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A man-made beach in Killarney: A great idea or absolutely nutty?

WHEN A PROPOSAL FOR A MAN-MADE BEACH IN KILLARNEY WAS LABELLED ‘ABSOLUTELY NUTTY’

IT is, in many ways, Killarney’s best kept secret and, unless it’s accidentally stumbled upon by tourists, the little ‘beach’ at Dundag is where you’ll find only locals dipping their toes with visitors from elsewhere a very rare sight.

Despite the fact that it’s a very short walk from Muckross House – the town’s busiest tourist attraction – Dundag is mainly frequented by Killarney people who relish the opportunity to unwind by the water without having to resort to a 70km round-trip to one of the nearest beaches.

A view of Muckross Lake, at Dundag, in Killarney National Park

If it’s golden sands and sapphire shaded waters you’re seeking then, perhaps, Inch or Rossbeigh might be a better option but Dundag, without the frills or the facilities, can be a very viable option.

It’s rocky, it’s bumpy, it’s basic and, in places, it can de dangerous but it’s also beautiful and it will come as no surprise to learn that several attempts have been made over the years to have the facility upgraded – albeit without success.

Inland Killarney was always going to have to reply on its lakes as opposed to any beach to attract people but the point has been repeated several times that with sand and trees and mountains and spectacular views, Dundag always had tremendous potential – if an effort was made to develop it.

How the Dundag development story was reported 30 years ago

Several proposals were tabled seeking to upgrade the area into something more than a less than standard swimming spot for locals and one of the first to place the matter on the agenda for discussion was former town councillor John Clifton.

The schoolteacher was a Labour Party member of the former Killarney Urban District Council in the 1980s and he repeatedly stressed the importance of Dundag to the local people and the enormous potential it had for development. Nothing came of his representations, however.

The campaign was brought a step further in 1991 when another former councillor, Green Party representative Michael Lucey, urged the Office of Public Works to upgrade the facilities at Dundag to cater for the needs of the thousands or people that visit there every year.

It wouldn’t require much investment: a lifeguard to patrol the area during peak season, additional lifebuoys to ensure the safety of swimmers, a few basis facilities and  a general clean-up of the area.

“Because beaches like Rossbeigh and Inch are so far away, locals and tourists flock to Dundag to swim – yet the facilities there are so dismal,” Cllr Lucey said at the time.

And he summed up local opinion when he stressed that it wouldn’t cost much to upgrade the facility. But, again, nothing came of his representations.

Former councillor Michael Lucey
Former councillor John Clifton

Not all the Green Party members concurred with the beach development suggestion, however. When former Kerry Fianna Fáil TD, the late John O’Leary, stood up in the Dáil that same year to propose that a man-made beach be developed in Killarney, one prominent Green representative described the idea as “absolutely nutty”.

Deputy O’Leary suggested that fabulous man-made beaches in the US State of Michigan were a great example of what could be achieved and he said it could lure so many tourists to Killarney. But Greens activist Eugene O’Shea, who also briefly held a seat on the local council, said it would interfere with the natural ecology of the lakes.

“National parks are for conservation and that is set out on the management plan of all such parks,” he insisted.

Over three decades have now passed since John Clifton and Michael Lucey highlighted the potential of Dundag but, if a week is a long time in politics, then 30 years or more can be considered nothing at all when it comes to government inaction.

Perhaps it’s time to revisit the matter and take a more modern day look at the potential of Dundag. Is any one of our seven local councillors prepared to carry the torch further? It would be interesting to see, 30 years from now, what kind of progress they made. But don’t hold your breath.

A GLORIOUS MEMORY WHEN TOWN RIVALS TEAMED UP – AND WON

THEY have been fierce rivals down through the generations with no love lost, no quarter asked and none given but when the footballers of Dr Crokes and Legion joined forces back in 1983 they proved to be a very formidable outfit – to put it mildly.

The Killarney team, made up of Dr Crokes and Legion players, pictured after the 1983 Kerry senior football championship semi-final victory over Shannon Rangers, front from left, Pa O’Donoghue, Richard O’Brien, Diarmuid O’Donoghue, Kevin Murphy, Josie O’Donoghue, Connie O’Carroll and John Clifford with, back from left, Liam Hartnett, Padraig Brosnan, Brendan Keogh, Mikey Doody, Mike O’Grady, PJ O’Leary, Colm Galvin and Tommy Parker

They played under the Killarney banner to assemble a very strong squad, at a time when neither of the town clubs were enjoying much solo success at senior level, and they went on to bring the Bishop Moynihan Cup home to Killarney which sparked great joint celebrations.

At that stage, Legion hadn’t won the county championship since 1946 and it was 1914 since Dr Crokes had been kingpins of Kerry.

The astute Eddie ‘Tatler’ O’Sullivan was the man charged with the responsibility of bringing the honours back to town and he assembled a great combination of both clubs with Richard O’Brien of Legion – later to play with Kerry ­­– between the posts and was protected by a rock solid defence featuring players of the calibre of Brendan Keogh, John Clifford and Liam Hartnett of Crokes and Connie O’Carroll and Padraig Brosnan of Legion.

The O’Donoghue brothers, Johnny, Pa and Josie of Dr Crokes were also involved and Killarney’s aces in the pack up front included Diarmuid O’Donoghue, then a Kerry regular and father of current inter-county and Legion star James, the livewire Mike O’Grady of Crokes, stylish Legion star PJ O’Leary and towering Dr Crokes full forward Mike Buckley.

On their way to the 1983 final, Killarney overcame stiff challenges from Laune Rangers, Kerins O’Rahillys and Shannon Rangers before ousting a Feale Rangers side, boasting Kerry stars Jimmy Deenihan, Tim Kennelly and Johnny Mulvihill, in the decider on a 0-10 to 1-4 scoreline, following a replay.

Killarney were back in the county final three years later but after losing by four points to Austin Stacks, Legion and Crokes went their separate ways once again – and they stayed apart.

Other players involved in that star-studded 1983 squad included Kevin Murphy, Mike Lucey and Pat Healy of Legion and Colm Galvin, Tommy Parker, Noel Parker, Donie O’Leary, Brian Looney, John O’Leary and Mikey Doody of Dr Crokes.

DERMOT, NEILY, JOHNNY AND THE INDIANS HIT THE STAGE

THOSE were the days, my friends, when Killarney stage stars Neily O’Connor, Dermot Moriarty and Johnny Reidy crossed paths with Indians in full battledress – and there wasn’t a single arrow fired in anger.

Locals of a certain vintage will remember when the Castle Heights Hotel in Killarney was entertainment central on Thursday nights and revellers flocked there in their hundreds, dressed in all their finery and hitting the dance floor with a vengeance.

Popular costume dance band The Indians held court there one March night in 1983 but not even they could compete with the remarkable value the following week when Neily O’Connor and The Valley Rovers took to the stage and, if that wasn’t enough, they were quickly followed by country and western star Dermot Moriarty, Trish Creagh and Johnny Reidy and Tennessee on a night that read like a who’s who of the Killarney entertainment world.

And even better still – the admission fee on the night was just £2.00 and there was even a late bar included to ensure the venue couldn’t be accused of sending them home sweating.

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