It’s been a year of dreams coming true for soon-to-be-nine, Abbeydorney girl, Hanna O’Connell and her mom and Castleisland native, Marisa Reidy.
Hanna’s absolute sporting hero is Simon Zebo and she has been to see him play many times in Thomond Park during his Munster days.
When he announced his departure from the famous red jersey, Hanna was ‘gutted’ according to her mom.
On one of his final game in Thomond Park, Hanna made a sign with the unambiguous message: ‘We’ll miss you Zeebs’ – and he spotted her and the sign and posed for photographs.
But Hanna wasn’t finished yet and she hasn’t given up on the ultimate dream that her hero will return to play with Munster again.
Fast forward to St. Valentine’s Day – just gone: Simon Zebo is, by now, a fixture on the Racing92 team and Hanna is staying in touch with mom supervised tweets and video messages.
Marisa and Hanna take up the story:
So, the background is…Hanna has been Zebo’s biggest fan since she was tiny.
They met once or twice before when she was very small, but when he announced in late 2017 that he was leaving Munster and joining Parisian side Racing92 Hanna was gutted – as she regularly visited Thomond Park to see him play
In December 2017, a few months before he left, Hanna brought a sign to Thomond Park that said ‘We’ll Miss You Zeebs’ and he saw her, took a pic etc and it went all over Twitter
Racing 92 Supports Club
Since then, she (via me) has sent the odd tweet etc, but at Christmas she sent him a happy Christmas video message, which he saw and shared.
A member of the Racing Supports Club in Paris also saw it and arranged for Zebo to sign two flags – one Munster and one Racing92- for Hanna which he did, dedicating them to ‘his biggest fan.’
Flags on Valentine’s Day
The flags arrived on Valentines Day!!! I shared a pic of her on Twitter with the flags, thanking him and he then made the incredible gesture of inviting Hanna to Paris to see him play…he tweeted ‘pick a game and I’ll fly ye guys over’
So, this weekend just gone Hanna and I had the honour of being his guests in Paris – we got to stay in the team hotel and he met us there on Saturday night. He greeted Hanna with a huge hug, chatted with her and handed her VIP tickets to the game Vs Montpelier the following day.
VIP Seats with Zebo Family
Unfortunately, he wasn’t playing on Sunday, but as well as our VIP seats with his famiily, we were treated to a tour of the stadium after the game. He was absolutely amazing with Hanna, showing her around the stadium, the dressing rooms etc, presenting her with a Racing 92 jersey signed by the entire team and we even got to meet a few players.
Hanna spent ages with him and his children on the pitch, and even showed him some of her gymnastics moves.
They chatted about a possible return to Munster, but mum’s the word on that!
“It’s hard to put into words how grateful we are to Simon for the love, immense generosity and sheer amazingess he showed Hanna and I this weekend – for no reason other than wanting to treat Hanna for being such a loyal fan. It’s kind of surreal to be honest? It was a dream come true for Hanna and we had the most incredible, unforgettable weekend that we will cherish forever. These are memories that will last a lifetime. It’s Hanna’s 9th birthday in a few weeks and no present can ever top this one.”
“I had the best weekend of my life and I will never, ever forget it. I still can’t believe that Simon would do something so amazing for me and I just hope he knows how much it meant to me and how grateful I am.
I never thought I would meet him again after he left Munster and then he invited me to Paris. I still can’t believe it really happened. He said we would definitely stay in touch and meet again soon, so I really hope that happens”
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