It wasn’t always like this. The group now known as the River Island Hotel Card Players started out life at Skevena’s Bar and Restaurant across the street from their current abode.
And that was 20 years ago this month. The occasion was marked by a presentation to the man who started it all those years ago. It’s an event and organisation worthy of borrowing the iconic Blasket Islands book title, Fiche Bliain ag Fás for.
John ‘Skevena’ O’Sullivan was surprised with a cupla focal of appreciation and thanks at one of their recent and regular, Sunday night gatherings at the River Island Hotel. He was then presented with an inscribed glass vase on behalf of the committee and the room full of players.
This school is running since September 1994 and was set up by John at Skevenas Bar as a fundraiser for the Castleisland Coursing Club. The club was about to buy and develop its own grounds just off the Black Road in Tullig at the time. And the card sessions sped up the transaction and subsequent development by years as ‘doggie’ men and women came from all quarters in support.
When that mission was accomplished, and the bills paid, they decided to keep the card-school going and turn their financial attentions to local charities.
When Skevenas closed in January 2007 the cards went to Lawlor’s Restaurant down the street for a while. Then it crossed the street, diagonally, to the Crown Hotel for a period. Eventually it settled at the River Island Hotel and now the players are collectively and officially known as The River Island Hotel Card Players.
“The card players of the River Island Hotel have contributed €35,000 to charities since it all began and we would like to thank all our players who helped raise the funds and the management and staff of the hotel for the use of the facilities here over the years,” said organising committee PRO, John O’Connell before he and committee member, Donie Cremins made the presentation to the popular, Lixnaw native, Mr. O’Sullivan.
Only recently the ‘school’ donated five cheques to charities. The cheques of €1,000 each were presented to representatives of the following: Pieta House, Castleisland branch; Recovery Haven, Tralee; Crumlin Children’s Hospital, Dublin; Kingdom Care, Tralee and Saint Mary of the Angels, Beaufort.
The ‘charity money’ is raised by means of an admission fee of €7 per player each Sunday night. The weekly gathering attracts an average of 60 to 70 players per night and they come from all corners of Kerry and from well beyond the borders of Cork and Limerick.
From the players’ admission fee the organisers pay out winnings and place prizes of €150 / €75 and several €20 awards for best ladies, best gents and mixed as well as the odd cash spot prize.
Their considered charities are chosen from the local pool or those in which there is a local involvement. There are many charities throughout the locality and beyond which have benefited from their kindness down through the years. Card players are always welcome at the Sunday night gatherings. The games begin at 9pm.