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Home: Ground Hopping & Programmes: International Hopping:
Ireland; 24-27/10

 



Frank/Gary
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Oct 10, 2008, 11:28 AM

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Ireland; 24-27/10 Can't Post or

Friday: St. Pat's v Big Club, FAI Cup Semi

Sat: Longfrod v Shels, D1

Sun: Galway v Derry, FAI Cup Semi

Ł60 return Aer Lingus Newcastle - Dublin

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2008/2009

48 games

Last game: Newcastle United 2 Spurs 1 (Premiership) 21/12/2008

9 new grounds

Last new ground: Reyrolle Sports & Social Ground, Hebburn Reyrolle

Heaton Winstons' League Campaign: P13 W6 D3 L4 F38 A30 GD+8 Pts 21 Pos 4/16

Last game: Grindon Vets 0 Winstons 3

"The waiter's stacking the chairs"


Frank/Gary
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Oct 29, 2008, 10:57 AM

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Re: [Frank/Gary] Ireland; 24-27/10 [In reply to] Can't Post or



Received wisdom has it that a week is a long time in politics. I’d contend that in football 10,433 days is a lifetime. Certainly 28 years, 6 months and 21 days would account for two thirds of my existence thus far. If I go back that far in time, back to before I took my O Levels, when my employment consisted of delivering papers from Ralphie Dixon’s newsagents in Felling Square and felt the music of Joy Division and The Mekons spoke to me personally, I can vaguely recall Stan Cummins scoring a goal that helped sunderland beat Newcastle at home for the first time since I was in nappies. That goal hurt me that day, but I got over it; Keiran Richardson’s winner on October 25th didn’t hurt me at all, mainly because I’d put a good distance between myself and the game at SoS. Sadly, this also meant I missed Benfield’s win over Bedlington Krays on the Friday and Percy Main’s over Wallington on the Saturday, but c’est la vie.


Dublin is a great, if expensive city, but I only use it as a place to fly in to. Now I’m in my mid 40s, the allure of the fleshpots of Temple Bar has faded; I’ve plenty of good Irish mates, who all support Newcastle naturally and have visited Purvis Park, who are generally around my age and feel the same. Hence, during the weekend of 24th to 27th October, I stayed 3 nights in 3 separate counties, saw two games of football and swallowed about 50 pints of black porter, insulating myself against the goings-on at SoS.

Flying with Aer Lingus rather than Ryan Air, I had a comfortable seat with loads of legroom, complimentary tea and coffee, authentic Colleens to ogle and a flight that touched down mid afternoon. At 4.30, I met Declan in Mulligans in Poolbeg Street on the banks of the Liffey, to take on board a few pricey but pleasurable pints, before the real business of my trip: football.

Since 2003, the League of Ireland has run as a March – November competition and the end of October is Cup kept special as semi final weekend. Declan is originally from Galway in the far west, though he’s lived in Dublin since the mid 80s, when he moved up as a student and found himself living in Phibsborough, next door to Dalymount Park, home of Ireland’s oldest club, Bohemian. The cup semi finals that weekend were: St. Patrick’s Athletic versus Bohemian on the Friday and Galway United versus Derry City on the Sunday. It would have been rude of Declan not to watch both games and horribly ignorant of me not to come over and keep him company.

St. Patrick’s Athletic play at Richmond Park in Inchicore in southwest central Dublin, across the river from Bohemian. Their venerable and charming ground holds about 5,000 and it was almost full for this one. Despite being city rivals and having jostled for the League title all season, with Bohemian coming out as champions and St. Pat’s finishing as runners-up, there isn’t much animosity between the two sets of fans; enmity is reserved for the despised Shamrock Rovers, with the whole ground bringing White Stripes in to a football context by chanting We all hate the Rovers to the tune of 7 Nation Army. Very impressive it was too, as were the fireworks, chanting and all round passion of a decent quality game that was full value for the fifteen euros admission charge in a ground that reminded me of Feethams or Brunton Park before it was spruced up.

Poor St. Pat’s came out second best, yet again, as three first half goals by Bohs (also known as Big Club by their fans), including a brilliant free-kick to open the scoring and a classic chest down and volley from the edge of the box for the third by Owen Heary, settled the contest. St. Pat’s got one back early in the second half, but it wasn’t much more than a consolation. Three one it finished and that was with da Boez in second gear for the last half an hour.

Boh’s celebrity fan is former Eurovision Song contest winner Johnny Logan; as a tribute to him, the fans of Big Club celebrated their passage to the cup final and the chance of a double by belting out Hold Me Now. As St. Pat’s have lost in the semi finals of both cup competitions as well as finishing second in the League, perhaps What’s Another Year? would have been more appropriate.

Post match we headed out to Declan’s in Bray, County Wicklow, where I saw Newcastle win a pre-season friendly 6-0 in 1998 and where we returned in 2005 to win 7-0, for pints in Frank Duff’s pub. On Saturday morning, ignoring both the events on Wearside and the questionable pleasure of Longford Town v Shelbourne in the second division, we were off on the train out west to Galway, to Declan’s home village of Glenamaddy, which is a definite no-horse town. However, the licensing laws don’t appear to trouble the owner of Jim Pete’s pub on the main street too much and we were easily able to drown our sorrows at the result from SoS and to lift a few in honour of the 157 Shelbourne fans who’d travelled up from Dublin to Longford, only for the flooded pitch to call a premature halt to proceedings.

On Sunday, with the benefit of an hour longer in bed with the clocks going back, we struggled up and headed for Galway itself, which is definitely the most beautiful city in Ireland. The last time I’d been there was in June 1984, when the Union of Students in Ireland staged a mass degree-burning ceremony in protest at Ronald Reagan being awarded an honorary doctorate by University College Galway.

Unlike the Dublin giants of Bohemian, Shamrock Rovers, Shelbourne and St. Patrick’s Athletic, all of whom were formed in the Victorian era, football in the province of Connacht is a fairly modern pastime. Once you are about 30 miles west of the capital, Gaelic Football and Hurling become the major sports, drawing crowds far in excess of anything even the Dublin clubs could hope to get, for club, inter county and inter provincial games.

The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), formed by one Michael Cusack in 1884, is lucky that Ireland has 4 provinces and 32 counties as it makes organising the divisions and drawing the cups an easy task. While 20,000 Galwegians may often gather to watch a couple of village teams play Gaelic football, Galway United who only formed in 1977, would be lucky to attract 2,000 to their games. However, the fact it was a cup semi final and that the visitors are very well supported, meant Terryland Park was full almost to bursting point. In the current economic climate, that is good news, especially as Galway’s Chief Executive is former Barings Bank employee Nick Leeson!!

With the advent of the “summer soccer” route, all top-flight clubs in Ireland went professional and spruced up their grounds. Sadly, the locals didn’t reciprocate this gesture, choosing to still follow Premiership clubs or Celtic either in person or on TV, or to stick with GAA sports. As a result many clubs such as Cork City, Sligo Rovers and Drogheda United have reported serious financial problems, caused by overstretching themselves as the economy heads down the pan, and had to revert to part time status. Galway were always part time, but were in trouble for another reason. They were cast adrift at the bottom of the league, as their performances on the pitch were shocking. However, the arrival of former Blackburn full-back Jeff Kenna as player manager has seen them climb out of the relegation spots and reach a cup semi final. With 3 games to go, survival is in their hands.

Arriving in Galway, there was a palpable sense of excitement. This was a big game. Derry, who were shamefully excluded from the Northern Irish league on purely sectarian grounds, simply on account of their being based in a Republican area, have been in the League of Ireland since 1985 and have a fanatical away following of 1,500, which is unheard of elsewhere in this league. Unsurprisngly, the only hostility Derry come up against is from the appalling Tallaght Corinthians, Shamrock Rovers.

Derry had already won the League Cup this season, so were keen on a double of their own. With over 4,000 in the picturesque ground on the very edge of the Atlantic, the blustery conditions didn’t seem to matter as both sides went for it hammer and tongs. Derry’s class told in the end and they won 1-0 with a goal just past the hour mark, but far more comfortably than the scoreline suggests.

What I’d loved about both games was the passion and pride of all four sets of fans, without any aggression, nastiness or offensive behaviour. Contrast that with events on Wearside! Post match, we took the train back towards Dublin, alighting at Athlone in County Westmeath, getting a lift up to Maynooth in Kildare from our mate John who’d been down home in Roscommon watching the county GAA final between Boyle and Kilbride, in front of 6,000 spectators – more than both cup semi finals. Naturally enough, once we reached Maynooth, we had a few more pints in Brady’s Bar to help us celebrate the eleven a side game in Ireland and to wish Derry and Bohemian all the best in the final. One team is bound to win a double!





2008/2009

48 games

Last game: Newcastle United 2 Spurs 1 (Premiership) 21/12/2008

9 new grounds

Last new ground: Reyrolle Sports & Social Ground, Hebburn Reyrolle

Heaton Winstons' League Campaign: P13 W6 D3 L4 F38 A30 GD+8 Pts 21 Pos 4/16

Last game: Grindon Vets 0 Winstons 3

"The waiter's stacking the chairs"

(This post was edited by Frank/Gary on Oct 29, 2008, 10:57 AM)

 
 


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