After training one Tuesday night a few of the lads decided to drown our sorrows over last Saturdays post match announcement that there would no tour this Easter. This was a blow to some of us young bucks that had no family or financial binds to worry us so we decided to organize a mini tour and Ireland was the unanimous choice of destination after most of us had already experience of the Emerald Isle. We had canvassed players from the five teams at the club and ended up with 35 committed tourists, so to work
Fund raising within the club got underway in mid February with all the usual post match fun and games that ended in fines for the loser and various sponsored bike rides, swims and runs. I busied my self with Carl Roche the number eight with the planning of the tour. By choosing Ireland as tour destination was in no way coincidence, as Carl’s uncle Big P. J. Roche owned a hotel and bar not far south of Dublin, he was also the president of the local rugby club. So we had our hotel, our match now all that we needed to do was organize transport at this end and in Dublin, book and pay for the tickets, organize the kit, arrange a medical bag, (not just a wet sponge bag these days), organize medical and travel insurance. And so we were ready to set off on our Celtic adventure. This promised to be one of the greatest rugby tours in he history of rugby tours, or was I being a little bit biased?
We felt confident as we boarded the coach at Dublin and headed off, well we were county champions after all. But I hadn’t taken in to consideration the infamous Roche family hospitality.
We arrived at P.J’s hotel early afternoon which gave a bit of time to scout around the town and take in the sites, I found the rugby club which was situated next door to the local primary school and some one told me the entire school would be coming to watch the match along with the whole town, It was going to be “mighty craic” I was told. That evening was the formal, well at least it started off that way, welcome dinner, and we were generously plied with copious amounts of the Black Stuff, wines and Irish whiskey, A too good a night was had by all, well us lot any way.
The next day some if us managed breakfast after which there was a team meeting of sorts before heading off to the club for the match. Before kick off we were asked to line up and face the home team whereupon two pretty waitresses from the hotel carrying trays with 15 glasses of Irish whiskey and after an appropriate toast downed the golden burning liquid in one, tradition I was told, although I couldn’t help but notice that content of the away team’s glasses were considerably larger .We were comprehensively beaten scoreless except for one solitary try by the number eight Roche after he intercepted the ball on his own twenty two and ran fully 75 metres and scored under the posts, where all the school kids had assembled,and while they screamed their support for the underdog,he promptly threw-up.
We had a great tour, memorable for many reasons, but I would do it differently and use a recognised rugby tours company.So much less hassle.