Archive | November, 2014

Why I’m finished going to Ireland home games.

27 Nov

Delaney

I  can’t actually believe I’ve just typed that headline above.  Since my Dad brought myself and my two brothers, Myles and Kevin to Lansdowne Road for the first time on 3rd July 1973 to see an All Ireland/Shamrock Rovers XI play the World Champions Brazil, going to home matches (and away ones for that matter) never failed to get my excitement levels soaring.  My anticipation at what lay ahead in the 90 minutes plus that I would stand on whatever terrace I could stand on (or seat I could sit in when all seater stadia were imposed on us) always was at fever pitch, whether or not it was Lansdowne Road, Dalymount Park, Tolka Park, RDS, it didn’t matter.  Supporting Ireland was my little bit of Heaven, still is and always will be.  I will however from here on and for the foreseeable future, watch the home games on my sofa or in a bar with fans (who have become firm friends over the years) who are as frustrated and demoralised as me.

So why am I finished going to home games?  Well, I’ve had it with the Football Association of Ireland.  Now before I go any further, I want to acknowledge what the FAI have done in recent years in conjunction with the Irish fans’ website You Boys in Green with which I am heavily involved.  The FAI (eventually) caved in and gave former international Dave Langan a long overdue Testimonial Dinner in October 2008.  Dave had been injured on international duty in 1981 in a never to be forgotten Worl d Cup Qualifier against France (we won 3-2) at Lansdowne Road.  That injury led to a catalogue of subsequent injuries for Dave, who fell on very hard times.  Eventually as I said however, the FAI granted Dave the testimonial dinner and this was of assistance to Dave.  Fans attending the dinner however (I was one) were horrified to learn afterwards that the pre-dinner drinks reception was deducted from Dave’s cut!  We would gladly have paid for our own drinks if we’d known the bar tab was on Dave Langan.  The money raised on Dave’s behalf was then interminably slow in getting to its rightful destination (you can read further about it in Dave’s autobiography “Running Through Walls”).  We were thankful for small mercies, Dave got his recognition, but without YBIG, Dave would still be  forgotten.

The FAI was amenable to the setting up of a “Singing Section” when Lansdowne Road was being re-developed.  Frustrated at the ghostly atmosphere while home games were played in Croke Park, YBIG asked for a designated section for vocal fans to be set up.  That was implemented.  That relationship was badly damaged however at last week’s match against the USA at Lansdowne Road.  Irish fans, frustrated at the lack of transparency and fairness in the allocation of tickets to the away game against Scotland in Glasgow (and previous games in recent years), decided to stage a peaceful protest and brought in flags/banners in protest about the FAI’s system and in protest about the Chief Executive John Delaney.  The stance the FAI took to this protest, from the fans John Delaney labelled “the best fans in the world” was to send in heavy-handed stewards and Gardai to the Singing Section.  The protest flags/banners, despite abiding by the Stadium guidelines in terms of health and safety and other regulations, were forcibly removed by stewards.  Stewards also tore up Stadium regulations when fans pointed out the banners didn’t contravene any conditions.  In short, bully boy tactics were enforced by the Association to try and “quell” a completely peaceful and justified protest.  It was un-necessary, unfair and totally unjustified on the Association’s part.  John Delaney stated in a subsequent interview that he didn’t have an issue with fans protesting about the state of Irish football.  The action by stewards and Gardai last week clearly demonstrated this was not the case.

I’m grateful to other people in the FAI who have helped YBIG in organising Fans’ matches, who have provided footballs, match kit and other facilities to us.  I have friends in the Association who I know do their job superbly and with the best interests of Irish football at heart.  The past few weeks however have made up my mind in giving the FAI any more money, or buying merchandise associated with the FAI.  The following passage will really explain why I’ve made this gut-wrenching decision.

At the end of October, emails were sent to those who applied for tickets for the match in Glasgow.  It very quickly became apparent that dozens (at least) of fans who had 100% attendance records at away games in recent years, fans who had been “promised” by FAI officials in Tbilisi in September they’d be looked after for Glasgow, had failed in their request for precious Scottish match tickets.  It also became apparent that the FAI had absolutely no system in place to ensure fans who deserved these tickets got them.  The deadline for tickets was extended by the FAI, despite the demand being over-subscribed (we would be granted 3,200 tickets by the Scottish FA, 5% of the capacity).   Why was the deadline extended?  This question was put to the FAI.  It hasn’t been answered.  It emerged that people who hadn’t even been to an Ireland home game had been given tickets to the Scotland game.

When Irish fans bought season tickets, one of the “attractions” is that it would provide a  “priority” option in securing away tickets.  Dozens (at least) of season ticket holders were denied Scottish tickets.  Some priority that.

An urgent meeting to discuss the Glasgow ticket mess was set up between YBIG and the FAI.  Questions were put to the FAI whose officials stated they would be answered.  Those questions haven’t been answered.  A follow up email to John Delaney contained the following questions:

  Does the FAI retain data from supporters after away tickets have been allocated, in respect of compiling details of how many games they have attended, and take that into account when determining whether to allocate tickets for future games?

  If the FAI does retain such data, why did the system fail so spectacularly, and why were fans such as season ticket holders with 100% away records refused tickets? We understand that an FAI employee indicated that he took his “eye off the ball” but issues remain over why individual mistakes can make such a difference and why a robust system is not in place.

  If the FAI does not retain such data, why is it not retained and considered when deciding whether supporters should be allocated tickets for away games?

  What is the meaning of the term “priority”, in the promotional material for season tickets, and what other groups have priority equal to or above season ticket holders?

  Why did the FAI change policy and assign priority to supporters’ clubs in respect of the allocation of away tickets, without making this fact publicly known?

  Why did the FAI not benchmark the allocation to supporters club against previous requests and/or season tickets held by that supporters club?

  How did the number of applications for Scotland tickets increase from the 6,000 quoted to supporters in Tbilisi, to 10,000 in FAI communications subsequently, to “four times higher than the number available” in the release of the 29th October, 2014, when the portal for away applications closed on the 31st July?

  Were applications for tickets received and considered after the 31st July, or did persons who applied after that date receive tickets when persons who applied on time did not, and if this happened, why did it happen?

  Why has the FAI sought to blame the Scottish FA for refusing to provide more tickets, when the main issue raised by YBIG and other supporters does not concern the number of tickets received but rather the means by which they were allocated?

  Why was the FAI unwilling to commit to the implementation of a fair and transparent system for the allocation of away tickets, along the lines of the Scottish FA’s own system, when they met with site users over a year ago, and also in the last week?

Not unreasonable questions I’m sure you’ll agree.  The questions have gone unanswered and have been pointedly ignored by the Association.

Anger grew towards CEO John Delaney, justifiably so following the Scottish tickets fiasco and the pathetic orders to deny a peaceful protest in Lansdowne Road last week.  Delaney attempted to shift blame for the ticket mess onto the SFA for “only” giving us 5% of the capacity of Celtic Park.  He further fanned the flames of anger by suggesting there would be “tension” around Glasgow as Irish fans were forced to buy tickets in the Scottish section.  This was disrespectful not only to the “best fans in the world” but also the Tartan Army, another set of fans with a justifiably excellent worldwide reputation.  In an infantile gesture of defiance to the SFA prior to the Scottish game, FAI officials boycotted the pre-match reception held by their Scottish hosts.

As the dust settled on Glasgow and the Lansdowne protest, anger towards Delaney soared.  It soon transpired however that John Delaney went out after the USA game to The Bath Bar adjacent to Lansdowne Road for his well-liked few pints.  During that post-match gathering,  Delaney sang “The Ballad of Joe McDonnell”, a wonderful song written from a 1981 hunger striker’s viewpoint by Brian Warfield of the legendary ballad group The Wolfe Tones.   A snippet of Delaney’s version was captured on video and posted on the Internet.

What followed has been probably the most spectacular own goal ever scored by John Delaney and the FAI.   The sports website balls.ie posted the clip of Delaney’s “singing” on its website.  A phone call from an FAI official called for its removal, with the assertion that it wasn’t in fact John Delaney singing the song.  As balls.ie had no corroboration or absolute proof it was Delaney and faced with the threat of legal action over its continued posting, they decided to remove the video.  English newspapers The Guardian and Telegraph also elected to post the video on their online versions a couple of days later.  Similar legal threats were issued to both papers, before John Delaney went on Irish radio to confirm it was in fact him singing “Joe McDonnell” in the Bath Pub after all!   So here we were in a situation where three publications were threatened with legal action over a video, with one arm of the FAI denying it was him, yet the man himself coming out and saying the opposite!

I must point out that I have no issue with John Delaney singing such a song as “Joe McDonnell”, it is as I said a wonderful song and a song I sing myself regularly.  People who understand the song’s context and history have no problem with him singing it.  The problem was in the false legal threats.  John Delaney slated the “sly” way the snippet was captured.  Yet he was in a public bar near Lansdowne Road a couple of hours after a major international.  It wasn’t exactly private was it?

Fans continued to vent their fury at the CEO’s behaviour and spin and many called for his removal as CEO.  Unfortunately, some posts on YBIG’s forum contained personal abuse aimed at Delaney and his new partner, Emma English.  The posts, once spotted by YBIG moderators, were removed.  The posters were banned and an apology issued to Ms English and an offer of a charity donation also.  It has been reported that neither Ms English nor John Delaney has accepted the apology, regrettable given that 99.9% of YBIG members would not have made such personal comments, nor condoned such comments either.

Delaney went on radio to air his anger at the “cyber bullying” of his new partner and bemoaned the invasion of privacy into his love life and his singing in the Bath Bar.   This from a couple who openly courted publicity in appearing on Irish chat shows and in several publications advertising their happiness.  This from a man who allowed a film crew follow him around for several months to make a documentary about him called “John the Baptist”.  This from a man who goes to football clubs in Ireland for a “Come Dine with Me” night.  This from a man who allows his shoes to be removed by drunken fans and throws ties into the crowd when Ireland gains a massive result.  A very private man indeed.  Anyone know who the partner/wife of IRFU CEO Philip Browne is?  Anyone see him diving into fans when Ireland were winning Grand Slams and Six Nations tournaments?  Anyone remember Philip Browne leading a sing song in a bar near the Stadium?  Did Philip Browne throw a tie into the crowd after Ireland had huge rugby wins over South Africa and Australia recently?  No, didn’t think so.  Type John Delaney and Philip Browne into youtube and see what you come up with.

In another radio interview following the ballad singing controversy, Delaney stated that the cyber-bullying from YBIG members had been ongoing.  This was incorrect.  The personal comments had been removed as quickly as feasibly possible.  Inferences by Delaney towards YBIG and its members were misleading and inaccurate, with those comments allowed to go unchallenged.  Delaney’s subsequent attempts to clean up the legal threat mess had so many holes in it, it resembled the Titanic, something The Guardian and particularly Telegraph were only too happy to dissect and show the statement up for what it was, utter nonsense.  The FAI President, Tony Fitzgerald,  then released a statement regarding the monumental Delaney own goal, which only really led to the Association scoring another one, such was the statement.

As you probably know, I support the domestic game also, attending as many Shamrock Rovers games as I possibly can.  Many selfless, committed and wonderful people go to and volunteer their time for domestic football, from Rovers fans to Bohs, their great rivals.  From Ballybofey to Cobh, from Galway to Wexford, from Sligo to Drogheda.  Despite the efforts of so many wonderful people, John Delaney recently referred to the League of Ireland as the “problem child”.  In the continuing struggle for clubs to get people through their turnstiles, the CEO saw fit to call the League a “problem child”.  Great help that Mr Delaney.  Instead of actually doing something to stamp out the various woes afflicting the domestic game, a shrug of the shoulders to a problem child was his answer.  Marvellous.

I will continue to support the domestic game and contribute to Shamrock Rovers FC as often as I can and I will attend away matches as often as I can to support other League of Ireland clubs.  I will not however, while the current regime remains in place, support the finances of the FAI.  I’m done with the spin, I’m done with the paranoia, I’m done with the misleading of Joe Public, the half truths, the cronyism and bullying.  I didn’t buy a season ticket, but I know of dozens (and probably more) who have, but they won’t be renewing them and will take the same stance as me in boycotting future home games and denying the FAI of money and I would urge others to do likewise.

I will continue to support the eleven men on the park and our team Manager, Martin O’Neill and whoever succeeds Martin when the time comes.  I will (finance allowing) support the team away from home (if I can get a ticket to see the game) and do so with passion, honesty and decency.  Honesty and decency that hasn’t been forthcoming from certain (not all I hasten to add) people in Abbotstown.  I would like to thank those in the FAI (they know who they are) who have become (and hopefully will remain) friends of mine.

Best fans in the world John?  You don’t deserve us.

Come on Ireland.

Phelim Warren, 27th November 2014.

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Glasgow 2014 – Bewley’s, Buses and Boats; Beers, Ballads, Brown and Beaten. By Phelim Warren.

17 Nov

Glasgow9

It’s always hard to believe how much one can fit in to a couple of days and nights on an Ireland away trip and I’ve done so many now, I never tire of the laughs, slagging, sessions and hangovers, even if the hangovers take longer from which to recover. Anyhow, this blog of the Euro 2016 qualifier between Scotland and Ireland is worth remembering and for those of you who were there, I hope it triggers some good memories (flashbacks?) and for those who weren’t there, I hope it gives you a snapshot of what went on.

Bewleys:

Barry Elmes had organised for a coach load of fans to travel from Dublin to Belfast, board a ferry to Cairnryan and travel down to Glasgow from there and Thursday duly arrived following the three weeks of justifiable fan anger at the ticket allocation from the FAI. The first pick up point was Murphy’s Laughter Lounge in the city at 6.30am, with the remainder boarding at Bewley’s Hotel out by Dublin Airport for 7am. As we left with what we thought was everyone from Bewley’s, I got a phone call from Ger Keville, asking where we all were.

“Bewley’s” I replied.
Keville: “Bewley’s in Newland’s Cross?”
Me: “Bewley’s at the airport”
Keville: “FUCK”

Twenty minutes later, Ger arrived via taxi to the predictable slaughtering from the packed bus and Twitter and Facebook was rife with the words “clown”, “gobshite” and “thick”. We settled down anyhow and collected the final group who’d booked the YBIG Bus, the Newry crew.

The Newry Crew were soon in full voice and treated the rest of us to a new chant, which began “I love my wife, yes I do yes I do”. The rest of it is not really for publication on a respectable blog such as this, but it was a refrain we would hear a lot on the bus home, but I’ll get back to that later. We arrived in Belfast in plenty of time to board the Stena boat for the 11.30 sailing.

Boats, Part 1:

We all piled onto the Stena and scrambled for seats as the queue for gargle immediately swelled to keep the barman on red alert for the two hour sailing. Ger Keville in his capacity as both fan and Irish Independent journalist immediately set about getting some angles for the online Sports edition. One “story” developed about Aidan Brett from “North County Dublin” and his two travelling companions who apparently were at North Wall Ferry Terminal awaiting a ferry that wasn’t going near Scotland and that the three of them arranged a taxi to Belfast to make the trip. The story still awaits verification despite “quotes” from the “affable” (that was the funniest bit of the whole piece) aforementioned Brettser and I’m sure the three lads’ wives/girlfriends were also surprised to see their names attached to Ger Keville’s story of a €190 taxi dash from North Wall to Belfast. We arrived in Cairnryan after an uneventful if chatty and banterish 2 hours or so on the boat.

Beers, Part 1:

The beers had kicked in on the boat already and despite warnings of a booze ban on the bus while travelling through the UK, we didn’t encounter any checkpoints and we all made our way through the cans/bottles of beer on the two hour journey to Glasgow. Two became three with piss stops turning into pint stops for some (Newry and Pats crew mainly) as Barry manfully tried to get everyone back on the bus as the rest of us wanted to check in to our various accomodations in Glasgow. “I love my wife” got a few more airings as the beers brought out the amateur singers in the bus and we eventually went our separate ways on Buchanan Street at about 5pm Thursday evening.

Ballads:

On our first venture into Glasgow city centre (by “our”, I mean my two room-mates Ger Keville, Stephen Day and I) for beers in O’Neill’s pub, I discovered the legendary Wolfe Tones were gigging in Malone’s boozer only a few streets away. The gig was in a small venue and it was a sell-out, but a quick phone call home to Brian Warfield’s brother Noel, gave us a decent chance of making the gig. We discovered Tommy Byrne in the Pot Still Bar sitting reading his paper and he was soon joined by Noel Nagle (who I have known for many years) and Noel was delighted to tell us he’d get the three of us in to the gig in Malone’s. We apologised to Tommy for ruining his newspaper read (it was only The Star after all) and Noel ushered us up the stairs ahead of the queueing customers and in we went ready for a good old Wolfe Tones ballad night in a packed Malone’s. Tommy, Brian and Noel were in vintage voice as the two hours plus show flew in and we were joined inside by YBIG’s Zeno Kelly who shared our delight with the rest of the crowd in at the gig and I met with Brian’s son, Ciarán Warfield who I hadn’t seen in a few years which was another nice catch up!

The gig finished about midnight (a wild guess) and the four of us headed out on to Sauciehall Street for the next venue. Utter starvation enveloped me (I hadn’t eaten for probably 12 hours) and as Ger and Zeno headed to join the YBIG masses in Campus nite club, Ste and meself (well I sorta dragged Ste in) sat down for a fast food rescuer. I hoovered up the kebab and fries and my exhaustion at a long day then just hit me like a train. As we queued up to enter another club (it was a student night, no hope of getting in), I just said to Ste “I’m going to the hotel” and Ste decided he’d join me and we got a taxi back to George Square’s Premier Inn while the rest of the crew witnessed the Campus Cockfest and drank the place dry on cheap Jaegermeisters and shots. At that stage they were welcome to them as I hit the pillow and lost consciousness………………what a day/night…………

Brown:

Friday morning and we were all feeling last night’s excesses, but there was a Fans’ match to be negotiated with a 1pm kick off time to enable us to get all the bags back to hotels and back out to the various boozers before heading up to Celtic Park for the main event. So Ger and meself headed up early to the Fans’ match venue at Toryglen Football Centre at 11am so we could get some breakfast up there first. Ste had headed up to Celtic Park to get his match ticket.

After an £8 taxi ride to Toryglen and a Celtic supporter taxi driver’s constant but hilarious expletive-ridden diatribe against England and Rangers, we wished each other well and walked into the Toryglen centre. The complex was absolutely superb, built by the local Council and hired out to all football users from pub teams to semi-pro teams to SPL teams. The indoor surface was top notch and the width of the pitch enormous, not a great prospect for a team mainly consisting of hungover Irish fans, but we’d worry about that when (if?) everyone turned up to play.

Everyone did turn up, some very hungover, some mildly and the non-drinkers probably hungover by association but I was pleased at the 100% attendance and I named the starting XI, with six outfield subs and a sub keeper. As I walked out on the pitch as the lads warmed up, who was pitchside only Craig Brown, former Scottish National team Manager, the last man to lead the Scots to qualification for both European and World Championships (1996 and 1998). So I sidled up to him and spoke of our honour that he was here to look in on the Fans’ game. He was extremely courteous and decent and promised to give the match a mention in his pre-match interview with Matt Cooper on Today FM, so it was a very nice start to the day’s proceedings.

The Fans’ match itself was very exciting. Scotland took a 2 nil half time lead, with a breakaway first goal and a stray defensive pass seized upon by the Scots number 9 (he bagged the first also). The two goal lead led to the first chorus in my direction from the usual collection of Irish fans of “You’re getting sacked in the morning”. I waved back with a wry grin and thought “there’s a second half to come yet”…………

Early in the second half, new cap Phil Simpson chased a lost cause to close down the goalkeeper’s clearance and Phil blocked the ball and ricocheted into the empty net to give us hope, but the Scots number 9 again burned our defence with searing pace on the hour mark to beat sub keeper Craig Reilly and make it 3-1. Ireland rallied bravely however and with 15 minutes to go, Mark Duggan got in for a tidy finish rounding the keeper and five minutes later, it was 3-3 when Ian Kirkwood dinked a lovely ball to the far post and Phil Simpson headed the ball expertly past the despairing keeper. Fans and subs and myself celebrated wildly at the tremendous revival as the Irish dug in superbly.

Sadly, in the 90th minute the same Number 9 undid us again with his fourth goal and with us out on our feet a minute later, tired bodies let in another Scotsman for number 5. Harsh. Craig Brown had remained on for the whole event and presented the respective Man of the Match awards to the players (no surprise Number 9 for Scotland and for Ireland Ian Kirkwood). As we finished the post-match photos, the Irish fans repeated their chant at my direction of earlier……….”You’re getting sacked in the morning”………..as I said, harsh, but they’re a harsh and fickle bunch that lot! Craig Brown did go on Today FM and gave the match a really positive mention (link here http://www.todayfm.com/player/podcasts/The_Last_Word_with_Matt_Cooper/The_Last_Word_with_Matt_Cooper/23653/0/former_scottish_manager_craig_brown/cp_2 ) and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

For the record the squad who played was: Franny Carragher, Craig Reilly, Kev Reilly, Kevin Haughey, Francis Creaven, Finbarr Neville (captain), Conor Higgins, Mark Togher, Ger Keville, Ian Kirkwood, Barry Elmes, Kieran O’Donoghue, Phil Simpson, Aidan Brett, Dave O’Grady, Mark Duggan, Ciarán Flanagan and Brian Canavan.

Beers, Part 2

So after the excitement of Toryglen, we got the bags back to the hotel and out towards Gallowgate for pre-match beers. Everywhere was mobbed, with queues to get in some bars, so we eventually got into a small Celtic pub (meself, Ste, Ger Keville and Ross Zambra), where two of Ger’s pals joined us, Justin and Lar. The service was crap, so we left there after one pint and joined YBIG lads Del Harte, Gary Malone (and his Da Ben), Dec Glynn and others in McKinnon’s in Gallowgate. The place was jumping and we’d great crack with the Tartan Army boys in there, singing songs from Michael Fagan’s intrusion into Queen Elizabeth’s room to Hokey Cokeying to Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal. Really was excellent banter in there till we decided to head up towards Celtic Park an hour before kick-off.

Beaten

I settled into the “away” end of the Lisbon Lions Stand, a stand I was very familiar with on my previous visits to the historic and iconic Celtic Park. Amhrán na bhFiann was lustily sang as the Tartan Army responded with Flower of Scotland and the noise level reached epidemic proportions by kick off time.

Scotland had the better of things early on and looked far more threatening than we did, but a lot of the game was more frantic than scientific and several yellow cards were brandished as the tackles flew in like a local derby game. The Irish support remained fervent and vocal, but I was constantly pissed off with fans around me disappearing for ten and fifteen minutes at a time to buy food and generally proving that many of the wrong sort of fans got the coveted away end tickets. Why go all that way to a match and miss chunks of it to get food? Fucking idiots…………..

Anyhow, back to second half action and Scotland continued to look the better team with Ireland going back into a long-ball routine that alarmed me greatly. It was no real surprise in the 74th minute when former Celt Shaun Maloney combined with current Celt Scott Brown with Maloney curling a lovely shot inside David Forde’s far post to send the Tartan Army into raptures. The noise was familiar to me for a home goal at Celtic Park, the place shook as we had that familiar sinking feeling. We huffed and puffed till the 94th minute with Robbie Keane introduced after Maloney’s goal. It was to no avail, Scotland 1, Ireland 0. Back to earth with a bump after Gelsenkirchen, disappointing. Very disappointing indeed. Also disappointing were reports of some coin throwing, spitting and menacing behaviour from some Scots towards Irish fans who were forced to buy tickets in the home end thanks to the FAI’s incompetence, but worse again was to be revealed as a young Scottish fan died in a fall down stairs inside Celtic Park. Perspective again………………nobody should go to a match and not come home.

Beers Part 3

So what else are we to do after a game? We made the very long walk back into Glasgow city centre from Parkhead and trudged into Campus. It was to be a brilliant Scots/Irish party with the DJ playing tunes from both nations. Again, cheap booze deals were taken up by thirsty fans and usual Friday night punters and I have to say, it was a brilliant night despite the disappointment of losing the big game. Again, tiredness overcame me and by 2.30am I’d had enough and said my goodnights to the YBIG crowd and found a Subway for a late night bit of grub.

I met John O’Neill going the other way and we spoke briefly to a Glaswegian who showed us his Celtic tattoo (and curiously took out a wad of notes having been at the casino earlier). As I walked in the general direction of George Square, I found myself unable to shake off Alex. He was chatty and I made sure that he knew I was a Celtic fan by recounting the great players, great matches and matches against Shamrock Rovers, but I just had an uneasy feeling about where he was leading me. I deliberately made the gap between us bigger as we walked on for 15-20 minutes and eventually we got to George Square where Alex triumphantly announced “There ya go pal, told ya I’d see ya back to yer digs ok”………….I suddenly felt guilty for doubting this man’s generosity and decency and I gave him a hearty handshake and cautious embrace as relief flooded through me and I walked the short distance to the Premier Inn. Cheers Alex, I wish you well!

Having just googled his name, I remember he told me he’d done time for armed robbery at several Glasgow bookmakers in 2009 and had fallen off the stand at an Old Firm game and amazingly escaped unhurt and google also revealed he’d told me the truth! So it was a bizarre end to another long day and night.

Boats and Buses Part 2

Everyone turned up anyhow for the journey home at 2pm the next day. Everyone was tired. Everyone wanted to get home. The bus journey became a chorus of Newry Boys and their “I love my wife Yes I do Yes I do” and the Pats fans singing abusive songs about Shels, Keith Fahey and Rovers. My own feeling on the Rovers songs was that I’d far sooner be seen with a “17 Leagues and 24 Cups” banner than a “Never Relegated” banner, so I was ok with the singing on the coach.

Shortly before the Newry Boys were dropped off, the umpteenth version of the “wife” song was started, to which Finbarr’s mate finally snapped “Well Fuck off back to her”, at which we all pissed ourselves.

Having boarded the first Luas of the day at 5.30am on Thursday, I was relieved to catch the last Luas of Saturday night and get home tired but happy and in one piece.

As always, everyone gave me so many laughs and magic moments and I want to thank Barry Elmes in particular for organising the buses and boat and to the driver who got us over and back superbly, trying to block out singing, clinking bottles and numerous piss stops. To everyone else, it was great travelling with yiz all as always. There really is nothing like an Ireland away trip.

All together now…………….”I LOVE MY WIFE, YES I DO YES I DO……………………”

Phelim Warren
17th November 2014.