Dan Boyle: My Friend John

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From top: Youth volunteer and Cork City FC stalwart John Kennedy; Dan Boyle

Thoughts of mortality often occur on the passing of a loved one, of a family member, or of those who presence in your life made it seem more complete.

There are others whose passing makes you aware not only of a void in your own life, but more consciously makes you consider the gap that has been created in the lives of others, by the death of a person whose life has been shared so widely.

John F. Kennedy of Skibbereen, of Mahon, of Ógra Chorcaí/Foróige, and most identifiably of Cork City FC, has been such a person.

John and I are of the same vintage. We made similar life decisions. Both of us involved ourselves in youth work and in community development. Initially as volunteers, then subsequently as a far from secure career choice.

I went in politics wanting to advance the values I believed we shared. He remained at the coal face probably being more effective at achieving change.

I engaged in in the theatrics, the histronics, that I thought were required to convey caring enough. John remained his easy going self, upsetting it seems no one, bringing and keeping everyone on board.

That easy going nature was never thought of as a lack of steel. I can never remember John being angry. He had this great skill of being supportive while being able to express hurt and disappointment that became impossible to argue against.

John’s great passion, outside of his wife and family, was Cork City FC. He had been instrumental in rescuing the club by becoming an active shareholder in the co-op set up to allow the club continue to compete.

The club became John’s instrument of blending every aspect of life, working and social. When I was a member of the Oireachtas he gently cajoled me to support the club’s match mascot.

As was his way he didn’t stop at seeking the financial sponsorship. He went to suggest a school whose pupils would best benefit from the experience of being given a set of the club’s strip, then walk out with the team at Turners Cross. I readily agreed. How could I not?

John ran the family enclosure in Turners Cross. It was the place was banners flew, fog horns blared and more polite type of chants were sung. What it represented was totally in line with John’s personality.

It was also at the other side of the ground from The Shed end, where the chants were more lacking in politeness.

John also organised and travelled with the supporters bus for practically every away fixture the club ever played. These were rarely overnight trips, even if the venue was Ballybofey or Derry or Dundalk or Sligo.

This extended to the many European adventures Cork City FC enjoyed. The club and the city never had a finer Ambassador.

If John had an ambiguity it was the craft he showed in becoming so identified with Cork City while maintaining his love and attachment towards his West Cork home and his native Skibbereen.

But then omnipresence seemed to be his thing. A committed and effective Community Youth Worker, time seemed to expand to meet everything he did. How I envied that.

Being who he was I think he may have been embarrassed to have had two guards of honour, involving several hundred people, at his funeral at the church in Mahon and outside of Cork City Hall.

He need not have been. We would have embarrassed had we not thanked him for who he was and what he did.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendb

Pic: Cork City FC

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