Nearly a week on after the announcement, the Lions players have weathered the initial media frenzy. They can settle down to doing Lionsy things – training, bonding and the general Lions-related ‘banter’ that can be included on the DVD of the trip. They’ve negotiated the tricky interviews with intrepid reporters from the LionsRugby.com website. There was controversy after exclusive hard-hitting reports revealed that Jamie Roberts ‘backs’ his captain Sam Warburton and that Dan Cole said he was ‘thrilled’ at his selection. The camp was further rocked by the news that Tommy Bowe ‘admitted’ – no doubt under intense and devious questioning – that his Lions selection would ‘spur him on’.
With that nightmare behind them they can focus on what’s really important: They’re all going on a Tour.
You never forget your first Tour. For me it was the Senior Infants trip to Farran Woods – a full 5 miles away from Dripsey National School. Though it was familiar ground, the novelty is that we were going on the School Bus. A bus, which, for the previous 366 school days, had taken the same route was now going where no bus had brought us before.
At that stage we were vaguely aware that years into the future there would be another tour. A tour that was fantastical in its scope and mileage.
In the interim, there was a day out to Bunratty Castle, the Folk Park and the Ailwee Cave – the troika of wonder. I remember it chiefly because my short trousers had no pockets and I had to carry my spending money in a purse around my neck. IN YOUR FACE HIPSTERS!
But that paled into insignificance when compared to the Big Kahuna – Master Desmond’s school tour to Dublin.
The School Tour To Dublin had essential elements:
The train. Being on a train was wonder enough in itself. A toilet you flush with your foot! Tables! We could test out the ‘jump inside a moving train’ theory. Could a day out have gotten off to a better start?
First stop was The Zoo. Like a harsher, grittier version of Fota with some grumpier animals hanging around street corners. Not too dissimilar to Dublin itself. From there we went to the Waxwork museum. We skipped blissfully unaware through the Inner City, the country glow enveloping us like L. Casei Munitas.
The final test on the Tour was to Hector Greys.
In the 1980s there weren’t many bright lights in the Irish shopping firmament but Hector Greys was the North Star. A compulsory stop on any trip to Dublin, it was an Aladdin’s Cave. (If Aladdin had strong trading links with Taiwan and Hong Kong). It was an opportunity to top up my collection of small toy animals, whose herds had been depleted getting stuck behind the cooker.
By the end of the day, we were wrecked but I was happy clutching my little bag of zoo animals from Hector Greys. This had been a very successful tour for me and the lions.
This article was first published in the Irish Examiner on May 5th, 2013