On Tuesday and Wednesday Croke Park opened its gates, as it does twice a year, to host the finals of the Dublin Allianz Cumman na mBunscoil Finals. For those involved, it is the best sporting day of the year.
Cumman na mBunscoil is the teacher-led body that manages sports competitions for national school children across the country.
It is also one of Allianz’ key sporting partnerships and the delight on the faces of those taking part gives an indication of why that should be so.
I have been very fortunate to have had children involved in finals over recent years and so it was again on Tuesday when daughter Lucy, captured in full flight above by Piaras O’Mídheach of Sportsfile, lined out for Scoil Lorcáin of Baile na Manach.
We have seen at close quarters the after-school coaching that is put in by the teachers, the logistics of trips to Fairview Park and elsewhere along the path with Croke Park always tantalisingly on the horizon.
A semi-final win last month secured the Golden prize and to see your little girl or boy step tentatively from the Croke Park tunnel to be met with a wall of whistles, cheers and screams from their school friends in the stand is a sight and a feeling that would move mountains.
It’s a tournament that has stood the test of time and stands tall in the childhood memories of children and parents dating back to its foundation in Seville Place in Dublin some 90 years ago.
Down those years most of the stars of the game have taken part though not always getting to grace the biggest stage of all. Ireland soccer stars Denis Irwin and Niall Quinn marked each other back in years gone by and it is still creating memories today.
Intercounty referee David Gough is one of those involved in bringing the tournament to life and representatives of the GAA were there this week looking out on the games, the first to be played on the pitch since The Rolling Stones were in town.
They will have been inspired by the joy, the emotion, the laughter and the smiles.
If you could bottle what it feels like to have an involvement in days like these the problems of the world would be at your mercy. It’s very special and it needs to be savoured as it is as fleeting as a snowflake in summer.
The game passes, scores are recorded and cheers ring out. Tears are shed by the losers at the end, as much, though they don’t yet know it, for the fact that this is a right of passage and half of the players will be moving on to big school in September.
They have been a team on and off the pitch since they were four years old. Many will take the next step on the journey through life side by side but for others, this was their moment and things will change from now on.
Lidl’s important research into Girls and sport revealed last year that half of all girls active in sport in National school will have given it up by the age of 14. This is avoidable. The good that sport brings into their lives is irreplaceable. The benefits of physical activity for their health through life not easily calculable but undoubtedly of huge value.
Scoil Lorcáin emerged as winners on Wednesday. It was a credit to all the players and teachers involved. Lucy even scored the last point of the game with a soaring strike from distance.
It was a special moment, one that highlights the importance of sport, one that will never be forgotten.
Thank you to the GAA, thank you to the teachers, thank you to Allianz for the support that makes days like these possible, and thank you Lucy for making your Mum and Dad more proud than you might ever know.