Clare’s long trek to the summit of All-Ireland gold can come on Saturday, just as a group of ‘crusading’ Banner supporters take on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu where they aim to celebrate one of their county’s greatest days. Joe Ó Muircheartaigh reports.
THEY know a thing or two about All-Ireland days in the Cassidy household in Ennis. Indeed, a great story about September Sundays was told a few weeks ago in The Clare People by Fr Frank Cassidy when he recalled his days playing for the saffron and blue in the early 1950s.
It was 60 years ago this month, when Cassidy, who was a dual star for the county at underage level for a couple of years, played in the All-Ireland minor football final for Clare against Mayo.
Cassidy, then a student priest in All Hallows College in Drumcondra, didn’t know until less than 24 hours before the game that he could play – it wasn’t that he had to pass a late fitness test, just that the clearance from his superiors to take his place in an All-Ireland had failed to come through.
The green light only shone when he approached the dean of the college and got 11th hour permission to play play for the county in the game on what would be the biggest day of his sporting life.
Now 60 years on Fr Cassidy’s nephew, Frank Cassidy Jnr, has another All-Ireland final story – one about the efforts he and a band of intrepid supporters are going to when it comes to flying the Clare flag this Saturday.
“We’re on the Inca Trail,” says Cassidy, “but hopefully we’re also on the trail of Clare winning the All-Ireland,” he adds ahead of the latest fundraising drive of the Clare Crusaders that will be dominated by Saturday’s game.
It will be a case of from Croke Park to Cusco for a group of seven supporters – six of whom are from Clare, while the interloper among them comes from Mayo who can take to his trek while wondering where it all went wrong. Again.
“The seven are made up of Anne Norton, Fiona Norton, Yvonne Connellan, Aoiffe Lynch, John Kilroy (Mayo), Barry Lynch and myself,” says Cassidy . “It was Anne’s idea. A lot of people have Machu Picchu on their bucket list of things to do.
“We are flying out from Dublin this Friday, so going out before the day of the match we’ll be carrying our hopes for Clare with us in the replay. We are taking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, we’re paying our own way and trying to raise €20,000 between us for the charity,” he adds.
Cassidy admits that in the days leading up to the game it has been as much about finding a venue to watch the All-Ireland and acclimatising for the game, as much as acclimatising for the famous pilgrim trek.
“I typed ‘Irish Bar Cusco’ into the search engine and this place Paddy’s Bar came up,” reveals Cassidy. “That was it, it was decided. Cusco is the real starting point of the Inca Trail, so that’s where we’ll be when the ball is thrown in – in Paddy’s Bar which is the highest Irish pub in the planet at over 11,000 feet and where the match is being shown.
“I was up on the Cusack Stand for the drawn game – going from the Cusack Stand to Cusco will be a huge change, but we’ll be roaring on the team as if we were at the match. We have our Clare shirts and that’s where we’re going to watch Clare win the All-Ireland.
“It will inspire us,” continues Cassidy. You go as high as 16,000 feet – it’s a 43km trek, but because you’re at altitude, for every mile that you walk it feels like three, so it will take four days. When we reach the top we can celebrate Clare’s All-Ireland win.”