Home » Breaking News » Rejoicing in the minor moments

Rejoicing in the minor moments

THIS week sees the third series of Ennis man Fergal O’Keeffe’s podcast GAA Minor Moments come to a conclusion, with the final interviewee being GAA president Jarlath Burns.
While the podcasts do have a GAA theme, they are also of broader interest with those featured including several people who would not be primarily known for hurling or football.
Included are stars of other sports such as Niall Quinn, Mick Galwey and Billy Walsh, and musicians Danny O’Reilly from The Coronas and Bressie, who all played minor for their county before going in different directions.
A passionate Clare supporter, Fergal’s interviewees have also included Jamesie O’Connor, Anthony Daly and most recently, Tony Griffin.
He clearly does extensive research on his subjects beforehand, something that shines through, while he possesses a wonderful voice for broadcasting.
Another big part of what has made the series a success is his willingness to broaden discussion, to give the listener a real sense of the person he is speaking to.
“I don’t write out set questions, I have themes and areas to cover and then I don’t care where they appear as long as I cover everything,” he said.
“We often go off the point. With Jarlath Burns I complimented him on his speeches and the main part of the interview was talking about different speeches.
“But I find it interesting and hopefully other people find it interesting too.”
The podcast is sponsored by Electric Ireland, and it matches with their sponsorship of the GAA minor championships.
“You see those ads on TV that say ‘This is major’. I try to tie it in with my podcast, I always ask people about minor moments, and the idea is minor moments that last a lifetime,” he said.
“Different people pick different things, some of them pick going onto the pitch in a final or things like that. An awful lot of people talk about lifts to and from training with parents or teammates, or the craic on the bus.
“My final episode of this season is with Jarlath Burns. His answer was really interesting. He was talking about not touching the ball during the warm up, because he wanted to be hungry for the ball.
“But he hadn’t factored in the rain that day, and the game just passed him by. He gave a tip to do a really hard warm up, that gets the nervousness out of your body and you’re ready to go.”
While that is a very specific tip, in general, Fergal has sought to make it accessible to a wider audience.
“The original idea when I was starting the podcast was that not only would it be interesting for people who are interested in GAA, but also for parents and coaches who could listen to this and get some nuggets to bring to the training ground or to talk to their kids about,” he said.
For every winner there has to be a loser and a number of his guests have spoken about the benefits of learning how to deal with setbacks through sport.
“A bit of a theme this year is how important any sport is while growing up, for helping with resilience and mental strength and dealing with loss,” he said.
“Jarlath Burns talks about the pain of losing, but then being able to get over that in a safe environment,” he said.
“Billy Walsh was really interesting, he played minor football and hurling and he would say that was crucial in his development in boxing. The reason I picked him was because my uncle Aidan O’Sullivan coached him.
“Billy Walsh is now the US Olympic boxing coach, and Eddie Bolger is the German coach and my uncle coached both of them back in the day in Wexford.”
Billy Walsh was devastated after hearing on the radio that he was being passed over for the 1984 Olympics, and told Fergal that meant he never walked away from GAA even as his boxing career developed.
“He said he’d never give up GAA again and played into his forties,” he said.
Shane Horgan is known for being part of a golden generation of Irish rugby players, but he also represented Meath in football at minor level.
He was a recent interviewee and Fergal loved the discussion with him.
“I could have talked to him for hours. I thought he had great advice too,” he said.
“He felt he didn’t give it 100% during his minor career, or even at the start of his professional career, and his advice was to really commit.”
Fergal has interviewed a number of people who weren’t always earmarked for success but who delivered anyway.
“I really wanted to get people who didn’t have the most straightforward story,” he said.
“An example of that was Kieran Donaghy, who got very late into the underage, he had been doing basketball, and mightn’t have fitted the image of a GAA player when he was younger.
“But through perseverance and skill he came through at a later stage.
“Michael Fennelly from Kilkenny was very interesting, he talked about his doubt and the imposter syndrome he felt when he went into the senior panel with Brian Cody.
“He didn’t feel like he belonged there and it took a couple of years for him to break through, and that was purely about belief.
“On the other side of the coin I’ve noticed that a lot of top players, people like Brian Whelahan, Jamesie O’Connor, Richie Hogan, they seem to be winning all the way up along. Winning is a habit, it isn’t just about your skill, it’s also about belief.”
Three of the most iconic hurlers of the 1990s were the most popular guests and Fergal found each one hugely charismatic.
“The two most popular episodes by a mile are Seanie McGrath and Anthony Daly. The gas thing is both of them talk a lot about each other,” he said. “They are both amazing characters, you could talk to them for hours. The next most popular one is Brian Whelahan. I ended up putting up an hour or 50 minutes or something, but I talked to him for over two hours.”
Michael Murphy, Donegal’s talisman for years, also made an impression on Fergal.
“He’s such a lovely guy, he’s so charismatic and you could see how he would be an amazing leader and someone people would follow,” he said.
“It’ll be interesting to see if he gets into coaching because he’s an amazing character.”
He also enjoyed Tony Griffin, and has no doubt about the Ballyea man’s sincerity.
“He’s the real deal. He’s sincere. It’s a tricky thing in Ireland, being open and putting your heart on your sleeve and that’s what he does,” he said.
Every episode Fergal has made is listened to by new people, as its reach continues to grow and grow.
“Somebody finds one episode and then they listen to others. I know a guy who is a soccer guy and listened to the one about Niall Quinn and then he got interested,” he said.
“The way a lot of them talk about training or attitude, it’s relevant to any sport.
“The likes of Quinn and Mick Galwey brought people in from other sports, but they are all so passionate about their GAA because it is so connected to their community.”
Fergal clearly has an outstanding speaking voice but it was only when his business had to close during the pandemic that he got going on podcasting.
At that point he began his first podcast, called Travel Tales with Fergal, which is still going, while he found this GAA niche and also makes podcasts for other organisations.
“I have a friend Sean O’Neill from Ennis. He said to me that I should do podcasts. I didn’t think any more about it, but the hotel and pub closed with Covid and I started doing the Travel one,” he said.
“I started doing a travel slot on Clare FM and Tipp FM, I started doing podcasts for other people and then I suggested this one to Electric Ireland and I’m on the 30th episode.”
Long based in Tipperary, he is still very much a Clareman, who has been at all the big games so far this year and will be thrilled if the county reaches an All Ireland final for the first time in 11 years on Saturday.
A father of four, one of his sons was on the Tipperary under 20 football team this year, and while Fergal was obviously supporting him, there were one or two slips during one game against the Banner.
“I was with parents from Tipperary and at one stage I shouted out ‘Come on Clare’. They were all looking at me, I was like ‘oops’. Old habits die hard,” he said.

Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

Check Also

Common threads set to entwine in two day Burren festival

THIS OCTOBER the breathtaking surroundings of the Burren will provide the epic backdrop for Common …