All going well, Queenstown’s about to enter the annals of Irish history.
In what’s believed to be a world-first, representatives from all of Ireland’s 32 counties are assembling in the resort next Saturday, January 28, for some historic photos.
It’ll also be the prelude to an annual game showcasing the Irish sport of hurling.
‘The Full 32’ is the idea of Irish expat and County Down representative Declan ‘Diesel’ Malone, who’s lived in Queenstown for nine years and also founded the local hurling club.
He’s confident such a gathering’s never been assembled before — even in Ireland.
‘‘It definitely should have been done, but there’s no evidence.’’
The proud Irishman’s had the idea for many years, but got cracking a year ago when the hurling fixture was cancelled due to Covid restrictions.
A good few of ‘the full 32’ are local Irish expats, but many are also flying in for the day from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
‘‘Everybody’s excited for it.’’
They include, pictured above, from left, Conleth Mac Giolla Earnain (Meath), Niamh Murphy (Leitrim), Ruaidhri De Faoite (Galway), Conor Kerins (Sligo), John Hudson (Armagh), Neal McAloon (Fermanagh) and Shane Ahern (Limerick).
New Zealand-based Friends of Ireland, Malone says, has ‘‘massively helped’’ by filling some of the slots.
As the big day gets close, he admits ‘‘it’s getting very nerve-wracking’’.
‘‘Everybody has to show up or it doesn’t work.’’
Only last Saturday, one of the 32 pulled out, but thankfully got replaced.
‘‘I’m getting emotional already, but I’ve loved organising it.’’
The Irish expats will be photo graphed wearing both their county jerseys and a special ‘The Full 32’ jersey that’s been designed and made in Ireland — it goes on sale next month, with $10 from each jersey going to The Tara Trust, which supports NZ’s Irish community, to support mental health.
Guests at next Saturday’s historic gathering, 1pm at the Queenstown Rec Ground, will include Irish ambassador to NZ, Jane Connolly and Queenstown mayor Glyn Lewers.