Throughout the Rugby World Cup a group of Irish fans have taken part in the official IRFU Charitable Trust Cycle Tour of New Zealand. Wearing their official jersey - which you can buy here - they’ll criss-cross the country, following the team throughout the tournament.
THE LAST TWO days of any trip like this are bound to be fraught with celebrations and hampered by a few problems.
Thankfully our problems were minor and limited to some inconvenient punctures, limited mainly to one bike under the control of Aisling Brennan.
She and the team battled a couple of nasty headwinds, while the celebrations were comprised of plenty of singing brought on by little more than a natural high.
A fairly rough second last day between Naseby and Hyde saw new arrival Mick Galwey somewhat tested, but, it goes without saying, not defeated.
Most of these cyclists however have not had to face off against some of the toughest teams rugby has to offer so what was interesting to see is how after only a couple of weeks on this trip they approached the obstacles in front of them in what can only be described as a professional manner.
Inclines that might have had some of them trembling only a week ago were now faced with the desensitised attitude of “ah, sure its just another little hill”.
And believe me there is nothing little about anything in this country, whether it’s the hills, rugby players or even their sheep.
For our last supper on the road we were lucky enough to be treated to the finest meal of the trip. While we ate it too quickly to describe it accurately the consensus was it was akin to good Christmas dinner.
Treated to a short history of the town by the proprietor, as well as a poem for desert, we came to realise she was not solely in charge of the accommodation but indeed responsible for the existence of the small town which lies on the “Old Rail Trail”, an off-country route which follows along the 19th century railway line that was decommissioned when the gold ran out. Hyde is a hidden gem in central Otago.
The final day will be a blur to most, but not for the reason most Irish fans might think. The natural high can do surprising things to even the most reserved and make a sober man behave in a way the drunk man might question, and although faced with uncomfortable winds from time to time and more hills few will look back on it and not see themselves smiling the entire way into Dunedin.
Pulling in along the coast we final stopped and celebrated with a bit of a toast and an album’s worth of photos. Mick Galwey led songs of celebration as we toasted the many hills gone by at the surf club on the beach just outside Dunedin.
Arriving downtown we have been greeted by a sea of green. The fanzone in downtown Dunedin is packed with supporters ready for the Italy clash.
At the time of writing, the team are now awaiting the arrival of Declan Kidney as he is due to our hotel after his 6pm team talk with the rugby team.
This is a great tribute to The IRFU Charitable Trust and just shows how close the charity is to the squad.