Only three Limerick and 33 Irish men have climbed Mount Everest and felt on top of the world.
The latest - Brian Meskell, Castleconnell got a hero’s welcome at a homecoming party in Ahane GAA clubhouse. He was the first of his group to reach the summit.
As he stood there in splendid isolation what was going through his mind? “It is kind of surreal, just looking around is amazing. You do get emotional, some of the lads broke down crying. You can see the clouds below you and then it’s thousands of metres to the ground,” said Brian.
But he didn’t have too much time for admiring the view - he had a job to do. Plus it was -50°C with a facial frostbite time of five minutes. Before he left in early April Brian asked his brother, John, had he “any auld Ahane flag lying around anywhere to bring to Everest?”
John hadn’t so got onto club secretary Denis Murrihy who gave him a “fine big flag”. However, unfurling a “fine big flag” on top of Everest in gael force winds isn’t really advised. “I didn’t really think it through!” laughs Brian.
“When I took it out of the bag it was blowing in my face. It was such a big flag and it was so windy. It was awkward to manoeuvre. I should have brought a smaller flag!”
But after bringing it up 8,848 metres he wasn’t going to let it blow away in the wind. I couldn’t really plant it. There are a lot of prayer flags at the top so I wrapped it around one of the flags.”
The 2004 county medal winner has legendary status after he placed the Ahane flag on Everest. Although it was only on loan.
“Denis wants me to go back up and get it!”
A big crowd of family, friends and club members attended the function. Brian gave a talk and showed them photographs and a video of his expedition.
“It was a great night. They gave me a little plaque which I wasn’t expecting. I was just expecting to show the parents and a couple of friends the pictures at home on a CD,” said Brian, whose proud mum and dad are Rose and John, and he has two brothers and one sister, John, Kevin and Sheila.
At any point did the 33-year-old feel scared or think about calling it a day? “You do a lot of research but you are still wary of the unknown.
“Altitude sickness is the major thing, you can’t prevent it - it can happen to anyone, that was a lottery. I wasn’t really scared, I was always pretty confident I would get to the top if I didn’t get too cold or the weather was bad. But you are going along rocky ledges in parts and there is a 3,000 or a 4,000 metre drop below you - that was pretty interesting. You are so kind of focused on keeping going. You spend a month and a half acclimatising and waiting that by the time it comes around you are pretty much ready to go. It was like the GAA, I was training for two years to achieve my goal,” he said.
The marine technical officer doesn’t have any current plans for his next adventure.
“I have enough of big mountains for the time being,” said Brian, who has gone on holidays.
One thing is for sure, he will be watching the Munster final wherever he is in the world, and hoping Limerick GAA flags are again blowing in the wind.