International Awayday With Murph – Ireland Vs Wales

Posted on March 31, 2007 
Filed Under Articles By Murph

Another in my occasional series of away days following Ireland;

Up before the crack of dawn for the drive to Holyhead to catch the fast ferry, I dumped the car in the long stay car park and waited for the bus to the terminal. The number of red shirts and strange language told me that the ferry would be full of Welshmen, most of them seemed to be related and from Wrexham.

I don’t normally wear colours but out came my Ireland scarf to show that the ROI were represented on the HSS Explorer, ‘the biggest and fastest ferry in the world’ as the lady on the tannoy system kept saying. Green, white and gold stood out among all that red and I was getting a few glances from the red hoards. ‘Alright Paddy?’ someone said and that was that, they all headed for the bars… it was only 8 AM!

The Irish Sea was flat and the journey passed. The noise from the boyo’s was getting louder as the consumption of Guinness and Magners increased. At customs the laconic Garda asked ‘Nationalities please?’ Welsh was the answer from most of them, except one bloke who wasn’t paying attention and said ‘British’. All his mates stopped and slagged him off!

I was looking forward to my visit to Croke Park as I hadn’t been there for a few years and to see a soccer match, not to be confused with ‘football’ which is what is normally played there along with Hurling. I am an Ireland season ticket holder or ‘block booker’ as it is called over here.

My cousin, Dublin Bluenose, picked me up and after dumping his car. We were in the Lord Mayors pub in Swords, downing our first beers of the day while we waited for our mates to come and we booked a taxi for the trip to Croke. The Welshmen would be on their tenth pint by now, I thought!

As I can’t go to the Slovakia game on Wednesday, I sold my ticket to a mate for face value, 50 Euro and that would fund our beer for an hour or two.

We decided to have a beer in the Prison Officers club and were met by a load of Cardiff fans in there, where our Blues badges didn’t go unnoticed and we chatted to the merry Welshmen.

This pub is next to Fagans Pub, it won’t mean much to you, except that it’s Bertie Aherns (the Prime Ministers) local and he can be found in there on a regular basis or in the curry house opposite or failing that in his office over the road.

A few beers later and it was onward to the huge edifice that is Croke Park. Three tiered on three sides and the open terrace, Hill 16, where the away fans were housed and temporary seats erected for the day. The Hill will be covered eventually but, will still retain the terraces for GAA games, as it is made from the rubble from the Easter rising of 1916 and has a special meaning for Irishmen and Dubliners in particular.

The view from my seat was truly spectacular, although the pitch was made to look very small as GAA games are played on much bigger playing surface and there was about 10 yards between the white lines and the stands.

After rousing anthems I looked around and saw many members of the Midlands Ireland supporters club, including one eejit wearing a Vile scarf, the Midlands branch is one of the biggest Ireland supporters club and attracts allsorts I suppose. The unwritten rule is that no club shirts or colours are on show, everyone supports the national team. I also saw a number of mates from Digbeth.

What can I say about the game? We were slightly better than Wales and they were rubbish, yep, that about covers the 90 minutes of football. One thing, although it was sunny, in the stands the sun never shines and I was bloody freezing, again. But not as cold as the West Bromich Albion game.

There were over 72,000 at the game and unusually, a Garda helicopter hovered over the away end. I didn’t see any trouble, just the roads thronged with fans trying to get away from the ground for a beer. Although there had been rumours in the Irish press of an arranged ‘meet’ between the Soul Crew and Zulus! Everyone kept asking me about it and I said I knew nothing about it at all, just some strange rumour I suppose.

After the game we headed for the Goose Pub and more beer, this time in the company of Stephen Kelly’s dad and his mates. We had a great chat and they are all coming over for the Southampton game and a tour of Digbeth. No one noticed that England were on the TV and big screen, people only paid attention at half time when the listened to the ‘talking heads’ having a go at England and McClaren. Everyone cheered when they found out that ‘The North’ had won.

The boys from County Dublin, headed back to Swords and another beer and that was that, a few hours kip and back on the ferry!

No red shirts on show from the Welsh but, plenty of red eyes, from the look of it they had spent all night in Temple Bar where no self respecting Irishman would drink.

Hundreds of Welsh turned up late and delayed the ferry by half an hour, lost tickets, carrying beer glasses, at the wrong ferry port etc… your typical international away trip. Most of this lot seemed to be Cardiff fans and were a bit leary.

The sea was a little bit choppy and many of the lads were turning the colour of my scarf. It didn’t stop them drinking though! On arrival in Holyhead, I picked up the car and I was back in the ‘shire by 5.15, dog tired and sipping a cold beer (or two) before heading to bed.

So, just like a Blues awayday, good company, a mighty craic, crap football and home for a beer.

KRO and ‘Come on the boys in Green’ (and I don’t mean the sea sick Welshmen!)


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