A quartet of dedicated and long-time Longford Town fans marked the team’s promotion to the SSE Airtricity Premier Division by posing for a celebratory photograph near the iconic statue of King Sejong in the centre of Seoul.
Edgeworthstown duo Enda Whitney and Colm McNamee, along with Bernard Hughes (Ardagh) and Andrew Kilbride (Killoe), are among approximately 900 Irish citizens living in South Korea which has a population of 51 million.
Two other Longfordians - Diarmuid Farrell (Lanesboro) and Ian Kearney (Longford town) - are also living and working there.
Bernard recalls sneaking out the back of St Mel’s College one afternoon to watch ‘De Town’ play at Abbeycartron in the days before floodlights. He has also attended every game the Republic of Ireland has played in at World Cup Finals since Italia ‘90, and it was after the World Cup of ‘02, jointly hosted by Korea & Japan, that he decided to base himself in Korea.
Having studied Art at Athlone RTC (as the IT was previously known) and drama college in London, Bernard saw the opportunity to produce theatre in English and he formed BH Productions.
He told the ‘Leader’, “BH Productions has staged many plays from around the world including the first ever full length plays in any language in Korea of WB Yeats and Sean O’Casey. The company has also staged plays in Beijing and Singapore.”
An off shoot of the theatre company is The Spotlight Comedy Club which tries to bring professional comedians from overseas to Korea.
When not producing and directing theatre, Bernard works as a freelance actor ( tv,voice overs etc), promoter and also occasionally as a corporate trainer teaching presentation/drama and other skills.
In 2007 he managed to persuade an Irish pub in Seoul to screen the FAI Cup Final between Longford Town and Cork City live. Bernard, who isn’t ruling out returning home in the future, says, “I reckon it may have been the first time ever a League of Ireland game was shown publicly in its entirety in North Asia, if not farther afield.”
Enda Whitney, son of Mary and the late Frank, moved to Seoul in 2013 and he divides his time between teaching English and performing stand-up comedy. Simply known as ‘The Irish Man’ on the comedy circuit, Enda, who previously ran and performed at the Longford Comedy Club hosted by PV’s Pub, was the opening act for visiting American comics Kyle Kinane and Cayton Holland. He has also gigged all over Ireland including the Kilkenny Cat Laughs and in Scotland at the Edinburgh Festival.
A former St Mel’s student and sports all-rounder, Enda played basketball, gaelic football, competed in Community Games and played soccer for Lisryan FC. He remembers lining out with an underage Longford Town side that was managed by John Joe Brennan, father of the late former Town player Shane Brennan.
Enda is eyeing a return home in the near future. He studied counselling after his degree and hopes to work as a teacher and counsellor in Ireland at some stage. He also intends hitting the comedy circuit again and to incorporate some of what he has learned as a teacher and comic in Asia into his act.
A graduate of economics and social studies from NUI Galway, Andrew Kilbride attended many Longford Town games during his childhood. He has been living in Korea for the past four years and he is currently secretary of The Irish Association of Korea.
The association was formed in the 1990’s and it promotes Irish culture in Korea and organises many events including the annual St Patrick’s Day Festival which has in the past attracted up to 10,000 people of all nationalities. Indeed, last year, Ireland and Korea celebrated thirty years of diplomatic relations.
Bernard, who captained the Irish team which finished third overall in the International Dragon Boat Races held in Seoul, is a volunteer with the Irish Association and he was recently presented with an award by the Irish Embassy for his contribution to the promotion of Irish culture.
One of the projects Bernard is most proud to have been involved with is helping to build and raise funds for a permanent monument to all those of Irish birth and heritage who died in Korea and in particular those that fought during the Korean war.
He explained, “Incidentally, while research is still continuing, among those known to have died is a Daniel Keogh from Drumlish who was killed in action aged 25 in 1953 in what is now present day North Korea. This monument was unveiled last year in Seoul with many surviving veterans ,some now in their 80’s,making the long trip from Ireland and elsewhere (some back for the first time since the war) for the event. One of them sadly died the week before he was due to travel.”
Colm McNamee, a past pupil of Edgeworthstown Boys National School and Cnoc Mhuire Secondary School in Granard, has been living in Korea for the past seven months. He has a B.A International and a Masters of Literature in Political Science from the National University of Ireland, Galway. Prior to going to Korea, Colm taught introductory Sociology and Politics at the National University of Ireland, Galway as well as working in administration at the university for eight years.
In his youth, Colm played soccer regularly and he remembers one game refereed by former Town player Zac Hackett.
Colm works as an English teacher with children ranging from ten to thirteen years old in Soyang Elementary School in Incheon just outside Seoul. “I enjoy the experience of teaching English to these children and it is a great source of novelty and amusement as I am the first ever foreign teacher in the school.Initially, I’m contracted for one year but I intend staying longer,” he revealed.
Colm enjoys the scenic beauty of the parts of Korea he has seen so far and vibrant nightlife, particularly in Seoul. He generally doesn’t feel homesick but does miss family and friends and uses many different social media apps to keep in contact with loved ones back home.
Lanesboro’s Diarmuid Farrell lives in Daegu, a city in southeast Korea, where he has been a teacher since 2013. A former student of Lanesboro CC, Athlone IT and NUI Galway, he is an avid sports fan and when living back home he played for Boro Celtic and was a regular attendee at Town fixtures.
Ian Kearney from Longford town is a former St Mel’s student and he has been in Korea for two years and he is teaching in Seoul.
De Town’s 90th anniversary gala awards dinner takes place on Saturday week, December 6 at the Longford Arms Hotel. Awards being presented on the night include Players’ Player of the Year, Supporters Club Player of the Year,Section O Young Player of the Year and Goal of the Season.