Wales fans enjoy party but leave worse for wear after Ireland slay the Dragons
Published 09/02/2014 | 02:30
THE Valley accents were thick in the air of Dublin all week with the army of Welsh fans – 15,000 of them by some estimates – who had travelled to support their team.
Even better was the quality of their song. Those passing Doheny & Nesbitt's on Baggot Street on Friday must have thought they were walking past a late-night church service. Inside, an impromptu Welsh choir, assisted by pints of stout, were singing hymns – Amazing Grace and We'll Keep A Welcome.
"The Welsh choirs went down a bomb. They even sang The Fields of Athenry," bar manager Alan Murray of Doheny & Nesbitt's said. "Some of the Welsh fans started coming in as early as Wednesday night. They were great fun all week. They'd mostly drink pints of Guinness. There would be big rounds of Guinness – you'd be talking 15 or 16 pints."
Yesterday morning St Stephen's Green and its environs was full of droves of hungover Irish and Welsh supporters looking for the cure, to be followed by the pilgrimage to the Aviva.
The buzz around Dublin was palpable because of the big game.
On Friday night, Keith Wood was in House on Leeson Street for dinner with a crew from BBC Sport; Mick Galwey was in separately with some friends, too. Bryn Williams, the famous Welsh chef-patron of Odette's Restaurant in Primrose Hill, London, was in Chapter One on Parnell Square the same night.
Yesterday afternoon, ahead of the enormous Six Nations clash of the titans at the Aviva Stadium, you couldn't move in Ballsbridge and St Stephen's Green for red and green jerseys marching towards their respective team's destiny.
I saw Michael O'Leary and Ivan Yates going into the ground, followed by Lisa Murphy and Gerald Kean.
At the president's dinner in the VIP area before the game, the great and the good were assembled to chow down. I sat with FAI boss John Delaney, who was pondering the great imponderables.
"I want to be cremated in the centre circle out there ," he pointed out towards the pitch. A man well known to Delaney, but considerably older – 74 years of age to John's 46 – quipped: "I will attend that." To which the CEO of the FAI replied with a roaring laugh: "I don't mean to be selfish, but I would rather be at your funeral than you at mine!"
The CEO of the country, Enda Kenny, wearing a cool green tie, was equally as excitable as the CEO of the FAI, it turned out. During the match – which Ireland won comfortably, 26-3 – Enda, who was sitting a few seats behind me in the president's box, would jump out of his seat – almost out of his Mayo skin – when Ireland's great warriors came close to the Welsh line. This is exactly the kind of energy we need to get the economy back on its feet.
By contrast Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, sitting to my left a few seats down, wasn't exactly electric when it came to the crunch moments in the game.
The atmosphere inside was electric, and extra-friendly. Some of the Welsh fans told me that Dublin is always a great weekend away for the Welsh, and spoke of a bond between fellow Celts that you won't get at Wales/England games. One even quoted me Phil Bennett's pre-match pep talk in 1977: "Look what these bastards have done to Wales. They've taken our coal, our water, our steel. They buy our houses and only live in them for a fortnight every 12 months. What have they given us? Absolutely nothing. We've been exploited, raped, controlled and punished by the English – and that's who you are playing this afternoon."
There was, of course, much talk in the bars and hotel lobbies earlier – The Clyde Court near the Aviva chief among them – of what the bould Gatland's had done to our beloved Brian last summer – dropping Drico for the final British and Irish Lions' Test last summer. Everyone had an opinion.
"I'd be very surprised if Warren Gatland was on Drico's Christmas card list," said a grinning Gerald Kean.