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Staggering Around Ireland


The Lake Isle Of Innisfree




I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

William Butler Yeats 1865-1939


Cricket has ruled this summer and I have been officiating (scoring or umpiring) virtually non-stop. I hadn’t been to any sort of football match for the best part of two months and so, this opportunity to celebrate Graeme’s forthcoming nuptials and to take in three Republic of Ireland fixtures was like a pint of beer to a sun-bleached sailor!

Friday 12th July 2013 Airtricity League of Ireland Premier Division k.o.:- 8.00pm

Shamrock Rovers              2                      Derry City                   1

Sean O’Connor 38, 52                              Michael Rafter 50 (pen)

referee:- P. Sutton                                     attendance:- 2,153

And so it was on a heatwave of a weekend that I rose at the ungodly hour of 2.30am and began the new season! The 06.30 flight from East Midlands Airport was uneventful and the five of us, breakfasted and in proud possession of a fine motor, set out to find Tallaght Park, home of Shamrock Rovers, but only their home for the last few years after a long spell of groundsharing, when Milltown, their former domicile was hacked to pieces in 1982 to provide homes for a wealthy clientele. A small monument remains to mark the spot.




We toured the “new” ground and bought our tickets and even found time to book ourselves into our accommodation for the evening at Dublin City University. A meal followed in a friendly hostelry where even there, a quote from the famous man could be found:- “There are no strangers here, only friends we haven’t yet met!”


The match commenced at 8.00pm, but we were there in good time and met some friends of Caragh White, aged 12, who was to be the mascot at the match. The game itself was pretty good. There was never any real doubt about the outcome, Shamrock held the whip-hand for most of the match, but Derry contributed to a sound contest and gave themeslves real hope by drawing level with just about the most blatant penalty I’ve seen in a long time, at the start of the second half.



Sadly, it took only another two minutes for Sean O’Connor to send a sweet strike from outside the box into the far corner and the points belonged to Shamrock.



But did he score the first goal? We all thought that the opening effort had been driven home by Shamrock Rovers new signing, Eamon Zayed. Imagine our surprise on the following morning when ALL the newspapers accredited Sean O’Connor with both the home team’s goals!



We were all so tired after the match and the long day that we returned to the university and crashed out like felled oak trees in the forest! The following morning we piled into the Nissan Quashai and set out on a diagonal route across country stopping en route at Longford for lunch. It was another gloriously hot day, but as we travelled eastwards it got noticeably cooler – especially in the evening.

En-route, we were going to see Longford Town’s Flancare ground, where I had last been in September 2009, when Kildare County were the victors by 2-1. However, the little Irish leprechauns drew a curtain of invisibility around the stadium as we drove past, and we never even saw it!

County Mayo League

Elverys Sports Super League – Round 8

Westport United               5                         Clairemorris                      2

Phil Keegan, 12, 31                                           David Grant 30

Shaun Tagg 40                                                   Nick Mullee 89

James O’Donnell 45+3

Alan Carroll 60 (pen)

referee:- Kevin Fox                                     attendance:- 54


There was still seventy-five miles to Westport and it was six o’clock when we got there. Suggestions that a climb up Croaighpatrick which dominated the landscape beyond Westport,might have a beneficial effect, enjoyed an exceedingly lukewarm reception. The recommended fish ‘n’ chips were less than delicious as we ate them perched on the steep terracing which lined one side of Wesports United’s Sports Park Arena.


Wesport United are one of the giants of The Mayo League and they made short shrift of opponents Clairemorris. Their opponents were game until the end, however, and scored the final goal of the match in the 89th minute!


The guesthouse where we stayed at Lake Lannagh

We repaired back to Castlebar and the guesthouse at Lake Lannagh where we were staying for the night, but not before a soupcon at a local hostelry – appropriately named “The Castle” – in Castlebar itself where we watched Kilkenny triumph over Waterford at Gaelic Football on Sky TV.

The next morning was a leisurely affair with a late breakfast, a trip back to Wesport to collect a club badge and the gift of a special (and very informative) volume on Wesport United’s centenary (1911-2011). Then we came back into Castlebar to look at their football ground – Castlebar Celtic – and were prety impressed with their facilities. If Wesport have the best team in the league, then Castlebar must have the best ground. They even have floodlights.


Eddie                          Graeme                Martin            Chris                      Martin

After that it was the seventy or so miles to Sligo that took up the rest of the morning!

Sunday 14th July 2013 Airtricity League of Ireland  k.o.:- 3.00pm

Premier Division

Sligo Rovers                1                St Patrick’s Athletic                 1

Evan McMillan 82                          Anto Flood 16

referee:- Paul Tuite                          attendance:- 3,180

This was a stadium to be proud of. Not only was it impressive in the sweltering heat of summer, it also had a scenic backdrop straight out of The Sierra Madres!


We arrived early and parked right outside the main entrance. There was hardly anybody about and we had a good wander around the stadium before they closed and locked the main gates around 12.30pm.


We decided to leave the car where it was and walk down to a local hostelry for a modicum of alcohol to fortify us for the match ahead.


The crowds always seem so much larger in these games. I would have said that there were 4,500-5,000 there. The official attendance was a smidgeon over 3,000. We managed to get team sheets and the correct referee (the original match official having cried off, his colleague, the fourth official took his place). St Patrick’s Athletic are Champions-in-Waiting, whilst Sligo Rovers are the current league champions.



Early on in the match, the St Patrick’s fans had smoke bombs and flares in their section of the crowd


Sligo were diffident and hesitant in the first half and deservedly found themselves a goal down at the interval. It could and maybe should have been a lot worse! Whatever was popped into the half-time brew had the desired effect on the Sligo lads. They came out of the traps like hungry hyenas and tore into the St Patricks team with determination and vigour. St Patrick’s are not league leaders for nothing. They skilfully held off their opponents until Evan McMillan’s 82 minute strike levelled the scores and despite six minutes of added time, that was how it stayed! The only other incident of note was the booking of Anto Flood, the first half scorer for St Patrick’s who was yellow carded for his too leisurely retreat from the field when he was being substituted.


It was the size of crowd that Luton Town would be ashamed of, but getting away from the ground after the match was an exasperatingly slow and tedious process. Eventually, The Garda pulled their collective finger out and speeded us on our way back to Dublin. Speeded? There were tractors, Sunday afternoon motorists, and even a torpedo shaped silver caravan holding up traffic all the way to Longford. Thereafter, it was dual carriageway and motorway and we arrived safely at Dublin Airport around 7.30pm, in good time for Martin to catch his Manchester flight at 21.30pm and the rest of us to board the 21.50 flight for East Midlands Airport.

This was a weekend that will live long in the memory. The hired Nissan Quashai will certainly live long in my memory for its withering, bone-crunching central back seat! Memories too, of the lethal road humps – even on main roads and especially near to traffic lights.

Was I the only lily-livered Liberal amongst a squadron of Attila The Hun’s lieutenants?

Let us not forget William Butler Yeats! He may have been born in Dublin, but he is regarded as a son of Sligo and his birthday is remembered each year on 13th June:-

“But I being poor, have only my dreams

I have spread my dreams under your feet

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

It was Graeme’s Stag Weekend, but we were pretty abstemious by and large. It didn’t really matter. It was the football that was important and that was the really enjoyable part of the weekend.

Sadly it sped by so quickly as these occasions are wont to do and before I knew it ………………….

……………………I was back at home!

Here’s to the next time! It can’t come too soon.






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