The U12 boys had their overnight tour to the west of Ireland on the 02nd and 3rd of September. The trip incorporated a hurling match against a Galway hurling stronghold, an overnight stay in Galway city, Fun activities and concluding with a football blitz in the world-class NUI Air dome facility in the Connacht centre of excellence in Ballyhanius Co Mayo.
A group of 28 excited boys and 16 mentors and parents gathered at the harps clubhouse on Friday the 2nd to have our final checks before hitting the road westward bound.
After a nourishment stop on the road we arrived at our first venue, Kiltormer hurling club, outside Ballinasloe, Co Galway. Kiltormer is merged at underage with Mullaghanother hurling stronghold up the road. We were greeted by Damian Curley who organised the games with us. Damian played with Galway, and was a senior selector during Anthony Cunningham's tender. Kiltormer in their heyday won an All-Ireland club senior all-Ireland in 1992 in which he played. No better man to assess the skills of our lads. The Harps lads played Kiltormer/Mullagh in two 13 aside games played simultaneously. Both games were very tight and the skerries lads came out on the right side of one match and came very close in the second. The level of hurling displayed was a credit to them. Damian and the U12’s coaches had nothing but good things to say about the lads and their performances which was great to hear. All the lads received treat bags from the Kiltormer/Mullagh clubs. We would like to thank Damian and the Kiltormer and Mullagh clubs for their hospitality and hope to host them in the future in Skerries.
After the hurling match, we took to the road for a short trip to Galway city. We settled the lads in the Kinlay Hostel, located just off Eyre square in the city's centre. Shortly after we took them on a walkabout taking in the sights of the evening and dined at the world-renowned Supermac’s restaurant in Erye’s square. Later on, after a trip to the shops, the boys took utmost advantage of the facilities available in the hostel with the pool table, PlayStations and drinking chocolate machine used to their full extent. It was a late night for the lads but the banter was great and they all really enjoyed themselves. On Saturday morning the lads were up early and breakfast was provided by the hostel before departing to the AstroBayRenmore for bubble football at 10 am.
We then departed for the NUI Connacht air dome at the Connacht centre of excellence in Ballyhanius Co Mayo. The University of Galway Connacht GAA Air Dome is the largest sports air dome in the world. The facilities at the centre of excellence we beyond our wildest expectations. Games-Based Facilities:
• Analysis Suite
• Two Physio Rooms
• Six Dressing/Referees Rooms
• Storage facilities
Administrative and Community-Orientated Amenities:
• Connacht GAA Administrative Headquarters
• Six offices
• Three meeting rooms
• Lecture Theatre
• Board Room
• Dining hall and full catering kitchen
• Six pitches – five full-size Prunty pitches and one 3G Pitch – of which five are floodlit
• A perimeter walking/running track measuring 2.2 km
• Parking for up to 400 cars and 20 buses
It is hard to describe the dome experience as pictures and videos do not compare to stepping into it. The boys, mentors and parents were truly blown away.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Cathal Cregg who facilitated this event. Cathal is a former Roscommon county player and current Provincial games manager with Connacht GAA. Together we arranged a four-team football blitz with two Roscommon Clubs St Barry’s / Kilglass and Western Gaels. Skerries put in two teams and we played 13 aside, with matches being played simultaneously. We used the Dome pitch and the 3g Astro pitch. The skerries lads were outstanding and we couldn’t have asked more for them. They came very close in both games to the Rossie teams, given they had a late night and were playing against u12/13 with larger squads it caught up with our lads at the end. Both Head coaches Finbar McGowan (St Barry’s) and Dermot McGarry (Western Gaels) were very complimentary of our lad’s skill and commitment. The trip was an extraordinary event, and to pack so much into the two-day event was a credit to all who organised and help make it a success. The camaraderie, skill, endeavour and team bonding displayed will stand to them and will have hopefully made positive memories for life. They represented themselves, their parents, Club, the town, and the county impeccably.