Saturday October 7th
The team arrived from the US into Dublin Airport where they met up with several early arrivals from other parts of the US, myself, and their coach driver, Trevor, who would be with the group for the entirety of their time in Ireland. The bus, with its 40 group members, headed west to Tralee for their first night in Ireland. They checked into the Brandon Hotel and were treated to an excellent welcome dinner before heading to their rooms for a good night’s sleep.
Sunday October 8th
Following breakfast this morning the team conducted a youth clinic at Tralee Sports Complex for around 100 local children along with the Tralee players who were coming off a last second Super League win the night before. The rest of the group that didn’t join the team for the clinic took advantage of some time to explore Tralee. After the clinic finished, both teams went to a local pub to enjoy a quick lunch. Once lunch was finished it was a quick stop back at the hotel in order to pick up the rest of the group as well as their uniforms for the game this afternoon vs. Garvey’s Tralee Warriors. The team had seen and heard about the atmosphere for games in Tralee, but because of the late arrival the night before they were not able to experience it for themselves. Well, today for the Wooster game the fans of Garvey’s Tralee Warriors didn’t disappoint. The stands were packed and the introductions even included a light show with music, a fog machine, and the Irish National Anthem played on the bagpipes. A hard-fought game by both teams saw Wooster start off slow, but eventually overtake the Warriors, pulling away in the end. After the game the entire group returned for dinner at the hotel again. Following dinner, many of the group went to meet up with a few of the players and coaches from Tralee at a local pub owned by two members of the Tralee team.
Monday October 9th
Following an early breakfast at the hotel, Trevor drove the team back to Dublin Airport for the short flight to Edinburgh. The group boarded their Aer Lingus flight arriving in Edinburgh around 14:30 and were met by local tour guide Joe and coach driver Stevie. Joe filled everyone’s minds with great information about the lovely town of Edinburgh as Stevie navigated from the airport through the city seeing many of the major sights. A few quick stops for pictures and some additional information from Joe at Palace of Holyroodhouse, Holyrood Park, and Edinburgh Castle left the group just enough time to check into The Ibis Edinburgh Centre Royal Mile before dinner. After a quick turnaround followed by a short walk up the Royal Mile everyone enjoyed a locally sourced meal at Howies Victoria Restaurant. Following dinner many in the group went their separate ways to enjoy the free evening of exploring Edinburgh.
Tuesday October 10th
After a relaxing breakfast the group started the walk up to Edinburgh Castle for a tour at 09:30. After about an hour and a half to explore the Castle and its wonderful exhibits the group gathered outside the Castle to walk down to the beautiful Saint Gile’s Cathedral, often called the Church of Scotland and the mother of Presbyterianism. This stunning cathedral certainly leaves an impression and after some time to look around everyone left before the start of mass. After lunch on their own, the group gathered back together, in front of The National Museum of Scotland. The National Museum of Scotland is a can’t miss when you are visiting Edinburgh as it has so much to offer, especially on the history of Scots themselves. After exploring the exhibits, the group took advantage of the free time until dinner to see more of the city as well as get some shopping done. At 16:30 Stevie was ready and waiting outside the hotel to take the group to a pregame meal at Jamie’s Italian Restaurant. This was a meal that was truly enjoyed by one and all, but quickly, as it was time to focus on this evenings game vs. the Scottish National Select Team. As the Scottish National Team gets ready for the upcoming Commonwealth Games they welcomed Wooster for an exhibition which was played in Stirling, Scotland about an hour North of Edinburgh. Since not everyone gets the opportunity to see their national team play all the time the venue was quickly sold out with enthusiastic fans. Basketball Scotland were gracious hosts and did their very best to try to top the atmosphere provided in Tralee. Scotland proved a little too strong on the evening, but the contest was so good that for the fans both teams agreed to play a 5th quarter which allowed both teams to get everyone involved. After the game was over both teams enjoyed some quick pizzas and laughs before returning to the hotel.
Wednesday October 11th
This morning was a much more relaxing morning, where many took the opportunity to do one last shopping run. Around 12:00 everyone boarded the bus as today’s journey was taking the group southward into England. The first stop of the day was Holy Island (only accessible during low tide) and the Lindisfarne Priory. After taking time to explore the site of the old priory and the settlement along with a small museum dedicated to the monks of the island, the group boarded the bus again to continue south. Next stop was Alnwick Castle which to this day is still inhabited by the royal family of the area. Everyone took time to explore the castle and the associated gardens and tried their best to see everything they could. The long journey continued onward to a pregame dinner at The Joiners Arms, a wonderful small-town pub. After dinner there was still an hour to go until the final destination, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, and the third game of Wooster’s Celtic Journey vs. Team Northumbria. Team Northumbria turned out to be one of the toughest opponents yet for Wooster as they had an excellent team, but in the end Wooster was able to hold them off for the win. After the game the group drove back to Edinburgh, arriving just as Wednesday became Thursday.
Thursday October 12th
The earliest morning of the trip was upon the group as departure for Edinburgh airport was just after 06:00. A quick breakfast and the group was on their way for a return flight to Dublin. The group was again met by Trevor at the airport and he drove the group to their Dublin hotel. Upon arrival at The Louis Fitzgerald Hotel many in the group took advantage of the time until dinner to grab a quick lunch and rest from such an early morning. A small group headed into the city with Trevor where they were able to do some shopping and exploring before returning to the hotel for another pregame meal. Once the team had filled up it was time to head from the hotel to the National Sports Complex where they would be competing in their fourth game of their Celtic Journey vs. Griffith College Swords Thunder. Upon first arrival everyone was in awe of the complex itself as these were top notch facilities utilized by many of the national teams in various different sports. Yet again, Wooster came out on top this evening pushing their record on this tour to 3-1. After the game both teams joined together for some pizza and good conversation. Afterwards everyone returned to the hotel for a good night’s rest.
Friday October 13th
This morning after breakfast the group was met by local tour guide Odlie for a city overview tour. After showing the group around the city, Odlie had a museum she really wanted the group to see in order to prepare them for the following days activities outside of Dublin. Once the tour had finished and people had taken in the exhibits at the museum it was time for lunch. The group was able to explore the area around Grafton Street, and were able to enjoy some nice lunches. After lunch it was time to head back to the hotel because today’s fifth and final game of the tour was in the afternoon against The North Atlantic Basketball Academy. After a very quick stop back at the hotel just to pick up uniforms the group arrived at NABA’s headquarters for the afternoon game. NABA is a group who brings in young student athletes from around the world to help them prepare for opportunities at a higher level. Although Wooster mostly over-matched NABA, both teams were able to get some valuable lessons from the game. After the game the group returned to the hotel with a little time to relax before dinner. After dinner most of the group utilized the free time to explore Dublin.
Saturday October 14th
One last day to explore the Emerald Isle and make memories on their Celtic Journey. Today was a day to explore outside the city of Dublin with the first stop of the day being the town of Howth. This small fishing village is on a peninsula just outside of Dublin with great views of Dublin, when the weather cooperates, and luckily today was one of those days as it turned out to be beautiful. After deciding what they wanted to do, the group split up with some going into the town to walk around with others braving the cliff walk to see one of the oldest lighthouses in Ireland. While the walk out to the lighthouse is quite long, the spectacular views along the way certainly make it worth it. With it being right around lunch time before heading off to the next destination most of the group went to the same fish and chips place, because when in a fishing village why not get fish and chips! The rest took the time to explore a small daily market which also included food. Once everyone was back on the bus it was off to the next stop, the Brú na Bóinne Visitors Center, to see the ancient Neolithic burial chambers of Knowth. The visitors center had a great museum that provided you with the history of the chambers, which you could explore before the guided tour left for Knowth. After a shuttle bus ride, the group arrived at the burial chambers and was provided with an excellent history and tour. Some of the players were even able to get a firsthand look at some of the passage ways they made to escape when they were attacked. After the tour was over the shuttle took the group back to the visitor’s center and some last-minute purchases were made before boarding the bus to head back to the hotel. The group took some time to change and get ready for a farewell dinner at a local Dublin Pub. Our friends and partners at Chaka Travel and NABA helped set up a wonderful farewell dinner where everyone could enjoy a nice Irish meal along with some drinks and music while reflecting on the fun times over the last week. Eventually it was time to call it an evening for many who returned to the hotel, while others stayed out to enjoy Dublin for one last evening before they headed home tomorrow.
Sunday October 15th
Again, they had a nice relaxing morning and breakfast at the hotel before packing up the bus one last time and heading to Dublin Airport. It was time for me to bid adieu to the team and the group one last time on this wonderful Celtic Journey. It was truly an incredible experience with an amazing group of people I will not soon forget. I look forward to watching this team grow and hope that Sports Journeys International, and myself, helped them get a head start on what will be a remarkable season.