THERE ARE few, if any, families in Ireland, who do not have some connection with the GAA, either on, or off, the field. Even those with no involvement whatsoever are fascinated by what makes it tick.
It is this fascination that led Wicklow/Blessington writer/actor Richard Lynch cuts deep into the heart of the association - the club - to create Face The Short Kick Out, a powerful piece of drama, laced with rich earthy humour throughout, which comes to the Town Hall Theatre studio next week.
Lynch is well qualified to explore the subject as he was himself a player for many years; “GAA has been one of my main pursuits down the years along with theatre,” he tells me. “Now, I didn’t set the world alight as a player - I’ve no All-Ireland medals! I played at club level for Suncroft in County Kildare. Some people feel that world is the real GAA and the play is set in the club scene.”
Face The Short Kick Out is a one man show in which Lynch portrays some of the key personalities and events around a club called Kilkeeran. “It’s a fictitious story but based on my personal observations,” he reveals. “It spans the period from 1950s up to the present day. It focuses on club rivalries, the parochialism, and the intensity of it, the pride of a little village - all far removed from the Croke Park scene. It has that intimacy and tribalism when neighbouring clubs clash. The club is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Sonny Halpin lays bare much of the club’s history in an effort to rid himself of some of these ghosts that haunt him.”
As Kilkeeran opens its new state of the art clubhouse, central character Sonny Halpin, now in his sixties, relives the club’s history from its earliest years to the present day. We meet him as a sprightly youth when the club rented a swampy field as their first playing pitch. An array of characters follow, including a larger than life trainer and his primitive methods, an unorthodox referee, a dyed in the wool chairman, and many more.
The play also dramatises a split within the club, a bitter father and son conflict relating to the infamous ‘ban’ that reached epidemic proportions in the 1960s. There is also a never to be forgotten football match played in the 1950s that still resonates with the club members. We see the parochialism, the pride of the little village, the family connections, and the bitter rivalry between neighbouring clubs when they clash.
“The ban was removed in 1971,” Lynch recalls. “It was a bone of high contention, I’m sure there were several father-son conflicts because the younger generation were trying to adapt to new ideas, things like the World Cup and television were opening up new avenues to the younger generation and some of the older generation couldn’t take that on board. There is plenty of strong drama in the play but lots of comedy also.”
Lynch has been involved in theatre for 50 years but has concentrated more on writing in recent years. His other one-man plays include From The Shoulders Down, which he took to Canada, and Oscar Wilde From Heaven which has played at the Clifden Arts Festival. This will be his first time performing in Galway.
Face The Short Kick Out plays the Town Hall studio on Saturday March 19 at 8.30pm. A play laced with humour, pathos, heartbreak, and triumph, it builds to a riveting climax, and should deliver a memorable night's theatre.
Tickets are €15/12 and available through 091 - 569777 or www.tht.ie