Off the Pitch: 'I can't do much for the West Bank, but I want to help'
The rocky, barren terrain of the West Bank is as far removed from the lush grass of Semple Stadium as you can get, but this is the hallowed land former Tipperary hurler Timmy Hammersley will be walking next month.
As his beloved county prepares to face Limerick this Sunday, Hammersley prepares for a journey into the heart of war-torn Palestine, following a passion he has harboured since childhood.
"I'm fascinated by history and international affairs - it goes back to school when our principal showed us the Michael Collins film. Since then, I've always had a fascination with the question 'Why is this the way it is?' and over the years it has extended to international affairs."
While initially it was the Northern struggle that consumed him, his focus shifted to the situation of the Palestinians.
"I see it as a major crime over the years. I fully appreciate that it's not black and white and that the causes of it are pretty complex, but the end result is the Palestinian people continue to suffer year in, year out," he says.
"I'm not naive enough to think that I can go there and make a big change. The reality of it is that what a hurler from Tipperary can do for the West Bank is quite small, but that doesn't mean I should do nothing.
"I want to give my energy to something that I am passionate about. I think it's important to do things that are not necessarily going to lead to a clear and empathic change.
"I feel it's important to follow something you believe in, regardless of consequences or regardless of whether or not you can change the whole scenario."
Hammersley believes that the message it sends to the people of Palestine, or any third world country, can have a much bigger effect than you realise.
"From speaking to people that have done similar things before, when people who are suffering see other people coming from first world countries, who have everything they could possibly want, it gives them hope for the future.
"It shows them that people, removed from their struggle, care about them."
Hammersley is hosting a discussion - called Building Vibrant Communities - in LIT Thurles tonight (7.30) to raise awareness of not only local issues but also international issues and to get more people to think beyond themselves.
Other GAA-related speakers include former Clare hurler and founder of SOAR Tony Griffin, former Galway dual player Alan Kerins of the Alan Kerins Project, Tipperary manager Eamon O'Shea and former Cork football trainer Ainle Ó Cairealláin, an Irish speaker from Belfast.
"I know that life can be tough for some people, but in general at the moment we think we have it worse than we actually have it," says Hammersley.
"If you want to you can do it in Ireland, you can make your life here, and it's a wonderful country with wonderful opportunity.
"It's vital that people maintain awareness of the bigger picture and I hope hearing the likes of Tony, Alan and Eamon speak will help more people to do so."
"Everyone on this planet has their own individual life going on and I would love people to extend their individuality to broader issues," adds Hammersley.
The discussion takes place tonight from 7.30-9.30 in the LIT Thurles Conference Centre, with free admission.
For more about Players in Focus, see www.gaelicplayers.com
Last book I read: 'Embracing Israel/Palestine' by an American rabbi Michael Lerner.
What I love about hurling: I may not have appreciated it before but the game is such an artistic expression. Unlimited potential.
What I hate about hurling: Where a player's whole personality is judged by their on-field performances
If I could change one thing about hurling: Training can be made so much more fun that it tends to be. An outrageous piece of skill could turn a game. So why not master or even invent new ones?
My advice for young players: Take time to ask yourself 'am I content with where I am regards my sport'. If not, take time to figure out your own unique identity.