Boys of summer reap winter holiday dividends in the sun
All-Ireland hurling champions Offaly and beaten football finalists Kildare have both chosen South Africa for the off-season holidays that have become a customary reward for successful intercounty teams in the last decade.
Kildare have pulled out of the O'Byrne Cup in Leinster and have headed off to Cape Town. A full complement of Kildare squad members, manager Mick O'Dwyer, selectors, medical personnel, as well as wives and partners, travelled this week.
Offaly's hurlers are headed for the same venue as Kildare, but will not be travelling until January 23rd.
Defeated All-Ireland hurling finalists and Leinster champions Kilkenny will travel to Tenerife without DJ Carey and Pat O'Neill. Carey is unable to take time off from work while O'Neill is booked into hospital for an operation to sort out a muscular problem.
Defeated semi-finalists Clare have sought to put their traumatic and controversial year behind them with a trip to the Canaries. Work demands have prevented some of the players from joining the party, but they will be allowed to make their own, suitable, alternative arrangements which will be funded.
Waterford, who made such a courageous effort to end a long barren period this year, are also off to the Canaries. Their eight-day trip starts on January 30th.
All-Ireland football champions Galway, meanwhile, have allowed their players the choice of two destinations. Some of the players are heading for a sunshine holiday in the Canaries, while some have already gone skiing in Switzerland.
Among the Galway players who caught the skiing bug were Jarlath Fallon and Sean O Domhnaill.
Three other members of the county panel are travelling abroad with Corofin, last year's All-Ireland club champions. The Silke brothers, Ray and Brian, and goalkeeper Martin McNamara are heading for the Canaries with their club-mates.
Among those who have not gone on holiday is Tomas Mannion, a farmer who felt he could not take time off in view of the very bad weather conditions.
The unavailability of regular players in the Galway camp is certain to affect their efforts in the FBD Connacht League match in Dunmore on Sunday when they meet Leitrim. Galway supporters will probably not recognise many of the players in the maroon jersey on Sunday.
Funding for these trips will come from a variety of sources. They include the sponsors of football and hurling, Bank of Ireland and Guinness, GAA contributions, sponsors of county teams, supporters' clubs and fundraising activities by the players themselves.
Not all successful teams will travel, however. Munster champions Kerry are staying at home, will play in the McGrath Cup and National League, and will have four competitive matches before the end of February and a further two in March. Kerry's programme has already been set out and training will resume shortly. They will play in the McGrath Cup on January 24th and take on Kilkenny in the National League on February 7th. They will play in the McGrath Cup again on the February 21st and will have three National League matches before the end of March.
Ulster champions Derry are also staying put and will not be going abroad in the foreseeable future. The squad have been undergoing individual training assessment under new manager Eamonn Coleman.