Michael Cusack Centre- a must for GAA fans

I visited the Michael Cusack centre by complete accident. I was actually on my way to the Burren Centre in Kilfenora when I saw the sign and figured it was closer than Kilfenora.  My uncle had been going on about how great the centre was a few weeks ago so I figured I’d go down and see it.

The centre is tucked away down a little road between Ballyvaughan and Kilfenora.  Thankfully it’s well signposted.  The only distinguishing feature from the road are the flags flying outside.  For a place that’s in the middle of nowhere, it has a beautiful centre. The building is looks very new and blends into the surroundings.  A short walk down the path is a thatched cottage, home of Michael Cusack.

Entry for a student was about 4 euro so a trip here won’t break the bank.  The man at reception was chatty and friendly and explained the whole thing to me.  I was happy to walk around the education room and read the displays which are in English and Irish, bonus points for that.  I usually get really bored walking from one display to another but these were super interesting.  They take you through his early life, education, early career, motivation behind founding the GAA, trouble when he did found it and his later life.  I was slightly traumatized when I realised how terribly his life ended.

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Displays of the life and times of Michael Cusack.

Just a few minutes after I had started reading, another worker, Seamus, came in and we started to chat about the impact that Michael Cusack had on modern Ireland.  The fact that GAA clubs are not exclusively located in Ireland are a testimony to the legacy that he left behind.  Seamus  was so enthusiastic about the topic and knew loads of little facts and points on the life of Michael Cusack.

The walk from the indoor display to the cottage is short but pretty.  A row of trees line the path down and it was explained that they were planted for the anniversary a few years ago.

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The Tipperary Tree .

And then the most beautiful little cottage appeared.  This cottage houses a three part audio visual on the early life, education and finally the meeting in Hayes Hotel in Thurles.  The house is decorated with appropriate pieces of furniture and the videos run in sequence while you move from one room to another.

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The cottage that Michael Cusack grew up in.

 

I didn’t expect to enjoy this attraction because I’m not all that interested in GAA but when I got there, I found myself becoming enthralled in the life of the man who founded the GAA.  Everything is so well presented that it’s hard for me to fault anything about my experience there.  Big shout out to the staff that were there on the day.  They seemed to have all the time in the world to speak with me and we had a great conversation about anything and everything.  Would I go back? Absolutely. And I think that every GAA team should consider going to this to see and appreciate the man from Carron.  You cam find out more by logging on to their website http://michaelcusack.ie/

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My visit to Caherconnell Stone Fort

I’ve worked near Caherconnell for a while but shamefully I’ve never actually visited. I had heard that there were sheepdog demonstrations at Caherconnell so I decided that today was the day that I would go and see what they were all about.  Obviously, they don’t just do them on demand so you have to check the website for the times. You can access that here

I arrived in plenty of time so first was the visit out to the fort.  A joint student ticket costs about 8.20 so good value for what you get.  Prices are all on their website.  The man at the reception desk was really informative, explaining the self guided tour and going through the booklet you receive.  First, there is a 20 minute video that explains about the Burren, the forts in the area and the significance of Caherconnell as well as an animation of how life might have been like in the fort.

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Through the stones of the wall around the fort. 

From there you continue to the fort and each stop is marked with an explanation in the booklet.  Because it’s a self guided tour, it is as entertaining and interesting as you make it yourself. I thought it was fascinating and it seems like there are archaeological digs continuing there so I look forward to hearing about any findings.

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Some of the flowers around the fort.

I headed back inside for a bite to eat before the sheepdog demonstrations.  The menu was so good, I felt really pressurized to make the right choice, so many delicious dishes, so little time. In the end, I went for a toasted wrap.  It was a little on the untoasted side but the cafe is so cute and the staff are all pottering around doing little jobs that I didn’t really care that it was a little cold.

Eventually, the sheepdog demonstration happened. I really only visited for the sheepdogs and they did not disappoint! First, the farmer, John, introduced the dogs and the job they do and it was so lovely to see how well he knew their personalities.  He was so knowledgeable about the subject that it was a pleasure to hear him speak.

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The farmer with a pup that they are training.  

Then the dogs went out and he showed us how they work by voice and by whistle.  Those dogs have mad skills, super handy with the sheep and mad for action.

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The dogs in action. 

He worked the dogs several times before getting them to work together and separate the herd. Finally, we learned a bit about the type of sheep used in the Burren and the reasons for the different colours on them and so on. The demonstration took about 40 minutes or so.

I cannot recommend this place enough. I must have spent well over 2 hours here between exploring the fort, eating and checking out the sheepdog demo.  The staff are my kind of staff, well presented, working away at different jobs, polite and informative.  The attraction is so simple but effective.  If you want to find out more, including where they are located, you can check out their website here.

Dunguaire Castle & Kinvara Farmers market

It was my first day off since I moved down to Kinvara so I thought I’d stay local on my first adventure. First stop was Dunguaire Castle, just outside Kinvara.  They have a car park and there always seems to be people around the castle so I expected something amazing.

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I didn’t go into the castle because the door that led inside was firmly closed and no one else was venturing in either. So instead, I walked the short path around the castle.  And there it was, the deciding factor, litter. I HATE litter in tourist attractions. It spells laziness and there were so many cigarette butts, coffee cups, pieces of paper and so on littering the path.  It doesn’t kill anyone to do a litter pick once a day and keep the place clean.  After that there wasn’t much else to do there so I just strolled down to the farmers market.

The farmers market is like a farmers festival in Kinvara! It takes place on Fridays from 10am and it’s the happiest market I’ve ever been to.

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There were singers and a small number of stalls but the market had everything from cheese to chutney to hand cream.  And the atmosphere was so relaxed, people were just sitting down, chillaxing.  I definitely would recommend a visit to Kinvara on a Friday to catch the market but Dunguaire castle, while it makes a nice photo is simply not worth the visit.

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Nenagh- open for tourists between 2pm and 3pm.

My friend and I decided to explore the touristy things in Nenagh today. It all started pretty well with the Google search filling us with hopes of a castle visit, Gaol visit and potentially a few more interesting buildings along the way.

Think about the last time you heard a tourist tell you that Nenagh was on their must see list. You probably never heard that and today I discovered why. Don’t take me wrong, there are plenty of things to see in Nenagh but only is you get there on a specific time and day.

There’s no way anyone can explore a town without a cup of coffee so first stop was Cafe Q. The place was packed and the lady who gave us her table assured us that this was the best coffee in town. It was pretty delicious as was the Danish. The place had a good atmosphere and everyone was happy out drinking their coffees and nibbling on the tasty treats.

Refueled, we headed out the door and off down the street confidant that we could find a castle ourselves. Unfortunately for us, we don’t have that many geographical skills so we asked a nice young lady for directions. She warned us that it was “a long walk” but gave us stellar directions and a whole five minutes later we arrived at the castle. It was only 3.45pm but the gate was closed and a sign told us that it was “Closed for lunch” but also only open between 2pm and 3pm. Really? 2pm and 3pm? What kind of a castle is this??? What kind of tourists know to show up between 2 and 3 if they want to see it? We took this sad looking photo from the gate.

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The Courthouse looks like something straight out of Hunger Games. A spectacular building which was also closed but I’m not sure if it would even be accessible anyway.

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The church was potentially the most spectacular. As a bonus, it was open. We took a quick look inside and the only thing missing was a short history.

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We didn’t bother going to Nenagh Gaol because the website states opening hours as 10pm to 4pm Monday to Friday. I believe it is actually referred to as “Nenagh Heritage Centre”

So what did we learn?

If you’re a tourist at the weekend, you’re all out of luck and any other day is potentially hit and miss. If you do venture into the town, be sure to go between the hours of 10am and 4pm and especially between 2pm and 3pm. The only thing I can actually guarantee is a decent cup of coffee in Cafe Q.