In the 1980s and 90s there was a quiz show on RTÉ known as Know Your Sport. Had the show been years later a question that could have tricky to answer would be:
What Senior All-Ireland winner has had higher success with more famous Irish athletes than any GAA manager in the history of the game?
Although the presenter George Hamilton and his right-hand man, the late great memory-man Jimmy McGee, were to the forefront of the regular show – they would have struggled with that one. Their show hosted ordinary people from ordinary parishes around Ireland – sharpening their pencils in an attempt to outwit each other for the coveted Know Your Sport umbrella. Back then, times were tight for the national broadcaster and giving an umbrella to team members labelled with the show’s logo was a big thing!
Of course, the answer to the above question is Galway’s Alan Kerins. Alan grew up in Clarinbridge during the Know Your Sport years. He thrived on sporting energy and when he began to get on the ball at a young age it was clear he had a dynamo engine and razor reflexes which saw him climb right to the top of his chosen sport. Although a talented golfer, Kerins had little time to waste by the time 2001 rolled around – when both the Galway footballers and hurlers reached their respective All-Ireland finals. He was selected on both teams! Fortunately for him, he was victorious with one. Unfortunately, he is still among the last men to win an All-Ireland football medal for Galway.
Around the turn of the millennium, Alan was working as a physiotherapist within the HSE. He took a trip to Africa to visit Irish missionaries and the rest as they say is history. After making a small promise to help out a kind nun before boarding his plane back to Ireland, his fate was sealed. Almost unwittingly, on the back of that promise to Sr. Cathy Crawford, Alan found himself organising big charity events so that those in dire need of help in Africa could help themselves.
Since then Kerins has teamed up with Gorta-Self Help Africa and has used his unrelenting energy to raise over €5 million, funds that have helped to end poverty and suffering for tens of thousands of people in rural Africa where Know Your Sport umbrellas might be used to shelter from the torrential rains or the incessant heat of the sun. Humidity too is problematic as the people suffer from the AIDS pandemic. Sexual exploitation of females is also rife. Unlike Ireland’s struggling economy from the time of Kerins’ boyhood, in this part of Africa ordinary people from ordinary parishes and townlands struggle to get an education as the cycle of misery repeats itself.
So, what is the context of the Know Your Sport question I opened with? Well, it refers to a hugely enjoyable and successful event Alan organised involving Irish sporting greats such as rugby-aces Shane Byrne, Eric Elwood, Mick Galwey, Peter Clohessy, former out-half rivals Tony Ward and Ollie Campbell and perhaps Ireland’s finest-ever track athlete Sonia O’Sullivan. They all came together to summit Ireland’s highest peak, Carrantuohill a couple of years ago. Legendary GAA commentator Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh was with them too and raised the Sam Maguire high above his head at the summit – to mark a successful expedition.
Playing in two All-Irelands in the same month in September, 2001 shows how good a player Alan was, but raising millions for the poor people of Africa shows just how great a person he continues to be.
The Galway Ball in the Galway Bay Hotel on November 17th next will raise funds for Alan’s work. Tickets for the ball and more information about the important work Alan and Gorta are doing in Africa can be found at: https://selfhelpafrica.org/ie/galway_ball_2017-2/