It is a gloriously sunny Tuesday morning in Limerick city as Kevin O’Riordain pulls into Claughaun GAA club for the latest stop on his novel trip around Ireland.
He has football boots, an O’Neill’s ball, a specially-commissioned jersey, and a step ladder if he needs it. O’Riordain is a 25-year-old primary school teacher from Templemore who is currently undergoing the challenge of kicking a point in every GAA field in Ireland. For the past couple of months he has been travelling all over the country and while the finish line is in sight (Croke Park, St Patrick's Day), he still has some places to get to.
This week it was Limerick. On Monday he did a handful of clubs, before he properly got stuck into it on Tuesday and Wednesday. Along with PRO of the county board, Eamonn Phelan, who acted as tour guide, we joined him to see how he’s getting on – and what the experience has been like so far.
He is doing his project in association with the Hope Foundation, a charity founded in Cork by Maureen Forest and deals with the street children in the slums of India, primarily Kolkata.
The foundation believe the best way to get these children away from the slums, and away from the influence of drugs and crime, is through education. Teachers, like Kevin, volunteer to go out and teach the children from the slums as well as give teaching workshops to the people on the ground.
They have been doing excellent work in Kolkata. In recent years, the state schools have realised the exceptional work by the Hope foundation and have accepted that they are in need of help.
“For a culture that don’t want to accept that they need help, for the state schools to invite us in, it's absolutely huge,” said Kevin as we chatted during his whistle-stop tour of the city GAA clubs.
“The charity take women and children off the street and teach them useful trades such as sowing, carpentry, cooking and to drive the local ambulance.”
It was himself, and his two younger brothers, Alan and Colin, who came up with the idea. It started as a discussion of how many clubs are in Tipperary, and from there the project grew legs.
So far, Kevin has found it to be a great experience. It is a unique way to see every corner of the country and in doing so he has met some great characters. Also, he has found that the help he has received from the locals upon his arrival has been great.
“It's great to have the local knowledge and lads who know the lie of the land that can bring you around. Like here in Limerick with Eamonn Phelan and Jim Long yesterday, it's been great to have that support.”
There has been some great memories so far for him. One that stands out the most was when he was making his way through the Dublin clubs. He was in a pitch near Howth, and upon their arrival there was a game just after starting. Being stuck for time, himself and Tipperary legend Babs Keating - who has travelled with him in a lot of the counties - couldn’t wait until half time. Babs went down and had a word in one of the manager's ears. Promptly, the manager signalled for one of his players to go down. While receiving attention, Kevin and the lads ran on to the pitch and scored his point.
In terms of pitch quality, Kevin stays close to home in saying that Semple Stadium has been the best field he has been on, with Crossmaglen, Armagh, being a close second – “It was like a carpet,” he says.
Kevin comes from a family steeped in GAA tradition.
“We were always very heavily involved in the GAA. I played football for Tipperary at minor and U-21 level while Alan and Colin won the minor football All Ireland in 2011. Colin (who has since signed professionaly with the Sydney Swans Australian Rules club) won the minor hurling the next year and was heavily involved in Tipperary's U-21 footballers last year when they got to the All Ireland final.”
So far, Kevin is on track to meet his deadline in Croke Park, St Patrick's Day. He had planned on kicking up until March 16 but it now looks like he will finish on the 12th in Castleknock, Dublin, where Ciarán Kilkenny, the two Brogans and Sam McGuire will be coming along to show their support.
Kevin reckons that from over 1400 shots he has taken so far, he has missed around 40 or 50. He also mentioned there is only one county with a 100% shooting record - he was flawless in Fermanagh.
Along the way he has documented his journey with photos on his Facebook and Twitter accounts and on occasion has needed the step ladder to get into pitches that might be locked. He's met some great characters along the way, practised his shooting and seen the country - all in the name of charity. Not a bad way to put down time.
Kevin plans on returning to Kolkata in June for six weeks of work. If you would like to get in touch with Kevin, if you want to donate a couple of euro or if you want to see him kicking a point in your local GAA field, you can visit his Facebook page which is facebook.com/KickforKolkata. On every video he shares his GoFundMe account where you can donate as much as you want. Alternatively, you can text Kick4hope to 50300 to donate €4.