Grassroots diary: Jim Gavin pilots 5,300 pigs and goats to Africa
He has raised Sam Maguire, the spirits of Dublin and many toasts in recent weeks but Jim Gavin is facing another great test as he airlifts 5,300 animals to Rwanda.
Yesterday, the three-time All-Ireland winning Dublin manager (and one-time All-Ireland winning player) captained crew on board the 'Bóthar Ark' in the biggest ever multi-species airlift from Ireland and the largest of its kind in the world.
Bóthar made its maiden voyage in 1991 by airlifting cows to 20 families in a poverty stricken region of Uganda. Twenty-five years later it has grown into a leading international NGO, delivering thousands of animals annually across Africa, Asia, South America and Eastern Europe.
The special live cargo flight - carrying 37 in-calf heifers, three bulls for the Rwandan Government National Bovine Breeding Scheme, 160 pigs, 100 goats, and 5,000 chicks - took off from Shannon Airport on a five-day mission to deliver life-changing livestock to 797 already trained and prepared rural Rwandan families still affected by the genocide.
Also on board are 5,000 doses of Bovine Semen for the Rwandan Breeding Programme run by Bóthar's sister agency Heifer International.
Almost half of the in-calf heifers were hand-reared by inmates at Shelton Abbey Prison and Loughan House Open Centre as part of their restorative justice programme.
Mr Gavin joined the Bóthar team, sponsors MSD Animal Health and volunteers at Roscrea Mart, Co Tipperary yesterday morning where the animals were brought by donor farmers ahead of their transportation to the departure gates.
The animals were loaded at Shannon into custom-built units providing comfort, safety and rest during the overnight flight.