It is active giving week in Ulster Bank What better way to start the One Week In June campaign, than a charity staff GAA battle of the provinces in Croke Park. A total of 68 players were picked from across the bank, who each gave donations and fundraised to support the month-long initiative.
Our Ulster Bank GAA Ambassadors Finian Hanley (Galway) Thomas McElroy (Fermanagh) and Karl Lacey (Donegal) along with Ray Boyne (Dublin Selector) took up the managerial positions for each province and there was a real competitive edge from the get go.
Arriving at the Hogan Stand, players were escorted to the dressing rooms. It was real Championship stuff as preparations included boxes of Mars bars, Jaffa cakes and energy drinks for those in need of a last minute energy boost. Ulster Bank jerseys were handed out to each player and after a quick change, warm-ups commenced in the indoor training centre under the Cusack Stand.
The teams finished run-arounds and stretches before heading out the passageway, coming up the steps and onto the pitch of the GAA’s theatre of dreams. In typical “first day of the Leaving Cert” sunshine, it was the most glorious day of the year. The pitch was perfect. The traditional green benches were rolled out for the official team photos before proceedings get on the way.
First up was the Green and White of Ray Boyne’s Leinster versus the Blue and White of Karl Lacey’s Munster team. 20 minutes a side on the clock of the big screens and the ball was thrown in. The game itself was anything from casual; a real mix of abilities, ages and genders, putting on the performance of their football careers. Leinster were just too strong for the guys down south and took the game. The first team were through to the Final. Home advantage maybe???
Semi Final 1: Munster 0 - 5 Leinster 3 - 12 As we approached the end of full time in the first Semi, Tommy McElroy’s Ulster in Amber and Black and Finian Hanley’s Connacht in White and Blue made their way to the changing rooms for a similar pre-match routine. This game was a much closer encounter with a one point gap for most of the match. Connacht had their chance in the Final seconds but just couldn’t convert, as the final whistle was blown to Ulster’s delight and booked themselves into the final against Leinster.
Semi Final 2: Connacht 3-7 Ulster 3-8 As the ground staff made their way onto the pitch to repair any damage, the teams made their way for a much needed lunch. Leinster and Ulster players stuck to the small portions; their focus on the impending Final game.
Shortly after, both teams got the boots back on to fight it out. Who would be the strongest Ulster Bank GAA province in the country? Leinster got off to an unbelievable start with two early goals. Ulster legs were tired from the previous match but they weren’t going down without a fight.
As referee Owen Walsh blow the final whistle, it was the HOME team that came out on top and become the winners.
FINAL: Ulster 0 - 6 Leinster 6 - 9 Handshakes all round. A moment of celebration was followed by a presentation of medals to the winning team by Ulster Bank CEO, Jim Brown. Jim promised to clean off his boots to play next year – a kiwi lifting a GAA trophy in Croke Park?! Now that’s a game I’d go to…!