Tag Archives: Brendan Ó Sé photography

May 27: Tipperary versus Cork

The Field of Legends. Semple Stadium, Thurles on a Sunday afternoon in late May. The Cork and Tipp hurlers. 70 plus minutes of hell-for-leather hurling. 134 years of tradition. Two teams with the one dream.

Cork and Tipp in the pre-match parade

Sure you can travel to Barcelona, to Glasgow, to Liverpool or Manchester, or even Buenos Aires to see great rivals in action but are any of those a match for the blood and thunder of a Cork Tipp Munster hurling clash in Thurles? For me, the answer is a definitive no!

Tipp coach Michael Ryan and Cork doctor Con Murphy after the game

Cork headed into yesterday’s game on the back of a good win over Clare the previous weekend, while their rivals Tipp had suffered a bad loss and a worse fallout after their match against Limerick. The pressure was all on Tipp to perform. I had expected them to be raring to go from the get go, but it was Cork who powered into the game racing into a 7 point lead before Tipp put their first score on the board in the form of a goal. Within a few minutes of that they reduced Cork’s lead to just one point, only for Cork to take off again to put another seven points between them, before finishing the half 9 points to the good. In hurling a 9-point lead is not an insurmountable one. Look back over the history of these two teams and you can find many’s the match where either side looked dead and buried only to stage a great comeback. Yesterday’s match was your classic a game of two halves and a draw was probably a fair result. Both sides can take positives from the game. Cork might count themselves unlucky not to have closed the game out, but Tipp could even have won it had Anthony Nash not been on form in the Cork goal.

Is ground hurling dead?

I was on the road to Thurles with two buddies yesterday, cousins Kieran O’ Connell and Jimmy Lonergan. We left Cork early, driving to Thurles at a little before ten beating the match-day traffic. The skies were grey and the clouds did not part. I sat in the back of the car listening to them telling me stories of their Uncle Ted who passed away in 2016. Ted, a proud Dunmanway man, used to bring them both to Cork matches when they were kids. Jimmy told me of one match they went to in Dublin when he was young fella. They travelled up by train from Cork. In those days you could get off the train in Connolly Station in the heart of the city centre. Ted and Jimmy left the station on their way to Croke Park to see Cork play, stopping outside to buy a match programme. Before the game they had a bite to eat in a cafe. Sitting across from each other, Ted opened his programme to read it as he eat his chips. “All I remember is this roar, Jimmy said, He flung the programme out of his hand like it was on fire and in doing that he also swiped his plate of chips and sent them flying. The programme wasn’t for the Cork match at all. There was a soccer match on in Dalymount the same day, and Ted had bought the soccer programme. He was disgusted, more so about having something to do with soccer in his hand, than losing all his chips.”

Jimmy Lonergan and cousin Kieran O’ Connell (my two buddies)

The square in Thurles before a game can be electric. There is a sense of anticipation in the air quelled by banter and pints as both sets of supporters mingle freely. At half-past ten yesterday morning when we arrived the square was quiet. The trains carrying Cork fans had yet to arrive and the Tipp fans with shorter distances to come were still at home reading their newspaper predictions of the game to come. Outside Hayes Hotel, where the GAA was founded in 1884, was Joe Cole dressed from head to toe in red and white. “The winter is sad, he said, until things get going again in the summer.” Joe has been going to matches all his life and for the few moments I was chatting to him, it seemed like everyone who passed by knew him by name. Two who stopped to chat with Joe were Austin O’ Hara and Gene McCarthy. “What is it about the hurling that brings ye together, I asked. “We might go months and months without seeing each other, then the hurling comes around and we can meet up and get together again, Austin told me.

Joe Cole, Austin O’ Hara and Gene McCarthy

We’re here to see our teacher play.” Who’s yere teacher? I asked. Colm Spillane (Cork’s corner back). And in a few years you will be here to watch us play for Cork. You got to love their cockiness.

Leon Doocey Harry Draper Dan Roche Dinger Collins Ben Nodwell and James “the toast” Hayes

Among the red jerseys of the Cork fans and the blue and saffron of the Tipperary jerseys Eamon Murray’s bright yellow jersey of his Armagh club, Cú Chulainn’s, stood out. Eamon was having a bite to eat when I approached him. He put his food to one side and told me he was down in Thurles for the weekend. “I told the wife I’d got us a hotel for the weekend. Where she said. Thurles. Thurles, never heard of it. Where is it? she said. He told her he was going to the match when they arrived down. “What about football? Do you prefer that? I asked. No, there is no comparison to hurling. Hurling has everything.

Eamon Murray from Armagh

I have yet to bring either of my kids to a game. I am half afraid Cork will lose and the experience scar them for life. I used to think they are too young but seeing supporters bringing babies to matches makes me think I should get my act together and bring them along. I met Adam and Alex Finn having some chips in the main square before the game. It was Alex’s first game. “Do you play hurling, Alex? I asked him. No, he’s a retired hurler like his Dad, Adam told me. That’s three of us so, I said.

Adam and Alex Finn

Is this your first game together? I asked Louis Everard and Louise Beecher (the two Louies as they told me). It is. A type of a first date so really, I said. A helluva of a first date. What about the game, what are you hoping for? They looked at each other, raised their eyebrows, waited for the other to respond before both saying: A draw.

Louise Beecher and Louis Everard

One of the things I have really loved seeing in the games I have been to is parents with their little babies with them. At half-time in yesterday’s game I came across three generations of the Darcy family: little baby Emily dressed in yellow for Tipp, mother Helena and grandmother Meta. “Did you bring Helena to matches when she was this age?” I asked. No, she was probably a little older. Meta told me. Look at that smile Emily has! I bet she knew the Tipp hurlers would come good in the second half.

 

Then on the pitch at the end of the game I bumped into Gemma Dwyer who was carrying baby AJ. I stopped her, told her of my project and asked if I could take some photos. “Why is it important for you to bring the baby to the matches? I asked. Well, her uncle was playing today, so he had to come. How did he find it; was he OK with all the noise? I asked. He was grand. He slept right through the first half and then woke up for the second half. “A bit like Tipp so! “, I said.

In Leinster, Wexford had an easy win over Offaly, and Galway showed their class and intent getting the better of Kilkenny. It looks like the Kilkenny Wexford match in two weeks’ time will be the one to decide who plays Galway in the Leinster final on June 30th.
Next weekend in Munster will see the summer opening up for some teams and closing off for others. Waterford and Tipp meet in Limerick with either side knowing a defeat could very well spell the end of their summer. Down in Cork, Limerick come to visit fresh after their weekend off and they will be confident after beating Tipp. Cork will be looking to build on their good start, but might find it hard against this coming Limerick side.

To the heart of hurling

 

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May 20, Cork versus Clare

What do Irish soccer captains, carpenters turned bus drivers, young lads on the lash, and kids refusing to support the county they were born in have in common? The love of hurling.

With grey clouds hovering over the newly-renovated Pairc Uí Chaoimh the newly revamped Munster championship got underway yesterday with Cork hoping to take their first steps towards regaining their Munster crown and the hurlers of Clare looking to build momentum towards winning their first Munster championship since last winning it in 1998.

Cork and Clare in the pre-match parade

With the teams level for the ninth time and heading into eleven minutes of added time due to the injury Cork’s Robbie O’ Flynn picked up, Cork pulled away  thanks to Seamus Harnedy’s goal. The match was a real tit-for-tat affair and could have gone either way, before ending 2-23 to 1-21 in Cork’s favour. Clare will rue the chances they missed, but should benefit from the game and head into their clash with Waterford next week in better shape.

As you will know from following my blog here on hurling posts, I am first and foremost a Cork supporter. In no way, do I try to hide that. My dream scenario every year is Cork winning. Full stop! Sadly, it does not happen. Yesterday, was special for me. It was the first game of my project where Cork would be playing. I hopped on my bike at about 12:45 and made my way down the Pairc.

The minor match had a 2 p.m throw-in and when I arrived at the stadium there was a good crowd milling around. One of the first people I met was David Meyler, son of Cork’s manager John, and captain of the Irish soccer team. He was there with his buddy Peter Kelleher and good enough to stop for a photo and a quick chat. What does hurling mean to you? I asked him. I’ll tell you that at about 6 o’clock, he told me. 

Peter Kelleher and David Meyler

“Going on the piss together before the game.” “The banter!” “Winning!” These were some of the responses these five Clare characters gave me when I asked them what they enjoyed about going to hurling matches together. “Win or lose, we have the craic.”  These guys were in great form and reminded me of my younger days when I used to enjoy a pint or two (many) before (during and after) games with my own friends. Happy days!

Michael Curry, Cillian Gregan, Austin and his brother Evan McMahon and Eibhear Quilligan

What about in school; do your classmates try to wind you up about following Clare? I asked young Lewis O’ Gorman. A young man born in Cork, but who refuses to follow the county of his birth. “I don’t care, he said, making his father James proud. I’ll always follow Clare.”  Lewis plays hurling for St. Finbarr’s in Cork, but dreams of togging out for the Clare hurlers. I was really impressed by this young man.

Lewis and James O’ Gorman

“Oh, they try, believe me they try, but I keep them in line.” Gerry Costello, the bus driver for the Clare hurlers, a Limerick man, told me the lads try to wind up about being from Limerick but he gives as good as he gets. “Ah, they’re good lads, really, he said. They’re never any bother.” Gerry, a carpenter by trade, has been driving the bus for the Clare hurlers for 6 years. The highlight? “Ah, sure it has to be 2013.”  I heard a lot about 2013 yesterday. 

Gerry Costello. Bus driver to the Clare hurlers

“The excitement, I love it. There’s no other sport that has it.” Joe Casey, from Crosshaven in Cork, a steward for years loves hurling. “Where else would you get it?”

Joe Casey

I cycled from home to the Pairc yesterday. Took me about 30 minutes. Denis Joseph McClean flew in from Birmingham, England for the game the day before. He has been doing it for years. “I never miss them. Not once since 1966.”  he told me. Myself and my two brothers go to all the games together. Sadly, his two brothers, Chris and Noel, were unable to make the match, but Denis will continue to come for as long as he can. “My best memory of the Cork hurlers was seeing Joe Deane score the winning free in the 1999 All-Ireland final against Kilkenny.” The day it was lashing.” I said. “Ah, we don’t remember the rain at all,” Denis said. 

Denis Joseph McClean

Brothers Paddy and Donal Brassil get together for Clare games. Paddy lives in Carlingford in the north of Ireland and Donal in Blackrock in Cork. Paddy, the elder brother, told me the best goal he ever saw was Paddy Kenny for Tipperary against Cork in the 1952 Munster final. Donal listened patiently as he recounted the tale and with a glint in his eye and a broad grin he told me: Me, I don’t have a favourite goal. I have three of them! he said. As a Corkman, he didn’t have to say anymore. I stood in the Hill in 2013 as Shane O’ Donnell, in the game of his life, scored 3 goals in 18 minutes against Cork. If I were a Clareman, I think they’d be my favourite 3 also.

Paddy and Donal Brassil

In the end Cork came good and saw off the challenge of Clare. Tipp, who lost to Limerick, are up next for Cork in Thurles next Sunday in one of hurling’s greatest rivalry. Clare host Waterford in Ennis. In Leinster, Dublin fell short at the end again, conceding late points, giving Wexford their first win. Kilkenny beat Offaly as expected, but Kevin Martin’s men did put up a good fight before Kilkenny pulled away towards the end.

So far, this year’s championship has produced some cracking games and we are only two weeks in. A long way to go to the final on the third Sunday in August. Exciting to think of all that lays ahead.

Seamus Harnedy lining up for a pop at a point

 

#totheheartofhurling

 

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Down the Pairc

When Seán Óg Ó hAilpín gave that great victory speech in 2005 after Cork had won the Liam McCarthy for the second year in succession, little did Cork fans believe that it would be the start of the second longest period in Cork’s hurling history without winning the All-Ireland (1903 to 1919 was the longest). In 2013, Cork came within seconds of bringing the cup back to Leeside, only for Clare’s corner back, Domhnall O’Donovan, a hurler who had up to then never scored in the championship, to hit the equaliser and bring the game to a replay where Clare would win deservedly and distance Cork further from the dream of a 31st All-Ireland crown. This Sunday, we can allow ourselves to dream again as the Cork hurlers welcome Clare, down the Pairc, to Pairc uí Chaoimh for the first Munster championship match in this year’s new format and Cork’s first championship game in the newly-refurbished stadium.

Cork glory days

I fell asleep as a child in the hurling fields of the Mardyke, Thurles and Croke Park. My father would stand at the foot of my bed and bring to life the high drama of hurling. He was my very own Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh and my bedroom became my very own stadium. I would lie, head perched on my plumped up pillow, enthralled as he recounted the great games he had been to. Battling sleep, as the stories went on, I would try keep myself awake long enough to learn if the swing of Christy Ring’s hurley could suddenly turn a game where the blood and bandage of Cork seemed certain for defeat,  into a magnificent victory.

It was not only glorious Cork victories in those bedroom stories, though. No, I learned young that giving your heart to your county also meant enduring heartbreaking defeats, referees robbing us, crossbars denying us. Sport can be cruel, my father knew that only too well from following the Cork hurlers (and more so the footballers) through the years. I guess in telling me stories of Cork’s losses, he prepared me for it too. But who dreams of losing?

It was with dreams of glory I used to go to the matches with him. The first time I went to Pairc uí Chaoimh (the Pairc as we all call it in Cork) was for the official opening in 1976. I was 7 years old. All the family went. We got seats high up in the stand and I remember being confused as to how it was called the stand when we were all sitting. Cork invited the then All-Ireland champions Kerry and Kilkenny, and bringing delight, and much hope for the championships, to all our family Cork won both matches. I recall how dark it was where we were sitting high up in the stand, but the beautiful blood red of the Cork jerseys against greyness of the day shone for me. The black and amber of the Kilkenny jerseys and the Kerry green and gold were decidedly unappealing. Even at that tender age I knew that any team worth supporting had to be in red; not all red, mind you. Red and white.

The next time I went to see Cork play, again down the Pairc, was against Kerry in the Munster Football Final of 1976. Kerry were All-Ireland champions and had what would go on to be the greatest gaelic football team of all time. The match attracted supporters in their thousands from both counties. My father had made a little wooden seat for me to sit on between his legs in the stand. We sat near pitchside in the covered stand near the Blackrock end terrace and I remember the swell of the late crowd causing the stewards to open the gate on to the pitch to leave the public in. It scared me to see so many people rushing on to the pitch. I remember my father laughing and telling me it was OK, that we were there to see a football match and there was nothing to worry about.

Nothing to worry about except for those Kerry footballers. That match ended in a draw and a week later we were back down the park for the replay. A replay where a referee robbed Cork of a Munster football victory; that and a Kerryman,  Jimmy Deenihan who seemed to love the Cork jersey so much that he tried all he could to get it off Jimmy Barry Murphy every time Jimmy got near the ball.  It would be another 9 years before Cork would win a Munster Final. In that time, Kerry would dominate gaelic football and break my heart over and over again.

“There’s always the hurlers.” my dad would say in consolation as we streamed out of the Pairc after another loss to Kerry.

And in those days there always was. A few weeks later we were back down the Pairc to see the glorious Cork hurlers light up the stadium with a magnificent win over Limerick. The roars meeting each Cork goal (they got 3) shook me to my core, and I left there dreaming of players like Ray Cummins and Jimmy Barry-Murphy. That team would go on to win 3-in-a-row All-Irelands. Those days for a young boy from Cork  it wasn’t so much of a dream for his county to win the All-Ireland. It seemed easy. I recall in 2013 when Domhnall O’Donovan spilt the posts for Clare and the referee blew up the match on Nash’s puckout, that the dream was so, so close and yet so distant all in one instant.

But that is long gone too. We are all back down the Pairc on Sunday and Cork and Clare fans will allow themselves to dream again.

Bring it on!

 

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May 13, Dublin versus Kilkenny

I made the mistake thinking Dublin hurlers would play Kilkenny in Croke Park last Sunday. Thankfully it was pointed out to me in time. Parnell Park is actually the home ground of Dublin GAA. It is a small stadium, not unlike Pairc Uí Rinn in Cork, and a stadium which was perfect for the thrilling spectacle the two teams served up on a sunny early summer’s day. As many had predicted, Kilkenny prevailed, but not before getting the most almighty fright from a promising Dublin side. Truth be told, the Dubs deserved more from the game, but they can take many positives from the encounter.

The sat nav did its job for me, getting me from Tullamore to Parnell Park in ample time before throw in. With the help of a friendly Garda I found a parking spot close to the stadium, got my gear, applied my camera settings and off I went to meet some hurling fans and see Dublin and Kilkenny in action.

Brian Cody looking pensive before the match

So, who is bringing who to the match, I asked. Well, I suppose Sarah is. I’d be more of a football supporter, said Mark Hender from Dublin. And, of course, you’d be a hurling supporter, being from Kilkenny, ya? Is there such a thing as a Kilkenny football team?, I asked. Very funny, very funny, she said. What’s an ideal 2018, so? I enquired. Dublin for Sam and The Cats for the hurling, and we are all happy said Mark.  Not all, I said. Not all of us!

Mark Hender from Dublin and Sarah Brennan from Kilkenny

I wonder if in places like India and Pakistan do they allow kids to bring to their cricket bats into big games. I am always fascinated to see young Irish kids bringing their hurleys to hurling matches. Where else in the world could this happen; allowing supporters bring in, what is for all intents and purposes a weapon to a high-tension, high drama sports match? It is both crazy and beautiful at the same time.

Doing a loop around Parnell Park I came across a father and son pucking a sliotar against the wall of the stadium. The young lad, Gerard Russell, had a lovely swing. I got talking to the pair of them and his dad, Rob, told me Gerard played both hurling and football with his local club. If you had to choose, I asked him, if you had the chance to play with either the Dublin footballers or hurlers, which would it be? Just the shortest of pauses and he replied, the footballers. Pity, I said, you’ve a fine swing, you know?

Rob and Gerard Russell

The match itself was a cracker. Dublin raced into an early lead and led by four at half-time. Kilkenny were kept in much to the thanks of their goalkeeper, Eoin Murphy, scoring long range points from frees.

I took a wander around the stadium at half time, looking for characters, looking for stories. Just like in Tullamore the previous night I found a young father, Kieran Groarke, with a baby. Kieran’s 6-month old baby boy slept soundly on his father’s chest. It’s in us, Kieran said. I was brought to the games by my father, not as young as this little fella, but maybe at around 3 or 4 years old. He’ll probably do the same with his son. Give him a love it. 


Do Kilkenny fans know how blessed they have been in Brian Cody’s reign? Sitting among them for parts of the game, you could be fooled into thinking they have been starved of success. They are league champions for 2018, and have won 4 All-Irelands already this decade. That is the same number that their two biggest rivals Cork and Tipp have each won in near on 30 years. As the game edged closer to its conclusion you could sense their anxiety. Looking to the sideline and to the man who has lorded for years over all comers, Brian Cody, there was not the same sense of impending doom. Now, he was not the picture of calm, as he moved up and down the line shouting his charges on, but I did sense that he knew his team were still in it, and still capable of doing what his Kilkenny team does best: winning. And that they did. Trailing by five with five minutes to go, by the time the four minutes of added time had passed, the referee’s whistle signalled a one-point victory for the Cats. I am sure Pat Gilroy will look back at this game and wonder how they let such a lead slide, but there were a lot of good things his team did that will stand to them as this new format of the hurling championships moves on.

Kilkenny fans

Kilkenny fans watching Liam Blanchfield score Kilkenny’s goal

Kilkenny fans watching Liam Blanchfield score Kilkenny’s goal

And it is all over. Kilkenny win at the death.

Amidst all the scenes of relived and jubilant Kilkenny supporters I came across two downbeat, but very friendly Dublin supporters, Dublin Gerry and Peter Mulligan. Ya, we were almost there, but you can never write off the cats, Peter told me. Where you from? Gerry asked me. Cork, I said. From his inside pocket he produced a laminated memorial card of Michael Collins. Here, he said, keep that. I am sure the two lads will have many better days this year as they follow the dubs in football, and most probably some better ones with the hurlers too?

Dublin Gerry and Peter Mulligan

Leaving the stadium, I was greeted by James Fitzgerald, a Kerryman, who has handing out posters of the Roll of Honour for All-Ireland victories. Where are you from? he asked. Cork! I replied. He then proceeded to quiz me about Christy Ring. Now, I grew up falling asleep to stories of the great Christy Ring. My father would stand at the foot of my bed and bring to life stories of how Christy won matches for Cork single handedly. How many All-Irelands did he have? How many railway cups? How many counties? How many Munsters? James shot at me. I got them all right except for the counties. 14, he told me. That is 14 counties to go with his 8 All-Irelands, 18 Railway Cups and 9 Munsters. James then walked back to his bags and got me a photo of the 1960 Munster team, and a laminated poster of the Roll of Honour.

I’m on Facebook, he said. My video has been seen thousands of times. He handed me a scrap of paper with his name handwritten on it. James Fitzgerald, Tarbert GAA. I can recite all the All-Ireland winners from memory, he said. And he can! It’s amazing. Check it out here.

James Fitzgerald

James continued to hand out the posters and I made my way back to the car. Tired and with a long journey back home to Cork before me, but exhilarated and excited about the first steps I had taken over the weekend on the road to the heart of hurling.

Bring on next weekend. Clare come to Cork. Should be a right cracker. See you there. 

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May 12, OFFALY VERSUS GALWAY

Tullamore was a town I had not been to before. I arrived there about an hour before throw in and made my way towards the pubs where the fans were hanging out. The first guy I met was Denis Duggan. Denis told me the first GAA match he ever went to was the football final of 1982 between a Kerry side gunning for a record five-in-a-row and an Offaly side hoping to avoid back-to-back final losses. As first matches go, I said, there cannot be betters ones that. 100%, he said. It was magic! When defeat looked certain for Offaly, up popped Seamus Darby to break Kerry hearts. I’ve lived off that moment whole life, he said. And we beat ye in 2000, he said, reminding me of 2000 when Offaly beat another reigning champions: the Cork team of 1999, and then to add salt to the wounds he would not stop laughing. What’s so funny, I asked. It’s your accent. I think it’s hilarious. They say you always remember your first, and for me, Denis was a gas man, and just look at that smile.

Denis Duggan

The great thing about Tullamore is that the Bord na Mona stadium is in the heart of the town and a short distance from the pubs where the fans congregate before the game. Walking up from the main street I met with more fans. John Daly and son Stephen who were excited to see the start of another championship year and told me they were hoping to see Galway in Croke Park together again. Did you see them do it together there last year,  I asked. We did and with the help of God, it won’t be another 28 years before we see it again. 

John and Stephen Daly

Hanging around the bridge as the crowds began to stream into the stadium, I stopped and got chatting to a few Offaly fans on their way to see their hurlers entertain Galway. No, I don’t go to all the games, Padraig Mahon told me, but tonight I have to come out and support the lads. 

Padraig Mahon

Making my way over the Grand Canal bridge I was stopped by a member of the local GAA club. There was a raffle for a heifer in their prize draw. What would I do with a heifer, I told them when they approached me. You could take the cash prize instead, they said. But that’s a fine looking heifer, I said.

A Pedigree Limousin Heifer

Just before I could put pen to paper and to get my chance to win the heifer, one of the Faithful County’s most famous supporters caught my eye: the former Taoiseach, Brian Cowan. Not wanting to miss out on the chance of my first celebrity portrait for the project I asked him if I could take his photo. I asked him who he was going to the match with and he said Tony. Get Tony in for the shot, I said. Do you always go together to the games? We always do, the former taoiseach told me.

Ex-Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Tony his friend

Tom Kilgarriff’s son Paul was born in 1988 when Galway were reigning champions. He would be 28 years old before they would become champions again in September last year. Did you go together, I asked. We did and it was special. Really special after all these years. I asked Paul did it mean more because you got to share it with your dad? Oh, yeah of course, he said.

Tom and Paul Kilgarriff

I got into the stadium just after throw-in. Galway eventually made light work of it, but Offaly were still in contention at half-time. I spent most of the match looking for photo opportunities. One of the beautiful things about sport is that we want to share the passion we have for it; to pass it on to our children, to keep it alive. This is so evidently beautiful when you meet people like Joe Clancy. Joe brought his little boy JJ to his first championship match. No, he told me, it’s not his first game. He’s been to two league games already. Why is it important to bring him, I asked. Well, he said, it was 28 years. It could be another 28 years before he sees them as champions again. Joe told me the first match he was at was in 1985. An All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Cork and Galway. A match Galway won to defeat the then All-Ireland champions Cork. I could begin to see a pattern emerging in the stories people were telling me. I had better start telling some of my own.

Joe and baby JJ Clancy

At half-time Galway led by ))))))). The crowd spilled out of the stand and out to tunnel below to use the toilets, calm the nerves with a cigarette, or if you are Martin Lawlor and Tom Errity it was time to for a few pucks of the sliotar while the teams had their break. Both Martin and Tom are in the Offaly development hurling squad. Do ye dream of playing for your country?, I asked. Of course, Martin told me. Why? It’s the pinnacle of everything, he said.

Tom Lawlor and Martin Errity

The second half started and with that Galway went through the gears and began to pull away from Kevin Martin’s men. Still the crowd enjoyed the spectacle. After wandering around the stand I came near the sideline and decided to take a rest and take in the remainder of the game. Galway were on the attack and narrowly missed a scoring chance which was met with loud exclamation of disappointment from the elderly lady sitting next to me. Surprised at her intensity, but at the same time intrigued, I introduced myself and told her about my project. What followed was gold.

I’ll tell you, she said, last September, who were in the final? Galway were, yes. And I was due to fly to New York to meet my brother on that Sunday, but did I go? No! No, I cancelled it. I was not going to miss the final. Did you go to Croke Park? I asked. No, I didn’t. I watched it here in Tullamore. And they won. And you cancelled your flight to  your brother in New York for it? I did and I would do it again.

This information took a while for delivery, as it was punctuated with Mary giving her Galway team encouragement and appraisal to every puck of the ball. Mary told me she was originally from Athenry, but had come to Tullamore many years ago, but had never lost her love for her home county. When the final whistle sounded, she let a little yahoo out of her and with a big smile and fist raised, she said goodbye to me. 

Mary Horan

With the evening slowly beginning to darken the match ended. Galway had eased past Offaly and secured their first two points of the new format championship. As is customary, the fans, mainly kids,  ran on to the pitch at the end to greet their heroes. I followed. I found the star attraction, Joe Canning, in the centre of a huddle signing autographs on sliotars and shirts and hurleys and posing for photos with young fans. Soaked in sweat he stood there for ages without a hint of impatience as the light faded and the wind picked up. I imagine Joe did the same thing himself as a kid. I was tempted to ask for his autograph too, but settled on shaking his hand and telling him I was delighted he won his medal last year. He thanked me and nodded in appreciation.

The great Joe Canning

I left the stadium with a warm glow after the first match of my own journey to Croke Park. I had been a little apprehensive about how this first weekend of my to the heart of hurling photography project would go; would I be able to get good shots, talk to strangers and get their stories? To be honest,  there’s not a lot to it. I love talking hurling and I love photography. Put the two together and I am in my element.

Come back tomorrow for my blog on the dramatic Dublin and Kilkenny match.

Follow this project on Instagram.

 

 

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TO THE HEART OF HURLING: A photographic journey discovering what hurling means to us

TO THE HEART OF HURLING

A photographic journey discovering what hurling means to us

It’s that time of year again. The All-Ireland hurling championship begins in Tullamore this Saturday, as Offaly and Galway face up. It is time again to allow yourself dream. To dream that this year is going to be the year that sees that Liam McCarthy trophy come home. The year that your beloved hurlers will conquer all-comers and emerge triumphant in August.

To the heart of hurling

This year I am dreaming it a little differently. Sure, with all my heart I want to see Cork win it outright, but I also have this passion project of mine. Two of my biggest loves in life are hurling and photography. Over the years, I have always brought my camera along to matches with me, capturing the craic with the lads and family, as well as scenes of the games.

This year I want to do something special. I have been to big sporting events around the world and while they are spectacles to behold and have great atmosphere, they lack a certain something that the GAA has.

What is it? It’s what our games give us: an identity, a uniqueness, something which is ours and ours to be proud of. It is what we do, what we do together. It brings us together, building bonds, giving us memories that live on and ones we live off as we continue to hope and dream that this will be our year. Hurling is alive in us, in our hearts and  I want to get to heart of it with my camera.

I am very happy to announce that Bord Gais are supporting this project and very grateful to them for it.

Follow me as the this year’s hurling championship evolves on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter and on the hashtag #totheheartofhurling

To the heart of hurling

To the heart of hurling

To the heart of hurling

Larry Mackey

To the heart of hurling

To the heart of hurling

To the heart of hurling

 

Posted in Brendan Ó Sé. Brendan Ó Sé photography, photograph posts, Street Photography, To the heart of hurling Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Limited print sale

I am doing a once-off limited edition print of the following photographs. All prints are signed, numbered and certified. Printed professionally using the best museum quality archival papers and inks.

Shipping worldwide.

These images have not been offered before. If interested, please contact me.

Photographic Punctuation

Perpetual Endeavour

The Unbeckoned

 

The pip-pop life span of worries

My Tokyo

My Tokyo

Posted in Brendan Ó Sé. Brendan Ó Sé photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

How to make your photography fun

How can you say you love photography if it is 99% frustration? Do you even enjoy it?

These were some of the questions put to me after my last blog post. Not questions which got me thinking or made me feel anxious about how to answer.

No, I fully know why I continue to shoot and why I truly love everything to do with photography. But, how can you make photography fun? Well…

Toyko, 2017

SEE IT AS FUN

I do it because there are few things in life which satisfy my soul like photography. When I get in the zone, when I am on the street and lost in the moment, it electrifies me. I come alive and whatever worries or problems I may be carrying lighten in load.

It is exhilarating. It is life-affirming. It is fun. And fun is something I believe is so neglected in photography. I believe fun is something which is so neglected in adult life. Ask an adult what they do for fun and you will embarrass them. The word fun seems to become loaded when we pass from childhood. Fun seems like something illicit; something we ought to be ashamed of. Ask a child what they do for fun and watch how excited they get when they tell you. If you have a hobby, you should have that childlike excitement and passion for it. If not, abandon it.

Cork, 2015

YOU ARE MAKING MEMORIES

In August of last year, I gave a talk at at Zafigo X travel conference about photography and how it is all about moments, all about creating memories. Photographs are visual entries in your diary which become powerful in their capacity to catapult you back in time.

When I open up iPhoto (I use it to categorise events) and look through old images, it can launch me back to when and where I was and land me softly in the emotion of that moment. It is magical. It becomes something beautiful when I do it with my two kids. The dynamic of they discovering how they were when they were little babies or toddlers and my reminiscing of days that are now long gone is a gift that just gives and gives.

My little daughter and her grandfather

Sumi-Anna aged two reading Voltaire

YOU CREATE, YOU EXPRESS YOURSELF

I need to create. Why? Because it puts me on a path of discovery and understanding. Photography is about picking up a camera, pointing it at something or someone because your instinct tells you you need to capture that instant; to claim it and keep it for later examination. This in turn may lead to later learning and with some luck lead to subsequent experimentation. When I look back now at what I was shooting in and around 2012/2103, I see I was much more experimental. I shot much more blur; particularly on the iPhone. Why? Because of the limitations of the device. It performed poorly in low light, had no image stabilisation and working my way through this I discovered that these limitations allowed me to create beautiful blur imagery. Funny how these days I sometimes feel I have lost that freedom to create. 

Shot on iPhone 4. 2012

Photographic Punctuation

CONFORM TO ROUTINE

Conform to routine and routine will conform. I am a very ill-disciplined person. My life’s maxim is to not do today what you can do tomorrow, because tomorrow you might not need to do it. I leave things go forever and ever, discovering new excuses to put things off with graceful ease. I have wasted so much time. Photography changed things for me. Flickr found me wanting to share my photography on a regular basis. This meant I had to photograph on a regular basis. I began on Flickr in 2007. By 2009 I was posting photographs there on an almost daily basis. By 2012, I was posting to two accounts almost every day.

I committed to photography. I conformed to the routine and the routine conformed. This calms and soothes my soul. It gives me discipline. There is not a day goes by that I do not spend time taking/making photographs, looking at those of others, reading about photography, or hatching plans for my photography. It has been the most beautiful learning experience and has been so rewarding for me. I can say I have become a better person because of photography, because of the commitment to it. 

Tokyo, 2015

IT IS THE FRIENDSHIPS YOU MAKE

Want to become a better photographer? Here’s how. Spend time with other photographers. You have to. You need to spend time with like-minded people who get you. People who won’t find it strange or rude that you have the concentration powers of a puppy dog when you are walking down a street with them. Spend time with people who inspire you, people who push you to experiment, push you to achieve. People you can learn from. When I look back at the past few years, I see I have been so lucky in this respect. I have met some wonderfully creative people; wonderfully kind people. People whose work can stop me in my tracks and make me want to improve; to get to their level. And those few you might meet along the way who are insecure, jealous and negative. Cut them loose. There is truth in the saying to surround yourself with positive people. 

Copenhagen, 2014

IT IS THE STRANGERS YOU GET TO KNOW

But they are all just photographs of strangers. People you do not know. What is it about random people that interests you? This is what a friend asked me once about my photography. Ya, I don’t know them, but there is something in every one of them that I recognise. Something that resonates with me. I may not be able to immediately (or ever) say what exactly it is, but I photograph them because something attracts my attention to them. It can be a look, a gesture, a posture. It can be because they looked at me. It can be because I want to look at them. They are characters in my story. I can construct or deconstruct their reality to suit my perception; to build my interpretation. 

Waiting for hair to grow. Hanoi, 2012

And then there are those strangers who I get to know a little. Those who I stop and ask if I can take their photograph. Those who I continue to ask questions as I shoot them. Those who I tell little things about myself as I try to get them to reveal who they are. I love these connections. This opportunity to get to know people a little. It can be amazing what they tell you, and it can be beautiful what their portraits can reveal. 

We all want to be seen; we all want to be heard. Photography can allow this.  

Bangkok, 2017

IT GIVES VALIDATION TO WHAT YOU DO

I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a buzz from winning competitions or being selected for big global ad campaigns. The first time I won a competition (Mira Mobile Prize) I cried. It was a dream of mine to win a competition and truthfully I never believed I would. When it came, I was overwhelmed and felt so relieved. It was a form of validation. Any artistic pursuit is framed in doubt. We can never be sure if it is right; if it is worth anything. Competitions provide some validation. But you know, it is bullshit too. Photography should not be a competitive pursuit.

Winning photo: IPPA 2017

IT IS ALL ABOUT LEARNING

What is life about if it is not about learning? It never stops. There is nothing which enriches life more than learning. Granted I could spend my time learning more about the technical aspect of photography or learning about photography gear, but that does not excite me. What does excite me is that with every photograph I take, I learn. Learn about myself, learn about life. See mistakes and ya, get frustrated. But that frustration is positive. It is what drives me to learn and improve. 

London, 2015

STORIES; SO MANY STORIES

So many. Stories that are immediately evident and others that slowly reveal themselves. 

Delhi, 2016 (Nikon D7000)

IT DRIVES YOU ON

I have often talked about how viewing the photographs of my friends has inspired me and pushed me forward in wanting to improve in my own photography. It is so true. Seeing friends posts photos on a regular basis keeps me wanting to do the same. Seeing them shoot something new excites me to get back out and get shooting. I try to spend some time each week looking through photo books of established, renowned photographers. This is a different type of inspiration because these are not photographers I get to engage with. Their work is polished and presented as the finished article. Yet, there is so much to learn as you explore the connections in the photographs they showcase in a coherent and cohesive presentation in book form. 

Mumbai, 2016

YOU DISCOVER HOW TO SEE

What is photography about for me? It is trying to see what can be seen and how to see it.

As Dorothea Lange said: The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera. On every photo walk I have been on, one thing always strikes me. While we all walk the same route and can see the same things, how we observe and interpret them can be so different. It is what makes photography exciting, it is what gives it endless possibilities. When you are working with fractions of seconds when the shutter opens and closes, you are also working with slight shifts in centimetres, angles and aspects which can dramatically alter images.

Photography doesn’t allow me to see, it pushes me to see; to construct, deconstruct and create. It elevates beyond seeing. It allows me to begin to understand. To be part of my surroundings and to be an external observer of it too. 

Tokyo, 2017

So is it really 99% frustration?

Of course it is not. It can feel like that at times, for sure. But it definitely isn’t. It is what I do for fun. And whenever I experience that ongoing frustration, I keep coming back to why I photograph. And the answer is always the same. I do it for fun. I do it for me. 

Bali, 2017

Posted in Brendan Ó Sé. Brendan Ó Sé photography, iPhone, iPhone photography, photograph posts, Street Photography, Travel Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Photography is 99% frustration

Photography is 99% frustration.

99% frustration. So often I arrive at this spot and ask myself why do I do this. I never seem to be satisfied with what I shoot. I am constantly looking at the work of others and thinking mine is pale and lacking in comparison. I scour my photos and rarely find what I thought I had shot, or what I want to capture. Flaws surface to overshadow and silence elements I had thought were strong.

And this is only after the act. The real frustration is out shooting.

Street photography has to got to be the most frustrating of photography genres. You can control nothing. You see it, it’s too late. You can’t stop people. You can’t ask them to move back, to make that gesture again, to not smile. You can’t will the gods to part those clouds to let that light shine in. You become manic, like a lunatic trying to locate where that noise is coming from in the dead of night. You shoot more. You move, thinking the action will be around the next corner. As you’re moving on you look back and see it happening – see that moment you had imagined appear in the very spot you have just left. But you have distanced yourself from it. You think, will I go back? You find yourself stopped in the middle of the footpath. Pedestrians frustrated as they navigate around you. You’re looking up the street, down the street, all the time muttering expletives under your breath – you hope – under your breath. You realise by people’s quizzical looks that these expletives are escaping and are audible. You are talking to yourself out loud. Next you realise the looks you’re getting from the people sidestepping to avoid you would actually make good shots. You raise the camera, but soon realise it is pointless. That moment has also passed you by. Oh, fuck it! What’s the point. You find a doorstep to sit on and bemoan your lot and then notice an interesting crack in the concrete which gets your attention and you delight in this for a moment.

Then images of photographs you have seen, photographs you admire and aspire to get start to populate your thoughts and the frustration returns. Why can’t you get shots like that? How can others find and see and construct those shots? Why does it seem so easy for them and so damn hard for you?

You stop to do the numbers and you realise that almost everything you shoot is shit. On a given day you can shoot hundreds of images. At best they are mediocre. The subsequent swipe through can be swift. The flaws reveal themselves loudly. It’s crazy to calculate but when you are dealing in what can be a 1/250 of a second and you notice that you missed the shot, and had you reacted more quickly you might have gotten it – what are you estimating? – another 1/250 of a second? Is it really that narrow? Really just fractions of a second? Add those fractions up and what do you get? Frustration, that’s what. Disappointment.

But you persevere. That old maxim – leave your photos marinate – comes to mind, and you begin to put faith, or hope, in it. Ya, better to leave them be and see what difference time can make. But you cannot resist it. They are burning and smouldering on your Camera Roll. You give in and begin to work on some images. Editing is the cure-all, no?  How about converting this shot to black and white? Perhaps then the flaws won’t be as loud. What if you add a filter? Maybe a crop, a flip? Never! No matter how bad things get don’t crop; never flip. Except for the times you do. Oh, how you regret those!

Ya, you know what is coming next. Sharing. Social media. Instagram! That beast that must be fed. You need that dopamine hit. And you need it daily. Don’t post for a few days and you begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. But how to choose? You find yourself second guessing your followers; hoping that this shot you will post will be one they will flock to and shower you with faves and comments. You post it and you are like a parent watching a child walk to school for the first time alone. What if no-one likes it? You wait? Those dreaded moments just after you have posted. You’re thinking – will I delete it? I shouldn’t have posted that. What was I thinking? But then the likes trickle in and the reward system cycle calms you with a warm feeling of knowing that your photo may be OK. Maybe it can walk to school by itself. How long does this feeling last? Probably until you begin to scroll through the photos of others’. Then you land on the images of people you admire and you start to compare. Start to become self-critical.

The more I think of all that is associated with photography, the more I wonder why I actually do it. At every stage you are going to encounter frustration, and probably none more than the so-called photography help articles. You know the ones: Ten top tips to up your Instagram game. The top twenty mistakes you keep making and how to stop them. How to teach literally anyone to take amazing, high quality photos.

Well, here’s the thing. You read all these, particularly the Instagram ones. You may not be not much of a gear head, but you are like everyone else. You would love to have a K after the number of Instagram followers you have. How do you get it? What’s the secret? There is none. It is a lottery. OK, you guess if you are going to have selfies showing your killer cleavage, or put your cute cat in a stream of sunset shots you might find favour with the algorithm and be pushed up and out on Instagram’s Explore page. But if you are trying to showcase quality images on Instagram and build an audience, you better have patience. Want a killer Instagram tip? Here’s one. Write out all your tags. You know those ones you spend so damn long on for every Instagram post hoping the hub will feature your shot. Ya, those. Now go to Settings, Keyboard, Text Replacement, +, and paste in those tags to Phrase. Underneath in Shortcut write, for example, tagsbnw. Now the next time you are writing your tags for an Instagram post, just type tagsbnw and click space. Hey Presto! There are your 30 tags all there. Done in a second.

99% frustration. But what about that other 1%?

There is of course that remaining 1% when things fall into place; when you hit the sweet spot and slide into auto-pilot and you get that gift that gives and gives and gives. But that is a photography post for another day. For now, let’s acknowledge the frustration, indulge in the constant challenge. You know, like most things in life, if it was easy, if there was no torment or obstacle, you would probably lose interest. Don’t! It’s all about the next photo.

Kiss the future…

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Brendan Ó Sé. Brendan Ó Sé photography, Street Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Why do you need a second Instagram account

That’s a question I am asked a lot: Why do I need a second Instagram account?

Truth be told I don’t need one and I probably would be better off just focussing on building my main account. Addition is dilution, as they say. That is true. So, why do it then? Well, I shoot a lot of photos. So much gets my visual interest and over time I build up a lot of photographs which lead a lonely existence in the depths of my camera roll. Back in May of 2016 I decided to create another Instagram account and just post photos there that did not feature people. My thinking was that my main account is primarily for street photography shots with the human element. The second account would let me showcase images that just might not ever see the light of day otherwise. I hate rules, but I do apply just one rule to this account: no people.

So, arriving to January, 1st, 2018, I have decided to look back and choose 12 favourites from that stream. An algorithm chose my best nine, but honestly what the f*** does an algorithm know about photography? A bloody lot judging by the success of platforms like Instagram!

Anyway, here goes in selecting 12 photos from my second Instagram account. I am not going to do this like I did when selecting my fave 12 from the main Instagram account – when I chose one photo from each month. This time, I am going to make it easy for myself and just choose 12. (a little side note – I am trying to get this done in the next hour or so – otherwise it will not get done – actually took me over 90 mins)

I hit the streets of Hong Kong wanting to capture street life and character. I had my camera ready for action. My head was on a swivel seeking out that scene. Then I stopped. Perched myself against a yellow facade and shot the passing traffic.

Hong Kong

Korea

When we are in Korea, one of the things we enjoy most is walking to the river near my wife’s parents’ house. The kids love to play in the water. It is a short walk; takes about 5 minutes or so. Over the years I have shot so many photographs and videos of them playing in the water and also so many shots of things I see en route. This one here is an example of the things you can see on the way. I look at it, the kids look at it, they look at me, they look at one another, and then they run on. The river is waiting.

People love it when I tell them that these are coffee pods. I found these in Brown Thomas in Cork when I was in there with my wife one day. I had to ask the store assistant to step out of the way to let me get the shot. When I showed her the shot she said: “Wow, I see that every day, but I have never seen it like this. That’s fabulous.” That made my day.Cork

Tokyo

Tokyo sees a lot of rain. Hit that up with neon and you get some beautiful reflections. This shot was shot using portrait mode to defocus and accentuate the colours. I edited in RNI Films (if you haven’t got that app, you are missing out. Go get it!)

Bangkok is hectic. An assault on the senses. I love the place. So much going on and the people are just the most photo-friendly you can meet. It can be hard to get a shot that gives the sense of activity without having people visible in it. I think this goes towards it.

Bangkok

Korea

I think the reason I like to shoot abstract images when I am out photographing is because there is control in this. It is not like street photography where, as the saying goes, if you see it, it is too late. There is a comfort in finding scenes which are to a degree permanent, ones you can take time with. Ones you can even manipulate. This shot is from Daegu, South Korea. I was wandering around the city frustrated that killer moments were not happening for me. They rarely do. One way to deal with this to seek out photographic constructions. This scene, while appearing calm, screamed at me.

I was asked once in an interview if I ever had a lightbulb moment and it annoyed me. Annoyed me because to begin with I could not recall any and then annoyed even more when I realised how unfortunate that is. A light bulb moment is by nature an abrupt clout of clarity which shakes you from your trodden and dour path. Why didn’t I ever have one? I want one now, I thought. But you can’t will these no matter how you try. But you know now that I am in the process of reviewing my images and wondering what I saw when I took a shot, I begin to think about a moment when an ex-girlfriend of mine spoke to me about seeing colour. I was about 20 years old and I was bored listening to her. She knew this. But she also knew I was not seeing colour. No, she said, you don’t, you don’t see colour, you see colours, but you don’t see colour. This confused me, but by now I was listening to her; no longer bored. Colours, colour, what’s the difference? She continued to tell me, but what she was saying continued to confuse me until I began to try to see it for myself. And then I did, I began to see colour like I had not before.  No matter how I try to explain this I can’t. I am not going to even try. Perhaps the easiest way to achieve this is just by trying to see colour. It is the same with shapes and lines and layers and distortions. They are all there. You just need to train your eye to see them. This photo below is an example of this.

Cork

This photo I love because it is simple and was such an easy shot to get. I like it because when I look at it, I leave it and I am back in Bali. The sky is clear of clouds and the sea is pristine.

Bali

Copenhagen

One of the hardest things I find in photography is to immerse yourself in the scene and to become part of what you are seeing. To allow the viewer feel what you might have been feeling. So often I fail in this. This image here is of a staircase as seen from above. Using a zoom burst I wanted to give the sense of vertigo I was feeling looking over it. I have a dreadful fear of heights.

Vietnam

I obsessed with the future. I struggle so much with optimism. It is like I am on a trampoline. Each time I am vaulted skyward I panic. Enveloping pessimism consumes me. I fear there is nothing under me to cushion my fall. Yet, each time I hit that trampoline optimism is injected and I believe again. What does this have to do with photography? Leading lines, vanishing points, all leading to the future. I stop to examine and caution floods in. But it excites me too. Commit to the future…

Cork

Cork

Trees. They need to cheer the fuck up, you know. Every photographer goes through a phase of shooting trees. They are easy. Stuck there in the ground, unable to make you question the reason why you are photographing them. Snap, snap, snap, they can do nothing. No response. Nothing. Move on to the next tree.

I teach my students how to write. One of the pieces of advice I give them is: Let your ideas control your writing; not your writing controlling your ideas. What does this mean? Well, this blog piece is an example of my writing controlling my ideas. Before I began this piece I had no idea what images I would choose, not to mind what order I might present them in. I even began by telling you that this second account is for photos with no people in them, and now here I am getting to the end of the piece and putting in a photograph with myself in it. I can offer excuses, but they would be pathetic ones like telling you this is my blog and I make the rules. Then, to compound things, I realise this shot is the one I should have used when I was talking about lightbulb moments. Too late. I just could not be arsed going back and reorganising. It’s done!

Anyway, I am choosing this as my last favourite of 2017 from my second Instagram account. Why? Because all my photographs are all about me. I may not be in them, but if you look you will find me. In all of them. Every single one. Even this one.

Not the lightbulb moment shot

Kiss the future….
Posted in Best of year, iPhone, iPhone photography, My own favourite photographs, photograph posts, Travel Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |