Under 11 Hurlers visit O’Donovan Rossa (Belfast) and Slaughtneil
Our under 11 (2010) Hurlers marked the August Bank Holiday Weekend by travelling north to complete the four corners of the compass that started earlier in the Summer with the journey across the Shannon to Clarinbridge in Galway.
This trip involved making the most of the extra day with family groups travelling to accompany the panel of players.
Our intention was to give the boys a broader experience of the culture of gaelic games and their importance in the communities we travelled to, while also testing ourselves against two of the established names in hurling in Antrim and Derry, O’Donovan Rossa in Belfast and Slaughtneil. And having plenty of fun along the way!
We left Dublin early on the Saturday in separate cars and made good time to arrive in the fine home of O’Donovan Rossa at their Shaw’s Road complex in the heart of West Belfast.
The Rossa Under 11s were being well coached and prepared as we arrived and there was a very impressive start to the game with a specially prepared pennant presented to our captain Seán Keane by his Belfast counterpart over-seen by the referee Paul McDonnell. Something we can learn from!
The travelling parents were able to make themselves at home in the Rossa Stand to watch their charges get the weekend under way on the field of play.
We played a full 13 a side match across 4 quarters with the visitors edging it in the end with some fine displays around the field, the morning commute being shaken off the legs after the first quarter.
There was a generous spread from Rossa after the match with goodie bags and ceapairí a plenty. Everyone well served and sated for the trip to the west.
We would like to thank everyone in O’Donovan Rossa for their welcome and hospitality and in particular Gavin Bell and Kieran Stewart for their work in organising the game and the post match nourishment. Our thanks to Paul McDonnell for his expert officiating. We’d also like to thank former Crokes Senior Star Eamon Graham for his help in linking us in with the O’Donovan Rossa personnel.
We had decided to base ourselves in Maghera in Derry for the weekend and Walsh’s Hotel in the town went out of the way to accommodate the group and even managed to provide an outdoor dining experience for all while ensuring that we caught the Dublin V Cork Hurling match on the big outdoor screen. The only thing they couldn’t organise was a favourable result for the boys in blue…
Before we got to watch that game we had our first extra curricular fun activity of the weekend. Our group descended upon the Kilrea Lakes centre, the largest water park on the Island. Wetsuits were donned and middle aged concerns shed as parents and players alike took on the slides, jumps and splashes that are the hallmark of the venue. A highly enjoyable and entertaining afternoon.
Having been fed and watered and marking Sue Canny’s birthday with cake, candles and even a parental cocktail or two, the group retired reasonably early for what we knew would be a busy Sunday of hurling.
We awoke to a glorious sunny day to welcome us on the short journey from Maghera to Slaughtneil.
We were going to a very special place. A club that were Ulster champions in Football, Camogie and Hurling on numerous occasions across the past decade with the Camogie team landing the Club All Ireland Crown three years in a row in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
A club that has developed incredible facilities including internal meeting rooms and training areas, an extensive hurling wall and fine pitches with impressive stands.
And a community that has fostered a love of the games, the culture and the language and flourished in every sense on and off the field.
Our players were met with really stern tests, with 2 evenly matched 7 a side teams drawn from the travelling Crokes group playing 6 matches each in total against our hosts and teams drawn from Carrickmore in Tyrone.
The Crokes teams managed the transition to the 7 a side format well and although the matches were short in duration there was no shortage of skill, commitment and endeavour on show. A thoroughly competitive and enjoyable experience for all. With every player rising to the challenge.
Once again we were treated to wonderful northern hospitality with our hosts presenting Peter Walsh with a Slaughtneil jersey signed by their entire Under 11 panel. A lovely memento and gesture. The club motto and maxim embroidered on the back of the jersey says it all - ‘ní neart go cur le chéile’.
We would like to thank everyone in Slaugtneil for their welcome and hard work in organising everything; the link through Nicky Murphy, a proud Hugginstown and Carrickshock Kilkenny man who has made his home in the hills of Slaughtneil, via Sydney Shamrocks, a club that welcomed Crokes men in the past. John Wallace who has crossed over from Burt in Donegal and was the wizard behind the mornings format. And Club Chairman Seán McGuigan for his heartfelt welcome and the generosity of his time, presence and interest in our visit.
A special thanks to some of our traveling dads who assisted with refereeing on the day.
We completed the weekends activities with a visit to the Jungle adventure centre where we partook in paintballing, archery, high trees and Alpaca walks amongst other things.
We kept an ear and eye on the Leinster football final before hitting the road.
Some of the families even made it over to the Derry Walls and Free Derry Corner on Bank Holiday Monday with Joe and Cathy Walsh getting every last inch and ounce out of the trip by going back home to Weirview via the giants causeway!
A weekend where we experienced warm welcomes, fine challenging hurling games and left with a real respect and appreciation for communities that are celebrating and promoting every element of gaelic games and cultures within their area.
While we have finished this summer’s trip around the compass we know we look forward to an opportunity to return north to further foster and develop the links forged and would encourage others in the club to do the same - ‘ní neart go cur le chéile’.