A very early start saw the group of excited under 12s meeting at Heathrow. The group headed off for breakfast to get them fueled for a long day ahead. The journey went smoothly and our first stop was the Clanna Gael Fortenoy GAA Club for the boys to try their hand at Gaelic Football.
Having become initiated in Gaelic football we then headed to the home of the sport, Croke Park. This is an impressive stadium with a massive pitch and fantastic facilities and all run by an amateur association. The boys and parents thoroughly enjoyed the tour of this massive stadium.
Next up was a Duck Tour of Dublin with the boys and parents sporting Viking hats while aboard for a whistle stop tour of Dublin including a quick splash in the canal basin.
The Gasworks pub was where we headed to for the traditional tour dinner. The boys were transformed into young men wearing smart shirts and trousers and getting presented with their club ties.
After an exhausting day we headed off to DSLP for the boys to meet their billeting families. The boys all dashed off happily with their new friends and I am sure crashed out early.
Saturday was an early start at St. Mary’s College to see the boys in 15 a side rugby. All three teams played great rugby against some very well drilled St. Mary’s teams. The As and Cs narrowly lost with the Bs notching up a hard fought win.
After a quick shower and change of clothes the entire party headed off the the Aviva Stadium to watch Ireland against Italy in the 6 Nations. It was a very enjoyable game, great atmosphere in an amazing stadium. From the Aviva we headed off to the Herbert Park hotel to watch the England / Wales game. After the game the boys were back off again to DSLP and their billeting families for a second night.
The adults checked out of the Hotel early Sunday morning to meet the boys in their tour playing kit at DSLP. London Irish Under 12s were split into 4 mixed ability teams for the tournament. All 4 teams played some fantastic rugby, team spirit was amazing and the whole age group came together. At the end of the tournament there was a superb game of tag rugby against the DSLP Eagles a team made up of players with additional needs. The talent, skills and determination on show was very impressive. To see these players enjoying being in the limelight was a severely touching moment for all of us.
DSLP put on a lovely lunch before the traditional Tour Kangaroo court where coaches, parents and children were named and shamed but whatever goes on tour stays on tour so enough of that!
The boys managed to run off any excess energy they had on the rugby pitches before we all boarded the coaches for the return to Dublin Airport.
We returned home not as a group of individuals but as a close knit group, bound by our shared experiences, sense of togetherness and lack of sleep.