On Sunday 15th May, 43 excited 10 and 11 year olds, together with 18 even more excited coaches, mentors and parents, gathered in the car park of Conneff Park, Clane from 9.30 on a gorgeous May morning. The ultimate destination was Croke Park for the Leinster semi-final meeting of Kildare v Westmeath but some detours were planned along the way.
Excitement reached fever pitch when Leinster Coaches’ finest double decker bus, coloured from roof to wheel in pink and purple, pulled in the gates. The bus driver, Liam, quickly told the boys that this was the only pink and purple double decker in Kildare or Dublin and they piled on finding seats beside their teammates and friends.
To the chants of ‘Born To Be A Lily’ and ‘Ole, Ole, Ole’, the bus took the trip to St. Brigid’s GAA Club in Castleknock where a packed Dublin club saw the bus squeeze in the narrow entrance and definitely heard the melodies from both decks. Within a few minutes, 36 players were togged out in the Clane colours for three challenge games against St Brigid’s finest. Competitive contests ensued but the young men of Clane came out on top boding well for future Kildare V Dublin battles.
Back to the unmistakeable bus and a quick journey to the nearest McDonalds where players and adults alike enjoyed the culinary delights that awaited. The restaurant staff were under pressure to feed the masses but delighted to see the eating area cleaned and tidied as Clane left and moved onwards in a day that was rapidly heating up.
Next stop was the hallowed turf of Croke Park and, while traffic slowed progress, the boys soaked up the atmosphere and gathered headbands, flags and scarves as they walked the final stage of the journey in batches of 8 with coaches front and back. While some of the boys had seen the wonderous stadium before, for many, it was their first, unforgettable time.
A relatively quiet early crowd in the Cusack Stand were enlivened by the arrival of the Clane men who took their seats to see their heroes take a firm lead against Westmeath. It was a lead that was never relinquished and the final whistle was greeted with cheers. The shops of Croke Park did a roaring trade during the interval until the teams of Dublin and Meath took the field and the Clane group analysed the other Leinster contenders closely until half time when it was time to take the path back to the bus for the last time.
A tired group arrived back to Clane GAA shortly after 6 pm and all were ready for a rest. This day reached it’s conclusion but we can be confident that in a few years, another batch of Clane boys and girls will be travelling to Croke Park but, this time, some of the girls and boys will be the superstars representing their county instead.