Thursday 8 December 2016

All Ireland final: Rita (96) who lives doors from Croker gets tickets for her first-ever match

Jane O'Faherty

Published 01/10/2016 | 08:50

Rita Rafter with grandniece Lisa Byrne and her partner Fran Gillane
Rita Rafter with grandniece Lisa Byrne and her partner Fran Gillane

A DUBLIN granny who has lived down the road from Croke Park all her life will visit the stadium for the first time this weekend.

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Rita Rafter (96) has lived on the North Circular Road all her life, but has never attended a match at the venue.

Rita Rafter (96)
Rita Rafter (96)

But this weekend she'll be in the stands watching the eagerly anticipated Dublin v Mayo clash.

Fran Gillane, whose partner Lisa is Rita's grandniece, managed to find some tickets for the mother-of-five.

Memories

"She lives on the North Circular Road, about five doors up from the entrance to the Davin Stand.

Rita Rafter and her great grand-nephew Ryan Gillane (10).
Rita Rafter and her great grand-nephew Ryan Gillane (10).

"If you look out her back window, you can see Croke Park," he told the Herald.

Her family only realised she had never been to a match at the stadium a matter of weeks ago.

While Fran and Lisa were visiting Rita on the day of the All-Ireland last month they mentioned that she would always have lovely memories of match days at the stadium.

"Then she said: 'But I've never been to Croke Park.'"

Shocked by the revelation, Fran contacted the GAA to see if they had any tickets left for the big game.

"I knew it would be a very busy week for the GAA, so I wasn't expecting anything," Fran said.

Touched by her story, stadium authorities sent on a pair of complimentary tickets for Rita and a guest.

"I rang her daughter to tell her the good news first," Fran said.

"Rita was in hysterics when she heard the news. She couldn't believe it. She's a real Dublin lady.

"She lives on her own, and she didn't want to move in with her daughters."

Rita will be in the stands on match day with her daughter Carmel.

Carmel said that Rita would be glued to the television each match day.

"Even though she wouldn't have known everything about GAA, she would have looked at all the matches," she said.

Cheering

"She would be in front of the television, praying to the Sacred Heart."

Rita will be cheering on the Boys in Blue but is also looking forward to seeing another Dublin institution in action.

"Even if she just hears the Artane Band playing the national anthem at the very start, that would be enough for her," Carmel said.

It comes just a few weeks after the ceiling of Rita's home collapsed.

Generous local builder Stephen O'Driscoll stepped in to fix the ceiling for free.

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