St. Colmcilles GAA Club, Pairc Ui Rís, Piltown, Bettystown, Co Meath 0877441731

In this instalment of ‘The 5 Minute Read’ we speak to the understated and respected Ken McHutcheon. Ken coaches his daughters U11 team and organises / coaches the kids at a weekly run Special Needs session every Saturday morning in Piltown. While Ken hails from Dublin his heart is well and truly entrenched in St Colmcilles with his family and friends all part of it. Ken is responsible for setting up the Special Needs training facility with support of key club members and has plans for its improvement. He also has 650 songs in a Spotify playlist which begs the question as to why he doesn’t create more playlists…. Ladies and Gentlemen, Ken McHutcheon

My name is Ken McHutcheon and I have been living in Grange Rath since January 2005. I am married to my wonderful wife Lyndsey. We have 2 children, Honor who is 11 years old and Mikie who is 8 years old. I am a very proud Dub, born and reared in Stoneybatter, Dublin 7 with many happy childhood memories. I went to primary and secondary school in nearby Brunswick Street and went to college in Rathmines where I obtained my degree.

I have been working in the area of aircraft refuelling in Dublin Airport since 1996 and after 22 years there, I still enjoy the work and that special buzz that exists around the airport.

Ken McHutcheon, cilles, st colmcilles, meathgaa

In my youth I played Gaelic football with St. Oliver Plunketts but played other sports too. I was a very keen basketball player in my teenage years and used to play a lot of snooker back in the day, competing in a number of tournaments in the Dublin area. I love all sports and it doesn’t matter if it is Gaelic, Soccer or Rugby. I am obviously a true blue supporter of the Dublin Gaelic teams, a die-hard Liverpool supporter and Ireland rugby supporter with many trips to Anfield and the Aviva Stadium under my belt. Another passion of mine is music and I am proud of my 650 song collection on my Spotify playlist. One of my most memorable sports related experiences was when I met and spoke at length to the legendary Muhammad Ali – a very special memory.

We heard about St.Colmcilles GAA club for local people in Grange Rath very quickly after moving in there. In the summer of 2013, I brought my daughter Honor to Sunday morning academy. My immediate reaction to the club was so good, there was a brilliant community feeling and big welcome to all. I started to volunteer around the same time, coaching my daughters group in the summer of 2013 along with Jackie Grant. I have been coaching this group of girls teams (presently under 11’s) since then and really enjoy the challenge. To see the girls progress playing the game, having fun and most importantly see them make so many friends. Watching them become a team is worth all the effort. I have made so many new friends through the club and have got to know many parents through the group.

A number of years ago several people in the club asked me when my little lad would start playing football for the club. They didn’t realise that my little boy had autism. It was at this time that I thought about what could be done for my son and other children with disabilities. I always wanted my boy Mikie to be part of a club, be involved in sport and I was not going to let his disability stop this from happening. I made a suggestion to Jackser Kavanagh on St. Patricks day 2017 that I would like to set up something for children with special needs in the club. The support that I received from Jackser, Keith and other members in the club for this initiative was overwhelming. I immediately got to work and in May 2017 we started in the cage every Saturday morning. This session takes place every Saturday morning in Piltown at 10.30am.

This group has grown to be something very special for the children and parents involved. When I see the kids getting involved, enjoying themselves, making progress and most importantly to see them happy with smiles on their faces, it makes it all worthwhile. Our door is always open for more children to get involved. It is also such an important gathering for parents to meet up and chat.

When coaching / teaching these kids, you will realise that every child is different and it is all about bringing them to their potential. In the last year, the number of volunteers has increased. A special mention has to go to Martina Gillick and David who have been there from the start. In 2018, the number of volunteer coaches has increased with Joe Kelly, Gwen Lanigan, Grainne Rice and Jackser Kavanagh coming on board.

Going forward, I would like to see this group grow with more children and with recent funding received, have additional equipment which is focused specifically at special needs. My ambition for the future is to have a Cul Camp especially for special needs in the Meath area and I have already kick-started this discussion with Meath GAA.

I didnt have to think long when asked whom within the club I looked up to. That person has to be Jackser Kavanagh. I knew Jackser many years ago through an old job of mine and it was brilliant to see a familiar face first day that I arrived to the club in 2013. He is an absolute gentlemen, thoughtful, a great family man and his dedication to the club for many years is amazing.

I get great enjoyment and pride in seeing the children in both my Under 11s girls group and special needs group. I enjoy seeing them enjoy themselves and see them progress. It is just brilliant. I continue to make new friends in the club and Colmcilles is the heartbeat of this community. I have a number of special highlights in the past few years. Taking part in the Oskars earlier this year was a brilliant experience, great craic and to be part of the winning movie “Forest Gump” was extra special. My best memory has to be Croke Park in July. We received a special invitation to Croke Park from the GAA for our group of very special children. On the day, it was with great pride that we were asked by the GAA to make a presentation to Harry and Meghan on behalf of the GAA. To see so many Colmcilles jerseys on front page photos of many newspapers / Hello magazine and several social media sites was fantastic. It was a very proud moment and we have memories that will live with us forever.

The future is bright at this club. It is getting bigger and better every year and my hope is that we will see a new clubhouse soon and more pitches in the future. I would encourage any person thinking about getting involved to just do it. Get involved, it is a brilliant thing to do. It is one of the best things that I have done.

Words: Ken McHutcheon

Photos: Brian Mulligan

Croke Park Images: Open Source