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32 days and 9,700 Kms | The couple driving to the World Cup in a 'Mayo for Sam' van

It's a long way from Clifden, Connemara to Shizuoka, Japan. Over 9,500 kilometres to be exact. I...

32 days and 9,700 Kms | The co...

32 days and 9,700 Kms | The couple driving to the World Cup in a 'Mayo for Sam' van

It's a long way from Clifden, Connemara to Shizuoka, Japan. Over 9,500 kilometres to be exact.

It's a long journey by air but an even longer one in the driver's seat of an ageing 16-year-old van.

That is the journey and mode of transport that Maureen and PJ Heffernan from Clifden have made to support the Boys in Green at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The couple have a history of pushing the van to its limits on previous adventures to Rugby World Cups. It made the short journey to England four years ago but also ventured to Italy for the U20s World Cup too to watch Maureen and PJ's son represent Ireland.

"PJ's mad idea," Maureen tells Off The Ball's Eoin Sheahan of the latest adventure when he meets the couple in Shizuoka.

"It's a mad idea, to just go watch rugby and see a bit of the world and see if the car makes it too," she adds.

PJ explained the journey's route to Eoin Sheahan.

"We left Cliden, got a ferry from Dublin to Cherbourg. We had accommodation booked then in Lille and we moved on from there.

"Every evening then we had to plan where we were going and what we were doing. We had an idea of a direction in a no man's land base of 50 miles heading east."

The van has shown its age at times, breaking a spring in Germany that had to be fixed in a mechanics in Poland. "They are great mechanics in Poland," Maureen says.

After a ferry trip from South Korea to Japan the battery failed to start but besides that "it's been driving great", PJ says. "Touch wood", he adds.

For this trip, the van has got a makeover. It has been covered with graphics, hashtags and slogans especially for the Japanese adventure.

There is a large graphic of a map detailing the long journey from Connemara to Japan, there are Connacht Rugby and Connemara Rugby badges and, of course, #MayoforSam emblazoned on one side of the vehicle.

It has got enough funny looks in the 32-day trip to Shizouka and the couple are truly giving it the send-off of all send-offs as they look to donate the van to a charity or local organisation in Japan at the end of their trip.

The couple though, say they are loving Japan in the van so far.

"They are great people," PJ explains. "They cannot do enough for you. Even to buy your ticket at the train station or parking or whatever, they will go out of your way to help you.

"It's a fantastic country and I'm really looking forward to another 10 or 12 days because we are just going to stay for the group stages and then if we can, come back for the final."

Pointing out the 'Mayo for Sam' emblazoned on the van, Sheahan remarks that if Mayo had been in the final the couple would have missed the match while on their travels.

"No, no, no," PJ replies.

"I had it continuously planned we would have just parked the car and fly back.

"We had planned that we would be in Kazan [Russia]. So, there was a nice airport and a direct flight but The Dubs put us out of our misery... but there is always next year.

"I'm an eternal hopeful of winning Sam. We've been at the door, we've been bridesmaids for years," he says.

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