Croker2Carrick trip a real success story
By Colin Regan
There comes a moment when you sign up to participate in something that adds to your already busy schedule when you ask yourself, ‘why did I agree to do this?’
Thankfully, this moment of weakness and doubt pales into insignificance when enveloped by the sense of satisfaction that flows through you once the task is finally complete.
In the weeks leading up to Friday, April 26th, 2019, a lot of Croke Park staff were muttering to themselves that Kevin Sexton has a lot to answer for. Once again, the man from the ticketing office had arranged a staff cycle to raise funds for the GAA’s five charities of the year: Western Alzheimers, Down Syndrome Ireland, Marie Keating Foundation, Enable Ireland, and Focus Ireland.
He had allowed just enough time to elapse for the memories of the wet and windy 2018 trip ‘Rollin’ 2 Nowlan’ to take on a rose-tinted nostalgia while the 2017 ‘Tour de Thurles’ had been marked down as a mere dream. 40 brave souls signed up for the 2019 Connacht leg – ‘Croker2Carrick’ – and had pinned Avantcard Páirc Sean MacDiarmada on their mind map.
The group included representatives from the GAA, Croke Park, the LGFA, Camogie, and the Croke Park Hotel, many of whom were taking to a bike for the first time since their stabiliser days. The WhatsApp group became a veritable Tour d’Ireland, as participants took to the highroads and byroads of their various homes and locales, documenting their training spins with a photographic flare that would have caught the eye of Ray McManus himself. Hundreds of miles were clocked up in locations across the country and it became clear that we were all benefitting from getting more exercise while escaping the city and experiencing the countryside up close and personal.
There was also plenty of banter. There is no better place to chat than side by side on a bike with a friend. Many of us would only previously have known one and other as colleagues in passing; now we were a team.
The week preceding the trip was unseasonably fair and images of participants enjoying jaunty spins to Howth for an ice-cream by the pier lulled everyone into a false sense of security. The morning of the cycle was bleak. By the time we arrived in the Croke Park Museum for the healthy breakfast, we were already soaked to our socks. The crack was good, though, and reminiscent of the pre-match buzz in the changing room that many former players miss so much.
There were some challenging moments along the way, but our motto ‘Nemo Resideo’ stood us in good stead and saw one and all arrive safely in the home of Leitrim GAA, where a fantastic reception awaited.
The event raised an incredible €20,000 for the five charities. It couldn’t have been possible without the band of brothers from An Garda Siochana (Ballymun) who herded us safely on this odyssey, on motor and pedal-bike alike; Leitrim GAA for the fantastic and professional welcoming party that they put on for the group on arrival and Na Fianna GAA Enfield for the energy-boosting pitstop en route; City Cycles for the mechanical/marshalling support; Denis Gorey for providing the grub on the road; the GAA Museum and Aramark Catering for putting on a lovely breakfast spread that morning; Sportsfile for the photography; DBA Publications for their help with the launch and general support from start to finish; O'Neill's for providing top class cycling gear; the GAA Finance Dept. for their help with the reconciliation; and finally the GAA Uachtarán and Ard Stiúrthóir for their support and encouragement of the event from the get go.
Kevin is already planning the 2020 spin with Kingspan Breffni selected to complete the four-province tour. Staff members are currently giving him a wide berth but come the New Year he’ll have settled on a catchy title for the trip guaranteed to lure us all back onto the saddle and we’ll be grateful to him. In the end.