IF WE had printed this time last year that a group of nine-year-old rugby fans in Drogheda would get to play their favourite sport with internationals Paul O'Connell, Brian O'Driscoll and Jonathan Sexton, they would have thought we were mad!
But that's exactly what happened on one rainy but joyous August day in the Boyne Rugby Club grounds on the Ballymakenny Road, thanks to one man and his camera, and 18,000 dedicated mouse clickers.
It was one of the biggest community efforts the town has ever seen – details of how to vote for the O2 competition were even announced at Sunday Mass – but it all paid when the Drogheda u9s were confirmed as the lucky winners.
The prize was thanks to a snap of the minis team playing at Lansdowne Road last year, and the man behind the winning photograph Rodney Keogh says he is was delighted he was able to help the boys take the top spot.
The heavens opened on the big day, but the roar when O'Driscoll, O'Connell, and Sexton stepped off the coach to set foot on Boyne Ruby Club soil for the first time could be heard in Sandpit!
The sun may not have decided to show up to the party, but everyone else who had managed to bag one of the scarce wristbands for the day more than made up for it with enthusiasm. The under 9s got the undivided attention of their sporting heroes for the first hour, albeit in driving rain.
Passing, tackling and running with three of Ireland's finest rugby players – none of the youngsters even noticed a drop.
Film crews were capturing each moment of the action, so we will all have to wait with bated breath to see if our lads appear in a television commercial as in recent years.
The two Leinster legends and the Munster giant spent two hours coaching the teams before switching to a tent where they patiently signed shirts, autograph books and various other paraphernalia, as well as posing for photos with fans.
The day concluded with all the u9 players being presented with commemorative medals, and a team photo of the day - as if they would ever forget August 5th, 2012.