First sports hub visit an extremely enjoyable exercise
On The Line column
It's the morning after the night before as I write this column, so I've decided to avoid the 'h' word.
Anyway, there's enough analysis of our latest hurling woes elsewhere on this centrespread. Instead I want to highlight a positive experience from the week which left me highly impressed and with a lot of admiration for the participants.
In terms of attending sporting events, the vast majority of my working hours are taken up on G.A.A. sidelines. That's the nature of the job, and the time simply doesn't exist to be elsewhere more often than not.
In that context, I guess you could say I stepped outside my sporting comfort zone on Wednesday. My nephew joined an athletics club earlier this year and is really enjoying it, so he was a willing accomplice when I asked if he would like to end the first day of his summer holidays with a trip to the county Senior track and field championships in the Enniscorthy Sports Hub.
I had never been at a live athletics meeting before, although I still felt some affinity with the participants thanks to the Trojan efforts of current Co. P.R.O., Marie-Louise Byrne, and her predecessor, Paul Gibbons, in promoting the sport.
Not one Sunday evening goes by in work without receiving a comprehensive report of the week's news, but it was great to finally see some of these prominent participants in action.
Before a race was run though, I must mention the venue itself. As we strolled down the pathway from the adjoining rugby club, the full extent of what has been accomplished with the opening of the Sports Hub adorned my vision.
A competition-standard track in pristine condition with a lush, spacious infield for the throwing events, it really is a sight to behold. The spectator-friendly fencing made for an ideal vantage point as we settled in close to the finish line, and hopefully in years to come a small stand will complete what is truly an astounding job.
The new home of athletics in Wexford is approprioately named, as it's also the hub of sporting life in Enniscorthy given that the rugby club and Bellefield G.A.A. grounds are within such easy reach. The greyhound track, St. Patrick's Park and the golf club aren't exactly a million miles away either.
When the action started, it was enjoyable to watch some of the top athletes in the county displaying their talents. The promise of young guns Ciara Wilson (D.M.P.) and Ryan Murray (Bree) was clear, while Ger Forde, eldest son of my good friend Gerry, coasted to a commanding victory in the 5,000m.
Ger has really shaken up the local scene since returning from college and joining Slaney Olympic, winning all around him both on the road and the track this season. I don't think he gets his gazelle-like pace from his father though!
The graceful Jackie Carthy from Kilmore made it all look so easy, while my former Sarsfields colleague Niall Sheil, who was one of the speediest wing-backs I ever saw on a football field, is still flying around the place albeit in a different sport.
The elite competitors didn't impress me the most though. What really captured my attention was the spirit of camaraderie within the small athletics community, and the family-driven atmosphere as husbands, wives and children roared their support.
Not everyone in action had designs on a medal; for some a personal best was their goal regardless of finishing place, while for others the thrill of merely competing was enough.
And there was as much encouragement for the athlete bringing up the rear but getting to the line as there was for the leading light storming to another gold medal.
They were all winners as far as I'm concerned, because it's no easy task to enter the sporting arena regardless of the code.
It was smoothly run and I didn't notice the time passing by before we left after over two and a quarter hours of action, with the relays about to start.
I enjoyed my first visit to the Sports Hub, and I don't intend it to be the last. Hopefully our athletes will prosper in this magnificent facility for many years to come.