It was a poignant moment for Mark Slane as he stepped onto the grass at Páirc na nGael on Saturday. The last time he had done so was as a player during a married men vs single men game ten years previously. This time however he was doing so in a different capacity. Mark had arrived to watch the Saturday morning training session for the St Mary’s Aghagallon All Stars team, a team he is the proud sponsor of.
Mark previously played for Aghagallon for a number of years. He had started his playing career, in fact, with both Glenavy and Aldergrove at underage level. He then moved with his uncle Patsy McAlernon to play for the greens of Aghagallon.
Mark played with Aghagallon until 1992 when he emigrated for a new life, settling in sunny San Diego and developing a very successful truck repair business, ‘Alignment Express’. It is the logo of this business that adorns the All Stars jerseys today. Mark recalled that some of the best memories of his life are from his playing years with Aghagallon and was delighted to get chatting to some of his former team mates who are still actively involved in club life, players such as Martin McVeigh, Columb Walsh, Ivan Lavery and Eugene Lavery.
Mark also bumped into an old school mate, Martin McCavigan who is now part of the All Stars coaching team and father of Zara, one of the members. During a break in the session, the All Stars team gathered around while chairman Columb Walsh presented Mark with a special gift – a photo of the team’s first ever appearance in Croke Park this year, with the team wearing their new jerseys.
All Stars player Zara McCavigan made an impassioned speech thanking Mark for his support and for helping to start the team. Mark said afterwards, “The club are doing fantastic work with the All Stars team initiative. It is literally changing lives – you can see it here today! I am surprised at the large number of people participating and have really enjoyed seeing everyone again. I am extremely honoured to be involved with this initiative and proud to have played my part. Its been emotional.” Mark’s involvement within the club has certainly come full circle. From being a young player, to supporting from afar, and to now return as a team sponsor to the All Star team.
The affinity he has for St Mary’s Aghagallon has never left him and it just goes to prove that home is forever where the heart lies.