Wednesday, 16 November 2011

‘The Commute’ – Planes, Trains and Automobiles

After the recent RTE show ‘The Commute’ based on the commitment GAA players have to make to play for their clubs, it got me thinking of the scenario in Derry, where clubs have to fly players home regularly for training and games. 

This season Drumsurn were rarely able to have a full training session.  My own club Slaughtneil also have players working across the pond.  I was chatting to players from Claudy and lot of them including county player Marty Donaghy were working overseas.

More recently I was chatting to a player from Craigbane, who also have players studying and working in Scotland and England.  Here is the story of Aidan Kerlin:

My name is Aidan Kerlin, I am a student at the University of Glasgow, studying a Bachelors Degree in Primary Education. However, more importantly I am a member of the current Derry Intermediate football champions, Craigbane GAC.

Although most club players within Derry have a short, straightforward and laborious commute to training and matches. Myself and three other students on the panel have the added dilemma of crossing the Irish Sea in order to be part of the continuing success of our club. Paul Sharkey is studying at Northumbria University in Newcastle, while Noel Reilly and David Lowry are both at Liverpool John Moore’s University.

This ongoing commute has been the case for the last seven weeks, due to the overlap between our continuing season and the beginning of the university year on the 19th September.

Once we overcame Slaughtmanus in the quarter finals of the championship on the 10th September, we were aware that travel arrangements had to be put in place in order to be part of the ongoing season with Craigbane.

The next date on our GAA calendar was the championship semi-final with Drumsurn on the 24th September. Admittedly, this was a hard period of time for all of the students on the team, having to turn down the appeal of the annual Fresher’s Week festivities. However, we were aware that the prize of competing in our first county final was the reward. Thankfully keeping fit was not an issue, pre-season training with our various university teams helped to keep the fitness ticking over.

I have now become extremely familiar with the inside of airport terminals, train stations and early morning alarm calls in order to get home every weekend.

My weekly routine consists of a alarm call on a Friday morning, a quick bite of breakfast and a 20 minute walk to the nearby Glasgow Central train station. This is followed by a 50 minute train Journey to the remote Glasgow Prestwick International airport.

Here it is a waiting game for approximately an hour before we can begin boarding. Ironically, the quickest part of the journey is the flight itself; a quick 15 minute journey takes me across the Irish Sea and into the City of Derry airport.

From here it is a lazy day, reading the Gaelic Life, Derry Post and Irish News from the previous week to pass the time until training at on Friday night in Craigbane.

Next stop was Celtic Park, with Drumsurn the opponents. After a well documented shaky start we overcame Drumsurn to book our place in the county final against Swatragh. With Monday morning comes the commute back to Glasgow for another week of study. This commute is the same combination of trains, planes and airport terminals as the Friday adventure.

This commute has been repeated on numerous occasions since the start of the semester, including the county final win against Swatragh.  This was followed by a league victory over Ballerin days later.  Next up was Swatragh in the league semi final.  Then in was on to the Ulster campaign and a quarter final victory over Kilclief of Down.

The next week, it was back to the domestic scene, the  league final with Steelstown and this success puts us into senior football next season.  The most recent chapter was a win over Carrickmacross of Monaghan in the Ulster semi final.

However the continuous travelling can have its positives also, a few home cooked meals and a weekly batch of clothes been washed is a nice luxury to have.

Thanks to the financial support of the club and the ongoing success on the pitch, the travelling back and forth to university is a small price to pay for a great year with the club. And with the Ulster final still to contest, I look forward to another journey home.

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