All Aboard the Club Express

This time of year is as busy as it gets on the sporting calendar. Last weekend we had Johnny Sexton, the Superbowl, the Dublin Festival of Racing and a full round of fixtures in the Allianz Leagues.

In the midst of all the high octane games and encounters it can be hard to make sure of catching everything you’d want to.

That is of course unless it’s your team, your club, your parish that is in action, and that is where the AIB GAA Club Championship or even the Ulster Bank All Ireland League maintains a special hold.

This weekend I will be part of a crowd of maybe 3,000 souls heading on our very personal Trip to Tipp with Cuala GAA club for the AIB All Ireland Club Hurling Championship semi-final against Liam Mellows of Galway.

Until you’ve been a part of something like this it’s almost impossible to imagine the passion and the fervour.

Cuala has hired a special train to take a lucky 450 passengers that got in quick enough to book their tickets from Dun Laoghaire to Thurles, via the Phoenix Park tunnel leaving on Saturday morning.

There will be face painting, teas and coffees, chat and laughter in the Royal Marine Hotel from early in the morning and the 2018 Girls Feile team will be spending tonight cutting ham sandwiches and packing goodie bags to seel en route as part of their fundraising to buy new red and white gear to represent their club in two months time.

They will be heading in cars and buses throughout the day and Thurles Sarsfields have thrown open their doors in welcome to provide further sustenance before and after the 4 pm throw-in.

The reason it matters is that these are lads who we have grown up with, who we pass and chat with on the side of a pitch or on the streets of Dalkey.

Their parents are our friends and fellow coaches of the next generations coming through. They are what we are, sporting people with a love of playing games and an understanding to celebrate the high days when they come along.

Cuala is no different at heart to those who will travel from Galway, from Limerick and from Derry with dreams of a day out at Croke Park on March 17th.

We are no different from those from Kanturk, Moy and Ardmore who completed their journey at intermediate and junior level last weekend.

Newstalk Off The Ball presenter Oisin Langan was there while his colleagues Joe Molloy and Dave McIntyre were focused on Paris and his reaction after watching his club winning at Croke Park summed up what it means.

“Give me a local hero over a superhero anytime. Words can’t express how proud I am of my club and my home Ardmore GAA.”

For one day we will watch the world of sport from one step removed. There will be great feats achieved at the Aviva Stadium, the titanic clash of Dublin and Cork Ladies Footballers will take place before we’ve made it back, medals will be won and lost at the Winter Olympics but all of that will take second place behind cheering our local heroes.

AIB has shone a spotlight on what it means to be involved at club level to a wider audience. They have supported and promoted the games at a local level in ways that have garnered high praise and multiple awards.

Tomorrow is the next step on a magical journey with friends and family. All Aboard!

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Image credit: Sam Barnes, Sportsfile

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