Last month, and after a year of planning and fundraising, the Cill Dara U14 squad departed for an end of season tour to the Milan and Parma region of Italy.

The first day was spent in the city of Milan with the highlight being tour of the San Siro Stadium where this year’s Champions League Final is to be held. Saturday began with a trip to the foothills of Parma, which was a real pleasant surprise. After a brief visit to the spectacular Castello di Torrechiara, the touring party were brought to a family-run farm that makes its own artisan food – meats, cheeses, wine etc.
The afternoon was the focal point of the tour with our attendance at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi for Zebre’s final Pro 12 game versus the Newport Gwent Dragons. It was a must win game for the home team.  With Leinster thumping Treviso in Dublin – Zebre’s challengers for that precious final Champions Cup qualifying spot – the Leinster flag we carried was greeted with glee by the Zebre fans.
After the Guinness PRO12 game, it was Cill Dara’s turn to play rugby. The back pitch at the stadium has a 4G artificial surface. After losing at the semi-final stage in the U14 cup two weeks earlier and, as such, denied a final in Donnybrook this season, playing here would be some consolation for the lads.
The Kildare boys played two local teams – Rugby Colorno & Rugby Piacenza. There was a real sense of the international flavour of the occasion as the two Italian teams lined up facing the Irish and all sang their national anthems.
First up was Piacenza. No doubt buoyed by the sunny conditions, a sizable and curious crowd who were leaving the Pro12 game and the novelty of the 4G surface, Cill Dara cut loose. Running the ball at every opportunity against bigger opposition, the Kildare lads scored seven tries and finished the game 45-17 winners.
Rugby Colorno was a different proposition.  Their reputation as being the best U.14 team in the area was well earned, and accurate. This game was probably the fastest, most intense game the Kildare lads have ever played in. The tackles were immense and the speed by which both teams moved the ball was on par with an adult game. Cill Dara fell behind to an early score 7-0 and then conceded again at the start of the second half (controversially) 14-0. However the last 20 minutes was probably the best this team has ever played. Incredible, organised, exciting running rugby as Cill Dara ran Colorno around the pitch, scoring with 10 minutes to go to set up a nail biting finish. Cill Dara should have scored again but it wasn’t to be. Full-time was 14-7 to Colorno.
After the games, new friends were made and club pennants were swapped. What a joy to see rugby being used as the common language as young Italian and Irish players intermingled, passing the ball around and exchanging jerseys.