Somewhere in between the sheer intensity of the ‘Tiny Tots’ and the white heat of the Premier Men’s and Women’s competitions there’s a special, social gathering aspect to Castleisland’s great, annual feast of Basketball.
Playing in ‘The Blitz’ is every sports oriented child’s dream – and winning your division is pure Heaven.
The social part of the massive whole of The Blitz is eye-opening. It refocuses the minds and thoughts of the locals on what we’ve lost to emigration yet again in recent years.
No less competitive than the ‘heavy stuff’ at each end of the day, ‘The Gathering’ teams provide a different focal point for the audience. There’s the identification and recollection – with the help of the Blitz Programme and there’s the where is he / she now ? aside to the occasion.
Emigration: Yes, it’s a recycled theme and one I’ve seen casting its dark shadow on the landscape here three or four times in my lifetime.
Take the case of Ronán Harnett: He’s a young man living and working in Australia for the past five years and part of the current wave going out from our shores.
He was home for his first Christmas here for three years. And what do you do here at Christmas only play Basketball with your old pals and schoolmates. Ronan played on ‘The Godfathers’ team and, on finals day, they won the ‘Division 3 Men’s A’ title over ‘The Rejects’ by a single point.
I asked Ronan to share his thoughts on coming home for Christmas and what that means to someone living so far away – and he obliged as follows:
“It has been 156 weeks or three years since my last voyage home. Although the time has gone quickly I was super excited to come home to Castleisland for Christmas.
The Christmas atmosphere in Sydney, Australia – where I have been based for the past five years – bears no comparison to the super experience in Castleisland.
BBQ Christmas Dinner
Can you imagine having a BBQ for Christmas dinner and then off to Bondi Beach for a swim in 30c heat ? To me this isn’t Christmas – it’s more like torture.
When I think of Christmas I think of: open fires; central heating; Christmas songs; decorations; snow and, most important of all, the magic of Castleisland Christmas Blitz.
Before I jetted off to Oz I had a 20 years-in-a-row record of participating in The Blitz. My hat comes off to the club members and organisers for yet another great year.
Winning with The Godfathers by a single point made this year’s blitz a little more special for me.
My three weeks in Ireland have flown by. I have spent most of my time meeting family and friends. Being so far away I have missed many weddings and friends having children and to meet all the new additions to these families has been fantastic and exciting.
I have taken part in an annual Poker game. Exchanging tales for up to four hours has been definite highlight.
Undoubtedly, Social Media is a great addition to the lives of emigrants and their families. Facebook, in particular, keeps one up to date with what’s happening at home.
However, naturally, it still doesn’t fill to void I will feel when I head off on my 28-hour journey back to Australia.
Another highlight for me was taking part in the Cordal GAA Club opening of their new facilities and pitch. Past players flew from America, Australia, the UK and came from various parts of Ireland to take on the current Cordal team to mark the occasion.
It was great to line-out with the retired players and meeting long lost friends I haven’t seen in years. It was a superb feeling to put on the Blue and Gold jersey for the first time in years. That sense of community spirit is something that lacks big time down under in OZ.
Easier to Bear
Seeing my parents , Richard and Francis after such a long time was a huge highlight. The fact that they’re doing so well makes it easier for me to go back to Australia and my two brothers, Conor and Diarmuid have turned into a pair of fine men.
I won’t be back for three more years. But seeing everyone and my family doing well makes that sentence a lot easier to bear. As the old saying goes: There’s No Place Like Home. This is so true when you live on the other side of the world.
Thanks Castleisland and Cordal for being the best places to be at Christmas,” – Ronán Harnett, Christmas 2014.