The Tipperary hurlers’ preparations for the All Ireland semi-final against Dublin next month moved to Clonmel last Thursday night where the players received a huge reception.
The regular Thursday night session was held in Clonmel Sportsfield before an attendance estimated at several thousand over the course of the evening.
Behind the switch from the regular venue of Semple Stadium was the hurlers’ desire to show support for local initiative ‘Place 4 U’, a community project to provide a social meeting place and cafe for both young and old in the county town.
Four of the Tipp team are patrons of the project - captain Eoin Kelly along with Paul Curran, Brendan Cummins and Lar Corbett.
Before the training session began, the four players - sporting their distinctive ‘Place 4 U’ t-shirts - answered questions from young and old.
They expressed their support for the project and how happy they were to be involved, saying how important it was for young people to have somewhere to meet in a safe and organised environment.
Schoolteacher in nearby St Mary’s NS, Paul Curran, said he was well aware of how vital proper facilities were for young people and if any of those present aspired to become Tipperary hurlers it was important that they were well catered for.
‘Place 4 U’ committee member and MEP Phil Prendergast paid tribute to the commitment of the Tipperary hurlers to the project and said how wonderful it was that so many people had turned out to welcome them to Clonmel.
Between the questions and the training session itself, the crowd was entertained by Banna Chluain Meala.
Admission to the training was free but ‘Place 4 U’ held a raffle to raise funds and that raised €3108, an amount that the organisers were thrilled with.
However the winner of the raffle did not collect his or her attractive prize - two tickets for the All-Ireland hurling semi-final and an overnight stay in a Dublin hotel. The winning ticket is a white ticket No 0059. The winner can contact Mary Campbell on 086-2735282.
The training session that the players went through under the watchful eye of manager Declan Ryan, selectors Tommy Dunne and Michael Gleeson and the fitness coaches had the attendance enthralled.
And when it was over there was another surprise for the young - and some not so young - fans who were allowed on to the pitch to get autographs from their heroes.
It was like the Charge of the Light Brigade as they headed for Eoin Kelly, Lar Corbett, Padraig Maher, Noel McGrath and all the other players who spent a considerable length of time signing jerseys, hurleys, souvenir team pictures and anything else the fans possessed.
A spokesperson for ‘Place 4 U’ said the evening was an unqualified success and paid tribute to the hurlers for their commitment and support and to everyone who turned up for the event.