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‘There’s An Indescribable Sense Of Belonging Within The Hurling Community’

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There’s a rare breed of fan that always goes the extra mile for their club, whose loyalty and passion to their sport goes above and beyond the call of duty. People who feel like they simply belong in this community.

We went looking for Dublin’s biggest fans to see what makes them tick. These are the people who make major sacrifices in their life to support the teams that hold a special place in their heart — and inspire the rest of us to be part of it in the process.

First up is Alan Cronin from the club Scoil Uí Chonaill, which is currently in joint first place in AHL3 and in the quarter finals of the Intermediate Hurling Championship, who explains why belonging to the hurling community is so important to him…

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First game or memory?

I suppose my first significant playing memory was when I was playing under 11. The manager of the team at that time was Tommy Naughton — former Dublin Senior Hurling Manager and currently the manager of the Scoil Uí Chonaill hurling team, on which I play — and his passion for the game was notoriously infectious. I vividly remember instinctively whipping on a rolling sliotar at one point (to get it as far away from me as possible) at the halfway line. I’ll never forget the connection I made and the buzz it gave me! The sight of the ball rather fortuitously finding the bottom corner of the net had me instantly hooked.

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Best Dublin hurling memory?

My fondest memories of Dublin hurling are from when I was about 11 or 12 and my current hurling manager Tommy Naughton was then a selector on the Dublin Senior Hurling team. Tommy used to take my brother Sean and I to Parnell Park to assume the roles of ballboy, waterboy or general gofer. The best part of the experience was when he used to let us come into the dressing room for challenge games and sit quietly in the corner and experience the atmosphere. At the time, the players were giants to me and I’ll always remember how they would go from being psyched up for the game, slapping each other with shoulders in the warm-up room, to being perfectly polite gentlemen asking myself and Sean what club we played for and if we were going to play for Dublin one day.

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Do you have any match day rituals?

One of my key rituals now is to make sure I have a laugh. Some of my best friends are on my team and so I make sure to appreciate that those moments in the dressing room will remain some of the best of my life. In Scoil Uí Chonaill, we’re very fortunate to have a full gym with large speakers beside our dressing room so there’s always a great buzz with music playing while lads get their rolling and initial warm-ups done… although you know you’re becoming a senior member of the team when the music starts to disagree with you!

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How is it a part of your life — taking up weekends, spending money, travelling, missing work, missing family occasions?

There certainly are issues with scheduling et cetera, as the organisation faces the task of accommodating two sports equally — a wholly unique challenge to GAA. Every so often I find myself questioning the time it takes from me, the holidays I miss and the cost and commitment necessary, especially as I went hurling cold turkey when travelling the world for a year, during which time I thought, “wow, look at all the amazing things I can do when I’m not tied down”. But it’s always the same, once you get back you instantly think, “I forgot how much I love this bubble”.

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What does being a Dublin fan mean to you?

I believe it’s about representing yourself, the county and the sports well to encourage the next generation to continue the tradition. For me, it’s helping my nephews Jake (8) and Charlie (4) to love the game as I have, so that they may reap the countless benefits throughout their lives, like I’ve been fortunate enough to. It’s about trying to ensure my Club Scoil Uí Chonaill continues to be a warm, welcoming environment that will support the community and its members. It’s about making sure we continue to be competitive at the highest level and strive for success.

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