Sam to Summit: Harness for special cargo as famous footballers climb mountain
A perfect day as some of the biggest names in GAA aim to raise €100,000
Sam Maguire made a very special 'guest' appearance in Kerry today when winners of All-Ireland medals from each of the 32 counties brought him to see the view from the top of Ireland's highest mountain for the first time.
So precious was the cargo that Croke Park even had a special harness made to carry Irish sports' most famous trophy up Carrauntoohil in the unique 'Sam to the Summit' charity event which will raise over €100,000 for the African support network set up by inspirational ex-Galway dual star Alan Kerins.
'Sam' started the day as part of the offertory gifts in a special early morning mass for the climbers which was celebrated by Bishop of Kerry Ray Browne.
Necks craned at the 7.30 service in Keel church to see so many famous footballers from across the country but the local GAA club, which hosted the climbers for the weekend, also contributed some silverware to the offertory procession as they are the current Munster junior club champions.
Among those taking part was ex-RTE commentator Michael O'Muirchearthaigh who read one of the reading 'as Gaeilge' before setting off on the gruelling climb.
There were nervous glances from many of the country's most famous Gaelic players as they collected in Cronin's Yard at the foot of the mountain where many remarked that they "weren't half as nervous" before their All-Ireland finals but they got a beautifully sunny day for it.
Four-time All-Ireland winning local legend Seamus Moynihan, who has been bit by the cycling bug since his retirement and looked fighting fit, was among the climbers.
And unlike many of them the Glenflesk great had actually climbed Carrauntoohil before.
"The last time I climbed it was two years ago but every time I've done it it's been horrible weather. This is actually the first time I've ever had a clear view of it so it's the perfect day. My only problem is that I forgot the sun cream," Moynihan laughed.
Former Tipperary Allstar Declan Browne quickly stepped in to help out while glancing upwards and muttering "this seemed like a good idea five months ago!"
It fell to Barry Cahill, an All-Ireland winner in 2011, to represent the current All-Ireland champions Dublin and carry their precious cargo at the start.
"Well I have to because it belongs to Dublin at the moment!" he quipped.
"I'll start off with it for a while but I'll be passing it on fairly quickly as it's unbelievably heavy. The idea is that all 32 counties will get a chance to carry it during the walk and then I'll take it back before we get to the top in case these Kerry lads try to keep it!
"I know Alan a long time and am aware of all the great work he does," Cahill said of the Alan Kerins' Projects which the ex-Tribesman runs to provide education, community water and housing programmes in Africa, particularly in Zambia. Kerins is actually flying back to Africa on Sunday night to resume working at the coalface of impoverished societies.
Today's ultra-famous group of climbers also 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 Allstar Kevin O'Brien who recently had knee surgery.
There were lots of jokes that they'd never catch up with ex-Down star Mickey Linden who sprinted for Ireland at the World Masters Indoors this year and is currently the Irish Over-50 60m champion.
Former GAA president Mick Loftus(85) brought the medal he won with Mayo in 1951 and set off off "hoping to do at least an hour or two of it."
The group also included Peggy and Paul Gannon carrying the medal of their father Bill 'Squires' Gannon of Kildare who was the first man to recieve the Sam Maguire in 1928.
And the McStay family from Limerick were there to bring the 1887 medal of Malachi O'Brien which is believed to be the oldest All-Ireland medal still in existence.