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Fe 13's travel to Belfast

06 April, 2011

Mainistir Na Corann CLG
Fe13 Trip to Belfast
Mar 18th to Mar 20th 2011

In August 2010 Damien McConville, a brother of our Fe 13 mentor Martin, was on a visit to Martin’s family and kindly took a training session with our Fe 13’s. Following this a discussion ensued between Damien, Martin and our other team mentor John Mulcahy where the proposal of a visit to Damien’s club, Lamh Dhearg, in Belfast by the Midleton 2011 Fe 13 squad was mooted. In the following months the 3 amigos, in conjunction with the committees of their respective clubs, worked together to put the logistics for the plan in place.
On Friday morning, March 18 2011, our FE 13 squad gathered at our Main GAA grounds in preparation for the long trip to Hannahstown in Belfast, the home of Lamh Dhearg CLG. We were blessed with a fabulous fine morning as we met to load the bus and say our farewells. The boys and adults travelling must have been excited by the prospect of the trip as all were present in good time of time and anticipation for the trip ahead filled the air.
The bags were loaded onto the bus and there wasn’t a square cm of space available once it was loaded - with some people travelling with all but the kitchen sink! Comments of “how long is he going for” “has he packed enough for everyone” etc etc went on and this in fairness applied mostly to the old stagers as the boys were travelling light for the most part. Once the goodbyes had been said and reassurances given that all would return well on Sunday we hit the road north with the next stopped planned for the Midway just outside Portlaoise at about 1pm.
We were making good time from the start, despite having to take the back roads to Fermoy following the closure of the N25 at Little Island, but as with all the best road trips things do not always go to plan and we got a puncture when we were about 10 minutes away from our scheduled stop.
The boys remained on the bus while the adults disembarked to replace the wheel, “good crack” was had among the impromptu pit crew while this was happening and amazingly those further way from the “coal face” got dirtier than those at the heart of the Job!
With the wheel replaced it was onto the Midway and the planned break for lunch. While there the prudent decision to get the damaged spare replaced meant we had a longer than anticipated stop over and the boys availed of this time to indulge in some quiet relaxation and meditation ahead of the re-commencement of the outward journey – NOT. Once the bus returned with all wheels again fit for use we resumed the Journey to Belfast.
Once we hit the outskirts of Belfast Martin McConville took over the co-driver duties and directed us to our host club grounds up on Hannahstown Hill (in fact a mountain overlooking Belfast and not a hill as one of the group described it).
We were well received by the Lamh Dhearg club with their Fe 13 panel eagerly awaiting us on the field to play a 15 aside football game! Before the game a minutes silence was observed in memory of our former club chairman, the late Sean Keohane.
As the game progressed it was very obvious that the boys were suffering a little in the physical stakes following the long Journey north and the home team – who were very impressive in their football which is their clubs primary game – won well in the end. Following the game we had a “meet & greet” time between our boys and the Lamh Dhearg boys where we indulged in a Pizza Supper and held a table quiz with teams made up of members of both clubs so the boys could get to know each other. During the course of the table quiz the lads began to relax with each other and at the end of it friendships where already being formed, the quiz was a great success with just 8 pts between the winning team and the team in last place - who by the way were the self professed “legends team” - although it must be said they had a number of justifiable queries as to the marking system in use!
Following the Quiz a presentation was made to Lamh Dhearg to mark the occasion of our visit and we retired to our accommodation for the weekend which was to be the local Hannahstown Parish Hall.
Here we unloaded all the gear loaded up in the morning in Midleton, along with the food etc for our breakfast each morning, got ourselves familiar with our surroundings and to quote a famous Christy Moore song “got the air mattresses inflated and sleeping bags rolled out”.
This was then followed by one of the biggest and most enjoyable pillow fights ever witnessed, as the boys were still full of energy, and it was about 1.30am when the final “troop inspection” was carried out and all were settled or asleep.

Saturday morning began for some with a text about 4am but the boys slept on until about 7.30am when we rose, tidied away the sleeping gear and set the hall up for breakfast. Breakfast consisted of a choice of cereals, toast, orange juice, tea or coffee and from the chatter coming from the tables it was obvious the long journey and late night had done little to dampen the boys’ spirit or enthusiasm for the trip. After breakfast we had some time to spare before the bus returned to the hall to take us the short trip back to Lamh Dhearg CLG so Martin took us on a guided tour of the local area and the boys spent a few pounds in a local shop - as they were burning huge holes in their pockets by now! On our return to the hall – after an uphill “climb” which we walked despite some of the older group members looking for the bus to help – the boys had a few games of indoor football while we waited for the bus.
Once we got the bus back to Lamh Dhearg we set about the process of selecting our 2 teams, ‘Midleton Magpies’ and ‘Midleton Rebels’, for the Hurling Blitz which was to be an eleven aside competition.
Two of the invited teams withdrew on the morning of the blitz so in the group stages each team played 2 instead of 3 games. Before the blitz began the participating teams again observed a Minutes silence in tribute to the late Sean Keohane. During the course of the group stages we played Lamh Dhearg (won), Cushendal (won), O’Donovan Ross (lost) and St Teresa’s (won). During the break between the group and knock out stages we were fed in the club hall where our Hurling captains for the year Conor O’Neill & Padraig O’Brien presented the other participating clubs with Pendants to mark the occasion.
When the points from the group stages were added up we had both the Magpies and the Rebels in the Cup Semi-Final’s. The Magpies beat O’Donovan Rossa while the Rebels lost out very narrowly to Cushendal. This meant the Magpies were through to the Cup final while the Rebels went into the plate semi-final against O’Donovan Rossa, where despite leading all through right from the throw in they lost out by the narrowest of margins to 2 late Rossa goals.
In the Cup final the Magpies got the better of a good Cushendal side to claim the prize.

The Cup and Plate where presented to the winning captains – Padraig O’Brien in Midleton's case – by Lamh Dhearg and Antrim Senior Hurler Michael Herron and Padraig made a tremendous speed ‘as gaelige’ in which he thanked all who organised and participated in the Blitz.
During the blitz itself there was some strange occurrences on and off the field which could be ready made titles for horror books – ‘the incredible swelling head’ and ‘the dazzling purple shirt’ to name but two!
Following the blitz, and once the boys were all showered and changed, we watched a little of the Ireland v England game in the Lamh Dhearg clubhouse before we travelled about 20mins by bus to a local restaurant for our evening meal. This was a very tasty dish of roast chicken, mash and veg followed by dessert.
Damien McConville presented each boy (and a few supporters who made the trip) with a medal to mark their participation and winning of the cup competition. During his address to the lads Damien again made reference to a theme that ran right through the whole weekend which was the impeccable behaviour of the boys at all times.
We followed this meal with a trip – via the “scenic route” where we got to see some landmarks more times than we needed to- to the crazy golf centre in Antrim town.
Here the boys had a great time even if the so called golfers in the group proved that old adage – drive for show putt for dough – was very applicable to them. Having completed the demonstration of their putting skills – or lack of – the boys and adults all returned to the Lamh Dhearg clubhouse for what turned out to be a very short stay to watch the night’s big fight!
Earlier than anticipated, thanks to the short fight, we arrived back at the hall and again laid out the sleeping arrangements for the night. The boys “settled” down for the night following the “we have to have” pillow fight which one person some how managed to sleep right though and with the last “troop inspection” at 2am all were asleep for the night. The night gave rise to another possible book title - the roof lifting snore – along with some suspect odours but all managed to get some few hours sleep!

Sunday morning the group rose at about 7.30am, had breakfast, packed the bags and tidied up the hall for the last time. The bus arrived back at the hall for 8:15am and we loaded all the baggage for the trip home. We then travelled into Belfast city, where we attended morning mass in St John’s Church on the Falls Road and finally returned to Lamh Dhearg CLG to say farewell and thanks to Damien McConville for his invitation as well as his time and effort in organizing the weekend.
We had an hour or so to spare before we had to hit the road south again so it was decided to take the opportunity to visit Stormont Castle, home of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly.
On the trip across Belfast to Stormont the bus passed a number of known landmarks, such as Harland and Wolff shipyard and Divis Tower as well as travelling up the Newtownards Road, famous for its murals.
At Stormont Castle we walked the straight mile that stretches from the gates to the Carson Statue in front of the Castle and back again – though some ran the mile back! We then departed Belfast for Dublin.
Enroute to Dublin we stopped for a quick snack outside Lusk, Co. Dublin and then travelled onto Stillorgan in Dublin to play Kilmacud Crokes in a fifteen aside hurling game. Before this game our team captain presented the Kilmacud captain with another pendant to mark our visit to them.
The boys all played very well in this game, despite them being visibly tired from their weekend exertions and they put in a great performance to beat the home side and afterwards we were fed on soup and sandwiches in the Kilmacud clubhouse.
We then resumed our trip home and had a short “pit” stop at the midway in Portlaoise again so all could fill up or empty the systems as required. The final leg of the trip home passed quickly with some impromptu onboard quizzes being held and again as on Friday night some of the answers accepted and given as correct were to say the least “questionable” but as the saying goes “the judges ruling is final in all cases” even if that judge has a mental block due to family ties!
Finally at about 9:10pm we arrived back at our main Gaa grounds some 60 hours after our departure on Friday and with the reassurances of Friday fulfilled and all returned fit and well if more than a little worn out to their parents, the trip had officially come to an end.

Overall the trip went off very very well without any major mishap or incident and all the planned events – games, quiz, “sleepover” in the hall – crazy golf etc as well as the unplanned ones – Stormont visit – pillow fights etc. were all well received and enjoyed by all and it was a trip that was undoudtly enjoyed by all and will hopefully hold memories for those involved for years to come.
This recounting of the trip could not be concluded without special mention being made of the behaviour of the boys. Over the weekend many words were used by the many people they came into contact with to describe this, some of which where – first class, exemplary and fantastic. The boys were undoudtly a credit to their parents, families, club and above all themselves in the manner which they conducted themselves both on and off the field for the entire weekend and it was and is a pleasure to be associated with such a great bunch of lads.

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