On Saturday April 13th, Lansdowne U11 travelled to Ballina, Co Mayo to play a friendly against Ballina RFC. Stopping en route in Strokestown for a bacon butty, the boys also took a wander in the fields of Strokestown house and came across the skeletal remains of several dead sheep. Boys will be boys and they insisted on 'adopting' the said skeletal remains but didn't manage to sneak them onto the tour bus. There were enough fossils on the bus as it was. Lesson No 1: never underestimate what boys will see as seriously cool and interesting.
Lansdowne was warmly received by the hosts Ballina who fielded three strong teams on an afternoon that turned out to be wet and windy. Despite the inclement weather and the fact that the Lansdowne touring party had been on the road since 7am, the boys turned in a strong performance. Anyway, this weekend was only part rugby as the main focus was for the boys to develop closer bonds, bonds that their dads typified, as a good few of them were Lansdowne players in the not too distant past. Upon reflection, distant past for some.
After the game the teams retired to the Ballina clubhouse for some home cooked Ruby Murray, and it was an excellent meal. Energy, where do the boys get it from? Despite the early rise, the long bus journey, over an hour of rugby in the rain, they still elected to play 'build up' for at least two hours after the meal. You have to admire the Duracell play ethic that exists among busy and energetic boys. All grist to the mill as we reckoned they'd all be pooped by 9 and in bed by 10. Not a chance. Lesson No 2: never underestimate how excitement levels can run roughshod over tiredness.
We then fired up the engine in our 81 seater bus to take us back to our residence - the Downhill Inn. Our super sized green 81 seater bus was the talk of Ballina as it was the biggest thing seen in Ballina since a 747 flew over the town on its way to Knock Airport. We then relaxed in the hotel bar to watch the Rabo game between Heineken Cup Semi Finalists, Munster and Amlin Cup Semi Finalsits, Leinster. The banter between the different sets of supporters was genial and courteous until Dave Kearney threw himself on Paul O'Connell's boot. This act of madness set the place alight and some of the Connacht supporters and one lone Ulster man had to step in and quell the ugly behaviour from the boys in blue. Lesson no 3: Red is the colour.
Meanwhile the Lansdowne U11s Duracells were engaged in another series of games, most revolved around interpretations of the now familair build up. No signs of tiredness or pleas to go to bed. It was high tempo all the way.
Sometime around 12pm the majority of heads - dads and sons - were tucked up and fast asleep.
On Sunday morning, fresh as daisies, the boys that is, were set for Eniscrone beach and what turned out to be a rather nippy sea swim. With the tide well out, a good bunch of the boys, battled the strong breeze that was whipping the sand arocess the beach, and plunged into the sea to invigorate heart and soul. Numbness was one of the words used most to describe the feeling after emerging from the sea. With a few more iterations of build up we finally hit the road for Dublin with one last stop in mind - Micky Macs in Longford.
Arriving in Dublin by late afternoon, we all were glad to see the familiar skyline of what is home. Whilst the parents had a great time, this weekend was all about the boys and judging by the banter, they all had a great time and the tour served its purpose: building camaraderie and bonds that will see this group of boys emerge as a formidable group in Lansdowne and beyond. Lesson no 4: Sheep heads may come and go but friendship lasts forever.
As the 2012/13 season draws to a close we can look forward to next season when we well may expand our touring ambitions and look to travel further afield, perhaps tie a game in to coincide with an away Leinster game.
Yours in sport and friendship,
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