Common goal as thousands march to give families a sporting chance
FOOTBALLERS and fans swapped the playing field for the streets yesterday, as they marched in celebration of the sport's contribution to community.
'Walk of Dreams', football hero John Giles's fundraising initiative, drew up to 12,000 young players and club supporters to Fitzwilliam Square in the heart of Dublin for a mass walk to the Aviva Stadium.
Wearing the kit and colours of scores of clubs from all over the city and beyond, the children and their mammys and daddys who cheer from the sidelines every week marched in the sunshine, in a proud display of sporting solidarity.
Leading them was Giles, flanked by a line of international players, some of whom knew him in the days when he first went to Old Trafford in 1955.
The former Republic of Ireland and Leeds United midfielder said he set up the John Giles Foundation to "harness the great energy of the Irish football family" and "to show that football forms a large part of Irish community life, offering thousands of people an outlet to enjoy themselves".
The Dublin walk was one of 14 simultaneous walks countrywide, with sporting heroes, politicians and celebrities taking part. Half the funds raised will go to the clubs, and the other half to the John Giles Foundation for community football projects.
Giles was clearly delighted with the turnout.
"The weather is a big help. We didn't know what to expect but what a great crowd. We are delighted with it," he said.
"All my ex-teammates from years and years ago are here as well as Giovanni Trapattoni and Robbie Keane."
Tourists and Sunday strollers watched in bemusement as the march snaked up Mount Street and headed for the Aviva.
Among the football veterans who turned up to support the initiative was Jack Hennessy, who shared a room with Giles when he first played for Manchester United.
His friend John Keogh, who played centre-half for Shamrock Rovers over 50 years ago, said he thought the walk was a fantastic idea. In any case, he said, Giles was not an easy man to say 'No' to.
"He has that unique thing -- he makes you feel you are the most important person in the world."
Giles's old pal Eamon Dunphy said he wasn't a "big walker" but he took part as it was a lovely day and a wonderful idea.
Dublin Lord Mayor Gerry Breen said the walk was about getting away from elitist sports and being active for "your health, your head and your energy".