Climbers play a blinder to take Sam to the summit
LEGENDARY GAA commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh reminded everyone why his name is seldom said without that adjective as he scaled Ireland's highest mountain at the age of 83.
Micheal was given a guard of honour and applauded by his fellow climbers as he reached the top of Carrauntoohil in his native Co Kerry.
The charity event called 'Sam to the Summit' named after one hero was soon outshone by another as the focus of everyone shifted from the trophy they had carried up the mountain to the man who had walked with it every step of the way.
Arriving back at base in Cronin's Yard shortly after 7pm yesterday evening, a tired but triumphant Micheal said he had enjoyed every minute of it.
"It was wonderful. We went up the Devil's Ladder and back down the other way. It was very good and the day could not have been finer and from start to finish there were great stories told," he said.
Among the 115 climbers that took part yesterday was Paul Gannon (69) whose father Bill 'Squire' Gannon was the first captain to lift the Sam Maguire in 1928 for Kildare.
Paul carried with him the 1927 medal also won by his father, one of the 32 medals carried by players representing every county that was carried to the top of Carrauntoohil to raise money for Galway's Alan Kerins and his fundraising efforts in Zambia.
He also had a replica of the 1928 medal – the first year the Sam Maguire Cup was awarded to the winning team. Sadly, his father's original medal was stolen.
The McStay family from Limerick brought the 1887 medal of Malachi O'Brien which is believed to be the oldest All-Ireland medal still in existence.
Although she wasn't even born when her father captained Kildare in 1928, Catherine Gannon said it was part of the family lore how her father had to leave Sam with the rest of the team when they arrived back at Kildare Station after their win because he had to walk the two miles to Moorestown to milk the cows.
The famous group of climbers included Peter Canavan, Ja Fallon, Richie Connor, Brian 'Beano' McDonald, Tony Scullion, Gerry McEntee, Graham Canty, Steven McDonnell, Ronan Carolan, Johnny Nevin, Paul Foley and former Wicklow All Star Kevin O'Brien And Kerry's Seamus Moynihan.
Also among them was former GAA president Dr Mick Loftus (85) who completed half of the gruelling climb. His grandson Michael Loftus (22) and daughter-in-law Geraldine Fitzgerald Loftus carried his All-Ireland medal won with Mayo in 1951 to the summit. Dr Loftus said only four of that team now survived.
The youngest hiker was Jimmy O'Connor (11) from nearby Beaufort to whom the significance of the day wasn't wasted.
A tired but exulted Alan Kerrins said the climb had surpassed all his expectations but having Micheal O Muircheartaigh as part of it had really made the day.
Between them, the participants raised €100,000 for the former Galway dual star's African projects that he returns to on Sunday. "They'll never meet the people they've helped but they've made a massive difference to the lives of so many children in Africa," Mr Kerrins said.
Chairman of Keel GAA club William O'Shea said hosting 'Sam to the Summit' would be the highlight of the club's 125th celebrations.