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Tracey Kennedy: Cork GAA and Carrigaline Community School

Tracey Kennedy: Cork GAA and Carrigaline Community School

By Ciaran Dineen

A Killeagh woman by birth but fast becoming an important figure in Carrigaline, Cork GAA Chairperson Tracey Kennedy has found herself at the apex of Cork GAA, while also continuing in her role as Vice-Principal at Carrigaline Community School. Tracey has now completed a second full year in her role at CCS and when the halls were eerily quiet during this year’s Leaving Certificate, she found time to sit down with us and discuss it all.

“We were only talking about the move to Carrigaline the other day and it’s certainly something I’ve never regretted. The job as deputy Principal is really stimulating, it’s high pressure but enjoyable. I think what CCS offers is a wonderful subject range and some very good teachers, we have great staff here,” Kennedy says. Naturally Tracey did not just happen to find herself in this current position. She herself taught both English and French at secondary school level, but after many years of teaching, a new adventure was sought. “I certainly miss teaching but I suppose I came to a time in my life where I wanted to try something different and I saw CCS’s advertisement looking for a deputy-Principal and luckily I got the job,” she explains.

Two years down the line and two years after swapping exam corrections for office papers, the experience has been eye-opening for Tracey, who has identified that life as a teacher is certainly more removed. “One thing I have come to understand is that there are huge challenges that children face in today’s world and that is definitely the most difficult part of the job. When you come into this kind of management role you come across some very tough cases,” Tracey explains.

On the other hand there are also some rewards in terms of what you get back from the school. Tracey notes the efforts and achievements of students and how that can be particularly fulfilling, paying homage to athletics star Alannah Neff, amongst others. “We have fantastic students in this school, you mentioned Alannah there, she is not just a fantastic athlete but also fantastic academically and we are certainly proud of all the achievements of our students.”

An avid reader and an English teacher at heart, Tracey notes the importance of reading when asked about how we live in a phone-obsessed world. “I really couldn’t stress more the importance of reading. I know I’m saying this as an English teacher but it’s not just for that. Even for those who just want some down time, it’s far more relaxing and healthier for our minds to pick up a book rather than to stare at a screen. Here in the school we work a lot on mindfulness and our emotional health, and one way to ensure that everything is healthy is to read.” Tracey explains that role models are crucial in getting children to follow beneficial patterns of behaviour such as reading, and that she herself had great role models growing up.

On the subject of role models, Tracey herself is often suggested as being one. At the end of last year, after holding various positions on the Cork GAA Board, including PRO, she was elected as Chairperson, becoming the first woman to do so, in what was an historic moment for Cork GAA. Not only is this rise to the top of Cork GAA enough to make her a role model for all young women in Cork and Ireland, but other harder battles that she has faced has made her become an all-round inspiration. After losing her father to cancer a number of years ago, Tracey was diagnosed with having pre-cancerous cells following tests in 2015 but thankfully she came through fighting fit.

Her achievements as a result are an example of what kind of rewards and accomplishments one can achieve following periods of adversity. “When I began getting involved in the GAA I had never aimed to be some sort of role model,” Tracey says. “But as the time has gone on and it’s because of what other women in particular have said to me, I see my role as a female Chairperson as something that is positive for women. I think there is a mood for change and there is openness but perhaps we also see that Cork GAA is more open than what we thought,” Kennedy continues. So while she accepts the responsibility that the role brings, she does still however not concede that Killeagh is now more famous for Tracey Kennedy than for former Cork hurler, Joe Deane these days.

On the topic of GAA, Tracey seems particularly keen on improving the quality of teams in CCS. Given the size of the school and the number of students, CCS certainly seems to underperform in the GAA, particularly boys’ teams. In fact, it has been a recurring theme that while girls’ teams do well for the school, the same can’t be said for their male counterparts. On this topic Tracey says, “we have already made approaches to Carrigaline GAA in our own capacity at CCS. I suppose there’s a huge range of sports here in CCS and therefore you can’t just favour one sport. I am highly of the opinion that for girls in particular playing sport is just so important”. Tracey continues by saying, “now with that being said we will again look to remain in contact with Carrigaline GAA. We have people here that are looking to set up a liaison with the club in terms of looking to improve both Carrigaline GAA itself and also CCS, that is something in particular that I would like to see develop in my time here.” In her role as Chairperson of Cork GAA, Tracey admits that helping clubs like Carrigaline is always an aim. She suggests that for big towns like Ballincollig and Carrigaline, developing a closer relationship with its parish is a growing challenge due to the fact that these towns are constantly expanding.

When Cork GAA is mentioned there are fewer things that come to mind before Frank Murphy. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Don’ of Cork GAA and hurling in particular, Frank is someone who divides opinion. Having worked with him for many years, Tracey was delighted that Murphy would stay on for another year during her first 12 months as Chairperson. “It’s nearly impossible to describe how much Frank does for Cork GAA. He has his finger on the pulse of everything GAA in Cork and he ultimately lives and breathes it. He was a key figure in the restructuring of Pairc Uí Chaoimh and he should be recognised for that I think.”

Tracey did also have some words to say on the new ‘Round Robin’ format in the Munster Hurling Championship. While stating that the wall-to-wall coverage is fantastic and that attendances have been great, Kennedy is concerned by the eventual realisation that two teams from Munster will have their seasons ended by mid-June every year. “I have concerns. Like I look at Waterford and Tipperary and they’re now out of the Championship. I am immensely proud of John Meyler and the players but also relieved that Cork have advanced. Next year it could again be any two teams that are knocked out and it could be us next year and therefore I have reservations over the format,” Tracey explains.

Since meeting with Tracey, Cork have gone on to win a Munster Hurling Championship and now have a spot in the All-Ireland semi-finals. Whatever the end result for Cork GAA this year will be, Tracey is sure to be at the helm overseeing it all. With this being her first year as chairperson it is bound to be a year of learning for the Killeagh native.

It was also announced last week that the GAA have commenced the formal process of replacing Frank Murphy as Secretary of Cork GAA. Murphy’s successor will take office at Cork’s Annual Convention in December, with advertisements for the post being placed on public notice from last week.

We can’t say for sure that come All-Ireland final day the ‘Rebels’ will be there, but what we can predict with relative certainty is that come September Tracey will be once again roaming the halls of a bustling Carrigaline Community School.

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