News Billy Keane

Monday 26 September 2016

Model supporters swap tickets to give older folk a seat

Published 26/07/2014 | 02:30

Enthusiastic Wexford fans have given their team great support this summer
Enthusiastic Wexford fans have given their team great support this summer

There was standing room only – and the only preparation of any consequence the dead man made for his wake was to die.

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The relatives weren't exactly the kind of people who would admit to mistakes. Their spokesman explained it thus: "It wasn't that we didn't have enough chairs, but too many people came to the wake."

Semple Stadium in Thurles holds about 53,000. They have plenty of seats, but too many people want to go the the double-header involving Wexford, Limerick, Tipperary and Dublin.

The obvious solution would have been to play the games in Croke Park with nearly 30,000 more seats than Semple. Maybe there might have been objections.

Here's one that has been troubling me all week. What if there was an announcement that the Second Coming was to be staged in Dublin? Would Our Lord have to apply for a licence well in advance to a higher authority, namely Dublin City Council?

Fans will lose out in the Thurles ticket scarcity, but at least in Wexford there has been an outbreak of chivalry. Younger supporters have swapped their stand seats for terrace tickets and the stand seats have been given to the older folk.

Many genuine supporters will have to do without, but I wouldn't be in favour of moving the qualifiers to Dublin all the same.

There's something special about Thurles on big match days. Liberty Square will be thronged with fans dressed in four different county jerseys.

There's history here, too. The GAA was founded in Hayes Hotel at the top of the left corner of The Square.

It seems that the meeting room where the association came into being is now a gents toilet, or so I was told by the pretty and friendly receptionist when we were doing 'The Road to Croker' in Thurles a few years ago.

The pitch is good enough to putt on and Thurles seems to bring out the best in players.

There are huge stadia which are hardly ever used for big games. The Gaelic Grounds in Limerick hosts only one or two serious games every year and there will be seasons, such as this one, when there will be no big match played in the 30,000-plus Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney.

Maybe the qualifiers could have been played in two venues and so the bounty might have been spread evenly.

Then again, there have often been play-off days when you could fit the terracotta warriors into Thurles.

The football qualifiers will take place in Tullamore this evening and one of our favourite places will be buzzing.

The GAA do have a sense of fair play in that by boosting places like Tullamore they are in some way making up for the financial loss incurred by the provincial towns from the playing of all Dublin matches in Croke Park. We are very much for decentralisation.

Now, we cannot let the day go by without mentioning Dublin who were better than brilliant against Meath, even if they were helped out yet again by the referee, who banned a perfect Meath goal when he blew prematurely at a stage when Meath could've kept up their spirits with a big score.

Strange, isn't it, but back in the seventies, Dublin hardly ever got a friendly ref in Croke Park, but now the referees are far more sympathetic to the Dubs.

Dublin are a joy to watch. Their football is all about forward momentum and skill. There's no back-passing or lateral cat-farting. The Dubs will take some beating if they keep this going all season.

The 'finger food affair,' involving Dublin's Eoghan O'Gara and Meath's Mickey Burke has to be written about.

Here's one for you. How could Eoghan have bitten Mickey if he was wearing a gum shield? And was he?

Players don't talk when their mouths are full. I know of a Kerry player who was bitten and eye-gouged, but there wasn't a word out of him.

A Donegal player refused to give evidence in an alleged biting case. Maybe the game would be better served if players did speak out.

There seems to be an attitude that if a player gives evidence, he is perceived to be some sort of softie who can't take the rough stuff.

It takes real courage to stand up for sporting play and to out the perpetrators. We all saw what Omerta did to cycling.

And if you do make allegations, be prepared to back it up and don't just let the charge hang over a player who should either be punished or acquitted in accordance with the rules.


O'Gara will never get the opportunity to clear his name and the slur will hang over him even though he may well be an innocent man.

We will never know for sure what really happened in the 'finger food affair.'

We will finish with another ticket story. Eric Browne is my bookie and many's the designer outfit I have bought for his wonderful wife Mary, indirectly that is, through losing dockets.

Eric somehow secured a seat in the VIP section of Croke Park. The bookie told the boys in the bar he was brought cocoa at half-time by a lad wearing a dickie bow who called him 'sir' and a rug was placed around his knees "like they do with passengers on luxury ocean liners when the wind blows from the north-east".

"Was your ticket any good?" asked one of his miffed listeners, who has never been nearer to the action than Row 93, which is so high up in The Hogan that the GAA have to employ Sherpas to show the patrons to their seats.

"Was my ticket any good?" replied Eric. "Was my ticket any good, you ask me? It was the best ever.

"Sure I was so close to the halfway line, wasn't I sitting up on President McAleese's lap."

Irish Independent

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