Wednesday July 24th
After their overnight flight the team arrived at Dublin Airport ready to explore Ireland. After meeting myself and Peter, their coach driver/guide for the week, it was off to the west coast of Ireland and Galway, the first stop of the trip. After a stop for lunch along the way, the group arrived in Galway and got the opportunity to walk around a bit and gather their bearings of the city. After walking around the vibrant streets of the center of Galway everyone returned to the hotel in order to check in and have a bit of down time before a welcome dinner at the hotel. After dinner this evening most took the opportunity to head back downtown and explore the city some more. I took this opportunity to get to know the coaching staff a bit better as we explored some of the local pubs.
Thursday July 25th
After a good night’s sleep everyone gathered for breakfast this morning and got ready for the first tour of the trip. Today the group was headed down to the famed Cliffs of Moher! It was a beautiful drive along the coast followed by some twists and turns through the smaller windy roads of the Irish west coast and arrived at the Cliffs just as the weather was starting to clear. Most of the group scattered and took in the beautiful views from different areas of the cliffs. A group of about 10, including myself, decided to try to make the hike all the way out to the telegraph station at the far end of the point. The group gradually dwindled, but in the end 6 of us made the trek there and back. After a few hours spent around the cliffs, including lunch, everyone boarded the bus again to head back to Galway for a pre-game meal at the hotel. Tonight’s match-up was with local team Moycullen. It was a back and forth battle for much of the night before the pace of play pushed by the Blue Streaks became too much and the game ended 91-82 in favor of John Carroll. After the game members of both teams gathered together at the hotel for some pizza and getting to know each other a bit better. After all the pizza had been finished a few of the Moycullen players took some members of the group to a few of their favorite places.
Friday July 26th
After breakfast it was time to say goodbye to Galway and make our way to the next stop of the trip, Westport. On the way out of town there was a quick shopping stop at Connemara Marble Factory before continuing northward through the beautiful landscapes of Connemara towards the first destination of the day, Kylemore Abbey. Some of the group took the time just to explore the Abbey and it’s different rooms and artwork, while others also spent some time in the beautiful Victorian Walled Gardens on the far end of the property. For lunch today they were in for something special as they boarded a boat in the Killary Fjord and were treated to lunch and a trip up and down the fjord seeing some of the stunning landscapes along the way. A few members of the group even got the opportunity to drive the boat! After returning to land it was on the final destination of the day, Westport. After arriving and checking in to the hotel everyone was on their own to explore the city for the evening and this quaint town didn’t disappoint anyone.
Saturday July 27th
Today was a special day that everyone was looking forward to. It was the day that the group was set to climb Croagh Patrick, one of the most famous mountains in all of Ireland. It was also during the holy weekend which brings tens of thousands to County Mayo each year. A much needed hearty breakfast at the hotel this morning and then the short drive to the base of the mountain and the group set off towards the top. A few made it in record time, and what was even better was that today was one of the clearest days of the trip and so that made the group one of the lucky few who were able to see for miles when the reached the top. After everyone made it back down it was time to make the trip back across Ireland for a few days in Dublin. After a few hours, and a stop along the way it was time to check in to the final hotel of the trip and enjoy a welcome dinner. Once dinner had finished many in the group took the opportunity to explore the Dublin nightlife and a few of the oldest pubs in the world.
Sunday July 28th
After a bit of a later start today, which many used for rest after a long day yesterday the team was off to participate in a youth basketball clinic with Tuesday nights opponents, Templeogue. The turnout was great and all of the local kids were excited to get to interact with an American team and see how they would go through drills in their practices. After a solid two hours of hard work they ended with a fun game and a few giveaways before saying goodbye and heading back to the hotel to meet up with the rest the group. After grabbing some lunch at a few different places, including the famed Beshoff’s fish and chips, it was time for a walking tour of downtown Dublin. We split up into two groups, adults and players, and the wonderful local guides took the groups to the different famous sites throughout the city. Some of the most enjoyable parts were the explanations and places that were off the beaten path and mostly unknown to many travelers to Dublin. After the tour came to an end some went back to the hotel to rest a bit, while others took the time to explore some of the places they just learned more about before eventually returning to the hotel for dinner.
Monday July 29th
Today’s full day excursion took the group south to Kilkenny to see it’s famed castle, as well as another one of Ireland’s charming cities. Upon arrival at the castle we were led through by a group of wonderful guides explaining the vast history of the castle and what it might have been like living there in the various periods of history. After an excellent tour everyone went across the street for lunch at the Kilkenny Design Center, after of course stopping downstairs to see some of the local artisans work and make a few purchases. They enjoyed an excellent meal and it was then time to get to know the rest of the city a bit more by hopping on the mini-train run by Kilkenny City Tours. The funny/crazy driver lead the group through the city explaining how it grew to become what it is today and it was pretty much non-stop laughter the entire way. After the tour was over the group got the chance to do something not many do outside of Ireland, practice hurling. This very Irish game is hard to explain to those who haven’t seen it, but a few local kids were playing in the park and were nice enough to teach a few players and coaches how to hit the ball properly. A huge thanks to those two kids for sure. After this great experience we headed back to Dublin for an evening to explore the city on their own.
Tuesday July 30th
Today was another excursion day outside of Dublin, and also my personal favorite day of these tours to Dublin. After breakfast the group headed north to Brú na Bóinne to explore the ancient burial site of Knowth which is known to be older than even the great pyramids of Giza. After touring, and even having the opportunity to go partially into one of the chambers, it was on to the coastal village of Howth for lunch at a local pub and some free time to explore. The group gathered back together and headed back in to Dublin for some rest time before heading back out for another game this evening. Tonight’s game was against Templeogue at the National Basketball Arena. From the start tonight it was an extremely high scoring affair with 3 pointers being hit from everywhere which ended in yet another Blue Streaks win, 121-102. After the game finished it was straight back to the hotel as tomorrow mornings departure was very early. A few thank yous and goodbyes were enjoyed before calling it a night.
Wednesday July 31st
As I said today was a very early morning for all getting to the airport to check everyone in for their flights home. After a quick trip to the airport everyone said their goodbyes to Peter after an excellent trip. Then it was my turn to say goodbye before boarding my flight home. Although more of an until next time feeling with many of these goodbyes. I look forward to watching this team grow and hope that Sports Journeys International, and myself, helped them bond a bit more and have an experience they will always remember.