Students tog out for 'mad craic' on Donegal Tuesday
Published 17/02/2016 | 02:30
Donegal crooner Daniel O'Donnell once affectionately wandered rolling green hills paying tribute to his county in the music video for his hit 'Home to Donegal'.
"My feet may wander a thousand places," he sang. "But my heart will lead me back home to my Donegal."
The hearts of young Donegal natives led them out of the county in droves to the pubs of Galway city yesterday, in the now annual event 'Donegal Tuesday' - an unofficial party day for students.
However, the county's musical export was soon forgotten as a timely chorus of The Beatles' 'Yellow Submarine' broke out inside the gates of the Hole in the Wall pub on Eglinton Street.
It was an apt choice, as the street was submerged in a sea of yellow and green jerseys - as well as the downpour of rain.
It is a feast day of sorts for the Donegal diaspora living in the area, although feet travelled from all around to pay homage to the county.
Students from Belfast, Sligo, Kildare and Dublin were among those first in the queue for the pub at 9am, with the line of more than 500 stretching around the corner of the street.
The origins of the event remain an anomaly, although it appears to have emerged from the ashes of the disbanded Rag Week, which was suspended at both NUI Galway and GMIT in 2011 following anti-social behaviour. Events for the unofficial Rag Week continue to be organised by groups through social media sites.
Gardaí said a "very comprehensive" operation would be in place with extra officers on duty in the city, and there would be a "zero tolerance" approach to any anti-social behaviour for the week.
The city is already inundated with visitors, with 10,000 expected to arrive for Galway Cathedral's Solemn Novena, which takes place until February 23.
A large number of security staff monitored the crowd, searching bags and confiscating bottles, as the students gained entrance to the Hole in the Wall from 10am yesterday.
"We're keeping an eye on the crowd and the gardaí are passing by regularly," a member of security said. "If we see anyone already drunk or causing any problems, they won't be let in and we're pointing them out to gardaí."
Liam Sweeney from Ardara, Co Donegal, was among the first in the queue.
The NUIG student is currently on placement in Donegal but travelled back to Galway for the event.
"It's good craic and there's no wild badness. Everyone is just enjoying themselves," he said.
Caoilinn Horkin (20), a student at Queen's University in Belfast, travelled down for the day, as did Shauna Gill (23), from Sligo, who has attended it in the past.
"It's the only time in February we get to do something fun and let loose," she said.
Sean Gill (21) insisted the event was "a bit of banter" with no anti-social element.
"It's a bit of fun. People are just enjoying themselves and it's well organised.
"My mum texted me to say 'have a good day, I'll probably see you on the news later'," he added.
On a bus to Galway yesterday afternoon, jersey-clad students embarked from Dublin for the pilgrimage.
One passenger told a friend he was at an interview for an accountancy job in the capital and was travelling back home for the adventures.
"You're great to do that after a job interview," his pal quipped.
In Galway, the Hole in the Wall was full of revellers.
"The buzz is unreal," said Sinead Hatter (18), from Boyle, Co Roscommon, inside the venue. "It's our first experience in Galway, we just came for the craic.
"The Donegal accent is so nice. We're going to hit the clubs," she added.
Events on a similar scale may not be seen again until October 30, when the same pub is filled with the inverted yellow and green Leitrim jerseys in a spin-off known as 'Leitrim Day'.
Locals are now aware of what to expect, although many remain confused about its agenda. "Why a Tuesday?" a passer-by asked yesterday.
GMIT students Mark Doherty (18), from Roscommon, and Dylan Regan (18), from Carrick-on-Shannon attended the celebrations for the first time.
"We heard all about it - mad craic, mad crowd, the whole lot," Mark said.