Whilst the fixing of Laois vs Dublin in Kilkenny has courted plenty of controversy and criticism, one GAA club spotted an opportunity.
Nestled at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains, Emo is a small village in Co. Laois that grew beyond the gates of Emo Court House, a Georgian mansion designed by James Gandon in 1796. With wide stretches of land surrounding the estate, Emo was always bound to produce a few athletes down through the years and today, despite a modest population, it is the proud home to a senior football club that narrowly lost out to Portlaoise in last year’s County final (following a replay).
While it might seem a long time ago now, Laois was once at the fore of Leinster football. In 2003, Paul Lawlor proudly represented his village as he, alongside his cousin Mick, helped Laois claim the Leinster Championship for only the sixth time in its history. Unfortunately, days out at HQ have been all too rare for Laois ever since but tomorrow Paul will return on a fleeting visit as he sets off on The Great Solo Run in aid of Laois Down Syndrome.
With the help of his nephew Jake, a ball will be thrown up at Croke Park and Paul will kick-off a remarkable 150km journey that will see 100 participants solo from Jones’ Road to Nowlan Park over the course of the next two days, arriving in Kilkenny prior to the Leinster quarter-final on Saturday evening.
“Jake has Down Syndrome and I’ve always wanted to do something for those like Michael Gormley and all at the Laois Branch who do so much for the Down Syndrome community in the county.
“We are a big GAA family so we thought we’d try to incorporate that into a fundraising effort,” Paul said (via The Irish Sun).
Indeed, Paul has enjoyed plenty of support since devising the initiative. Copper Face Jacks, that famous GAA institution on Harcourt Street, have been extremely supportive in their role as the main sponsor, while Marty Morrissey and former Dublin footballers Ciarán Whelan and Barry Cahill will wave him off in the morning.
Several GAA personalities will also take on a stage of the journey before members of the Kilkenny hurling panel welcome The Great Solo Run into the Marble City.
We wish Paul and everyone involved all the best on their adventure!
If you wish to lend your support you can donate by texting SOLO to 50300.
Richard McElwee, Pundit Arena
The latest episode of The 16th Man GAA Podcast is now available to review, with plenty of discussion and debate about this weekend’s busy Championship schedule.