The Cause Endures.

I have fought the good fight.
I have finished my course.
I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

I have had people ask me over the last day or two how I feel after our Toome Riders cycle on Saturday.

The answer is simple. I felt fine when it started, fine half way through, totally wrecked for about eight miles when I hit the proverbial wall and reasonably OK for the last few miles home.

Thanks to the people in the group I made it home with the group. I would have got home by hook or by crook, taxi, support vehicle or phoned home. Anyhow, the strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf. Paul Boyle, Damian and Frances and the others made sure I wasn’t me fein on my bike. Go raibh maith agaibh.

In retrospect, I don’t really know why I agreed to do it. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it. I don’t mind when I’m out on the road cycling but this idea of building up miles didn’t do it for me I have to say. Others really got into it and I admire their effort from afar.

Part of me wishes I could have cycled 100 miles but for several reasons, none of which I’m sharing here I decided that I wasn’t doing it and that I wouldn’t be able to do it. More summer horriblis than anus horriblis but that’s my personal story.

Dressed in the ridiculous cycling garb I felt like the only gay in the village. As my friend Martin Dummigan used to say, the outfit was so tight you could almost count the hairs. Marty I would add wasn’t talking about men in cycling gear just in case anyone would get the wrong impression of him.

On reflection it has been interesting the appeal the Toome Riders cycle has had to all cross sections. There are people now bought into and involved with Eoghan Rua that would previously not have been. Next thing we can get them to sign up as bona fide members.

These sorts of events like fashion show tend to attract new interest. It serves to broaden the appeal of the GAA to show that it’s not just about kicking ball, pucking a sliotar, shouting at refs and talking shite at committee meetings. Having done work for Croke Park and written about social fabric, we are living breathing examples of it in practice.

Over the years we have organised Corporate Dinners that raked in the dough from builders coining it in the boom years. We have had ticket draws, bike rides x 2; fashion shows. We have had duck races. We have built our pitch which is something for everyone to call their home.  And on Sunday I was talking to one of the other senior members of Eoghan Rua. He was been around here longer than me and is someone I respect enormously for all he has done and continues to do.

As we ruminated on the goings on and comings and goings and all the recent successes on and off the pitch, we agreed that the success of what is being done now will only really be gauged when the next generation takes over.

They will have a pitch and a clubhouse and a user base that we never had until now. And there will be coaching expertise and the Eoghan Rua way of doing things. Of the attention detail that we know brings success, and how that will hopefully be firmly embedded in the fabric of the place so that players find conditioning and diet and community involvement and commitment to the cause and loyalty, punctuality and the importance of team over individual – all things worth buying into.

In listening to Kilkenny men talking about their success – underage success and silverware is all very well – but at the end of the day, you are wanting to turn these mini gaels into senior players.

I once went to a beach in Oman called Ras Al Hadd where greenback turtles hatch and return to the sea. On their way down the treacherous sand they have to make their way past crabs that try to intercept them to kill them and pick over their remains.

Their way of catching the fledgling turtles is to pluck out their eyes. A small proportion of turtles make it through, to take their chances in the open ocean. There, other challenges await. And they don’t even have their parents there on the sidelines as they make their run for it, screaming at them and urging them on. The mark of success is when they return years later to the same beach to enable the next batch of turtles to be born and set off on life’s path. And so it continues.

And as I contemplate my own continued active involvement, it would be rewarding and reassuring to know there is a legacy that can be built upon. When I go out the swing doors in the next year or two I hope to meet plenty more passing me in the other direction. There are certainly more bodies than there were. I am tired at times and don’t know for how long this can continue.

The advertisment says ‘Ask not what your club can do for you, but what you can do for your club’ echoing JFK’s famous words.

Eoghan Rua has given me opportunities galore. I have some great friends and there are players that I will meet in years to come, and with a single glance we will know we shared some of the times of our lives.

On Sunday at Croke Park I looked at that spot at the foot of the Hogan steps with a certain disbelief that I had ever stood there and listened to Méabh’s words.  “Tá athas an domhain orm an corn seo a glacadh. . .”.

Senator Edward Kennedy said when conceding defeat in his own ultimately failed bid for the White House:

“the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

The same words are in my mind, resonating, reverberating, except for me they reflect optimism, and the promise of a bright, bright future.

Not About The Bike 5

After last week’s outing, was pretty disillusioned with the whole bike thing.

Didn’t get out during the week and hadn’t really the heart for it to be honest. Besides, had other things to worry about that are more important than pedalling around like a moron.

I intended to go to one of the bike shops today and see about a new seat. Consequently I didn’t get out with the 8:30 peloton, I had dropped Leo to his bus for a tournament in the arse end of Fermanagh – Kinawley to exact. When I was a student there was a fellow from Kinawley kicked ball at Queen’s. Tommy McManus you called him. Dunno where Tommy is now, he was a good lad and he spoke with an accent you could cut with a turf spade. I digress.

Anyhow, I returned to my bed and slept in, and looking out at the pissing rain I had no regrets. As the weather cleared I decided to force myself out on the road for a two hour spin. Save the seat shopping for again. I slipped into my skin tight cycling shorts, fitted the banana and other fruit into position, assisted with as much lube as I could muster and set off down the road, my helmet a-gleaming in the afternoon sun.

Numerous women couldn’t keep their eyes of me as I swooshed past in a blur of vaseline and banana-and-other-fresh-fruit-a-wobbling. As one fainted I heard her sigh ‘It’s not about the bike’ and another leaning on a post groaned: ‘I wish I could ride like that’.

Really in the groove now I changed my gear strategy, no longer viewing them as adversaries that needed to be worn down at every wheel turn, today my gears were my friends, helping me up valley and down hill.

As I headed up roads that caused me pain last Sunday I struck out for the home of the world’s most famous whiskey and also the home of more inbreds per square mile than anywhere else on the planet. Bushmills.

Bushmills makes you feel glad to be British, if you are British. If you are a Fenian cyclist, it makes you want to cycle through the place as quickly as you can. Some might view the open and aggressive displays of loyalist, unionist, royalist and paramilitary insignia and flags as quaint in an Ulster Scots ‘this is the only culture we have’ sort of way. It doesn’t bother me – I just think these folks need to grow up and move on.

Anyhow, after an uneventful trip, other than the fainting women, I made it home in one hour and three quarters. Dunno the mileage, probably about 18 miles or so.

But what a trail of destruction I left in my wake.

Not About The Bike 2

Wednesday 29 June

OK. This cycling lark. We’re gonna knock a fair bit of oul craic out of it.  I decided to go out for a spin on Wednesday evening to loosen the oul legs up. There, I sound like an oul pro already. Paddy McC had set up a wee distribution list that you just let know if you’re going out and the theory is the boys join in but due to a misunderstanding it was me féin off on a solo.

The weather was shite but thankfully for the duration of my ride it stayed dry. It was a fairly unremarkable outing other than I managed nearly fourteen miles in about an hour and twenty minutes. I also scaled Ballywillan Hill at Portrush which for those who don’t know it, can only be described as a pure bastard.

The advantage of these training runs is it gets the backside acclimated (love that American bastard of a word) to the seat. Certainly it wasn’t too bad. There’s something immensely satisfying about the tiredness after physical exercise.

Saturday 2 July

Last night I went to Halfords to get myself tooled out for on road disasters. I bought a small bike tool, two spare tubes, a water bottle holder and wee container jobbie that hitches on to the underneath of the saddle to hold all this shite.  I see that in due course I may require a bigger wee container. All set for tomorrow. I resisted the temptation to take myself out for a spin and Schira’s offer to go for a short run. Aye right. I know her idea of a short run….

Sunday 3 July

What a day. I missed the group cycle at 9:00. I arrived down at 9:30 and the place was eerily quiet. Bollix I quickly realised the group had obviously met earlier. I had a choice but it wasn’t really a choice. I could go home, but wasn’t doing that, or I could set off with a 30 mile target.

I decided to go for it. I worked out a rough route in my head incorporating part of the route I traversed on Wednesday and decide to head for Bushmills and Ballycastle direction based on what John G had told me last night of the route they took.

Without boring anyone with the details and it was boring, I was out for ages, covered 36.5 miles (the group I intended to join did 28 I think).  Coming home I was totally drained, and in real pain. Never so glad to get home, I literally fell of the bike and staggered into the house. I figured out the distance by driving the course, was at least 4.5 miles longer than I thought/hoped it might be. When I drove the course, there were parts of the route that I literally had no memory of ever being on. In one place I passed perhaps the biggest Ulster flag I’ve ever seen but did I see it when I was on the bike. Not a bit of it. So much for seeing the countryside.

Another thing you notice on the bike is the smell of the countryside, decaying animals, cow dung, fragrant flowers, sewage in drains, car exhaust fumes and more. You also get a close up and personal insight into the fatal injuries inflicted on roadkill by motorists. Happily I was wearing a helmet so hopefully I’ll not end up like a dead badger, fox, rabbit, rat, bird, cat – all of which I saw today. None, I should add, were wearing helmets.

Only one passing motorist shouted abuse, some gobshite in a twincam coming out of Bushmills. No doubt one of their famous inbreds I shouted “fuck off” as he disappeared down the road. Then, with fatigue, hunger and dehydration setting in, the whole scenario of me getting a good kicking along some secluded country road began to settle in my brain.

On another occasion I encountered what I could only call a peloton of cyclists from one of the local clubs. They swept past me in a whirl of wheels and click of gears as if my trundling form didn’t exist. To them I didn’t but for me, as the trek went on I felt every bump in the road, every stone, every drain ever piece of repaired tar. Why am I doing this I asked again and again. Today I decided I was doing it for my children, if it keeps me alive a few days longer then it will have been worth it. And they’d better bloody well appreciate it!

Happy days, sore ass.

Footnote: I see the Omagh St Endas boys finished their cycle trip from Galway. Well done Mickey and the lads. Onwards.