We lost the South Roinn C Minor final to Carrickshock in 1982 and then Kilmacow in 1983.  In between in 1983, we beat Conahy Shamrocks in the Minor Roinn C League Final 0-11 to 1-5.  It was Windgap’s first ever minor county title. Another historic victory.  Twenty-one and I had led a team to county success.

My peers recognised my leadership qualities, though others saw them as a threat. Club politics soon saw my management roles end for a number of years. From a playing point of view, it was a blessing in disguise and club politics is also a story for another day.  However, the shoots were growing and I was now a junkie who thrived on organising and leadership, A humble plaque from a mini school soccer league and a humble medal from a once off 7-a-Side Gaelic Football match had laid the foundation for later successes such as All-Ireland success with Kilkenny Under-14 hurlers in both the Tony Forristal and Sonny Walsh tournaments.  I have managed in Hurling, Gaelic Football and Ladies Football at inter county level, the only Kilkenny person to manage in three of the four team codes for Kilkenny. I have also managed in all plus Camogie at club level.

I love the challenge of outwitting the manager of the opposition. I love the challenge of getting all the pieces of the jigsaw in the right place. I love the mental analysis of my team’s performance versus that of the opposition. I love getting to know what makes a player tick, finding their strengths and their weaknesses, looking for opportunities and reducing the threats. I love the planning and organising. I love the fruits of success. In the words of John Quincy Adams” If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”. The last chapter is not written in this story yet, by a long shot.

HOW I BECAME A WRITER

I grew up in an era when Westerns were very popular on television and Cowboys and Indians was the game of choice for young boys outside hurling and football. Playing Cowboys and Indians always involved a great deal of imagination and exploited the creative minds of young children as we hunted the Indians and the outlaws, charged with the bugle blowing Cavalry and we were the Sheriff who cleaned up the town while riding imaginary horses and shooting imaginary guns sometimes improvised as sticks or hurleys.  It was an era when good always won in the end, although the Indians were mainly seen as the baddies, though history is now reflected differently.  Nobody really played the Indians in those days unless someone’s sister. The Apache, Comanche and Sioux were always imaginary in our games.  Programmes like Bonanza, The Virginian and many Audie Murphy and John Wayne Westerns cultivated an imagination where adversity had to be overcome and the hero always got the beautiful girl, usually after a huge shoot out where the adversary is shot many times and “killed” many times over.  In fact, my imagination was so vivid and I was so naïve that my ambition when I grew up was that I wanted to be a cowboy; because I thought they were real. Some would say I still managed to become a “cowboy”.

So when I was about 10 years of age and my Aunt Mary who is a St. John Of God nun currently based in Australia, bought me a blank copy book with a hard cover, it was an opportunity to write a book and what topic did I know best but a Western. I’m sure someone said off the cuff, “You could write a book in that”. With an influence of the John Wayne Western film “The Sons Of Katie Elder” and the fact that I had so many uncles (Four boys on my father’s side and my mother had seven brothers), something which I yearned for as I had no brother in real life, a Western about a group of brothers joining together to take on the bad guys was an inevitable plot. I entitled it “The United Family” and several chapters were written in almost illegible pencil hand-writing (my handwriting was and still is terrible). It has never been finished as teenage years beckoned and other activities took centre stage and the realisation that Westerns, were not actually ”real” anymore, set in. The unfinished first novel still resides in my attic. Who knows may someday…

I still loved writing English prose and when I got to my Leaving Certificate years in Carrick-On-Suir Vocational School, aka “The Tech”, the classes were very small. There were two girls and myself in my year, three boys in the year ahead of us and three girls and a boy in the year behind, so fifth and sixth year were always together which made for a unique relationship with each other and our teachers. My English teacher was a Mrs. Mary Fitzgerald and she was my favourite teacher. As I did not do Irish, I did honours English , mainly on my own, but she did really help me and when it came to the English composition or essay, she encouraged my wild imagination which made the slog of other parts of the English course bearable.  I am forever grateful for her support and encouragement. She gave me freedom to write, the content was never criticised. My sister Mary took one of my essays a few years later as she had homework using the same topic title and nearly got expelled by the nuns in Callan, to put things into perspective.

I left “The Tech” in 1982 and writing left my agenda again. Theatre was a social class above me for a few years, in my narrow mind.  I got involved in Piltown Macra Na Feirme in the latter stages of 1987. In 1989, they entered the county one-act drama competition with a play called “Strawberry Jam”. Although an English play by Bruce Fisk, it was played out in an Irish scenario and to be brutally honest, in my opinion, it was really horrible “stage Irish”. However, I thought the performances of my Macra friends in the play were great despite the poor script, especially one Sheila Keegan, later to be Mrs. Sheila Norris.  I felt if they had a better script, they could do very well. So I set about writing my own comedy farce “When The Cats Away, Everybody Plays” with a view to it being performed in the 1990 County Macra Na Feirme drama competition.  I got Sheila and my sister Mary to sell the project to the rest of the club and they did a good job on it. Meanwhile, I up skilled myself in the area of acting and direction so as I could take on the directing role myself.  The play qualified for the county final and although not successful in the final it was very popular with the audience, although the judge was not impressed.   I would later portray him in my play “The Cast” as a not too popular individual. For the next four years I wrote and directed the club play and even  acted as well, winning best actor and best director awards along the way though the elusive Macra county title was never to come.

By the mid-nineties the writing bug had well and truly bitten. From 1994, I wrote the factual local notes for the Kilkenny People provincial newspaper in an adventurous way.  This I did for 2 decades highlighting many local issues and stories. I made the column interesting, informative and challenging. I went from one act plays to full length plays, to short stories and eventually a novel (Quest For Justice).  One of my plays “Weeping Women” won a competition for a rehearsed reading with Waterford playwright, Jim Nolan and was later performed by the KATS theatre group. Another “Painters Mess”, won a Drama League of Ireland competition and had a rehearsed reading with renowned director Scott Marshall.

I even dabbled in poetry, something I hated when going to school, still do if the truth be known. Subsequently song lyrics became part of my writing diet and these were put to music by my gifted brother-in-law, the US based Enda Keegan.  By the mid noughties, the kids took up more of my spare time. The GAA and sport was a better pastime to share with them as against the sometimes lonely pastime of writing. The GAA was an interest we could all share together as a family. However, over the previous decade, my portfolio had grown, but people were unaware of my treasure throve. So in 2014, I decided, what was the point in keeping my gems hidden and after many false starts I eventually came up with this website launched in 2017 for all to view my extensive works and for many to obtain and use.  My plan over the next period is to promote these works so that my plays will be performed again and my stories and novels published and more importantly read.

My genres include my childhood obsession of Westerns, but my subject matter has evolved significantly over the years. Irish stories are the nucleus. Stories based on experiences but fictionalised for dramatic effect.  You can enjoy them all on this website. Tell your friends.

WEBSITE FIRST POST

Welcome to the first post on my Website.  After a number of years of trying to come up with a website that I could use to primarily promote my writings and my sports coaching skills as well a my professional talents, I am finally in a position to start promoting my website www.snorris.ie   If there is something of interest to you on the website, I hope you will spread the url.  I still have a lot of plans to develop the website further, including links to social media and shopping/payment capability. This will take time, so hopefully every so often you will see improvements and new features.  I would love to hear from you if you think, there are things that can be improved, but I would really love to hear from you even more if you are interested in my writings or coaching skills.  There is lots of bedtime reading, some listening and even viewing.  Please enjoy and thank you for your interest.

Is mise

Seamus Norris6th December 2017