AS thousands of Leinster rugby fans begin the exodus to Cardiff for this weekend's Heineken Cup final, one rugby star is preparing for a far more formidable journey.
Trevor Hogan (31), who played over 100 games for both Leinster and Munster, will next month be one of 30 Irish people on a major flotilla hoping to break through an Israeli sea blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The Nenagh man said that the Irish vessel, Saoirse, will be one of 11 ships hoping to provide much needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians next month. The flotilla departs for Gaza just over a year after an Israeli raid on the first Freedom Flotilla resulted in the deaths of nine passengers.
Hogan, who played four times for Ireland, was forced to retire from professional rugby because of a knee injury last January. While playing for Leinster, he studied Arab-Israeli conflicts in UCD with his former coach -- Michael Cheika.
"The injustices there are something I slowly became aware of. I can see the parallels with Palestinian history and Irish history," Trevor explained.
"What has happened to the Palestinian people is unjust and we are hoping to provide humanitarian aid as part of a peaceful mission next month."
He also compared being selected as a crew member of the Irish ship to his rugby days.
"It's like being picked for a major game. We don't know what port we are leaving from just yet, but it is going to be twice the size as the flotilla from last year," Trevor said.
"My family were a bit surprised when I told them but we are optimistic we will reach our destination.
"It is a completely humanitarian mission. I am not not trying to get involved in politics. It is about trying to reach out to people on a human level -- people who need our assistance," Trevor added.