Friday 22 September 2017

Everyone is a winner as Galacticos take on the Hoops

Young football fans at fever pitch

Ronaldo attempted to get to grips with a caman and sliotar during a special training session at Carton House in Kildare yesterday
Ronaldo attempted to get to grips with a caman and sliotar during a special training session at Carton House in Kildare yesterday
Raul tries his hand at hurling
Ronaldo and teammate Raul train at Carton House, Maynooth, Co Kildare
Last-minute preparations were well under way at the Tallaght Stadium, south Dublin, last night for the Shamrock Rover's glamour friendly with Spanish giants Real Madrid

Sam Smyth

THE €60 tickets for Real Madrid's friendly with Shamrock Rovers tonight are on offer at €250 a pair -- but the team that organised it will lose money on the match.

Yet Platinum One, the Irish sports impressarios that put the deal together, insist that everyone, including itself and the richest football club in the world, is a winner.

And that claim is borne out by the excitement of the youngsters hanging around the new stadium in Tallaght and the purrs of contentment from the 65-strong Real Madrid party staying in Co Kildare.

In fact, everyone associated with the "Galactico" buzz that has gathered momentum over the past week, and which will reach its zenith at tonight's game, is cock-a-hoop.

Carton House achieved an instant reputation as a world-class sports training facility, Shamrock Rovers and Irish soccer are also the major beneficiaries while Tourism Ireland is ecstatic with the positive global media coverage.



Sweetness

Even the most expensive footballer in the world, the volatile Cristiano Ronaldo, has been all sweetness and light and has been readily available to local fans during his Irish visit.

Platinum One took care of the business of keeping everyone happy, paying for literally everything from when Real checked in at Madrid airport last Monday until they leave Dublin at 4pm on Wednesday.

Shamrock Rovers' fee, hiring the stadium and all of the costs of putting on tonight's match come courtesy of Platinum One, which will then present Real Madrid with a large fee.

In return, Platinum One will get the gate ticket money from tonight's game (around €600,000) and share the television fees.

Chairman Fintan Drury, who founded Platinum One in 1991, wasn't fazed by the prospect of losing money, and is proud of being approached by Real Madrid.

He said matter-of-factly: "We cover all costs, give them a fee and get the money back by selling tickets to the match plus a share of the television rights."

Eamon McLaughlin, a Platinum One director and the principal organiser of tonight's match, said: "We would hope to break even but it is not the most important aspect for us; it is a good calling card for us to show our organisation's capabilities."

The Platinum One team is also proud of its past achievements, which include organising the Ryder Cup in Ireland in 2006, and, over the past two weeks, it arranged pre-season training in Ireland for Newcastle and Leeds.

Mr Drury (49), a former RTE journalist, chairman of the RTE Authority and chairman of Paddy Powers, recalled how he had first brought Barcelona to Scotland three years ago.

"The company saw an opportunity to take the top Mediterranean clubs away from the 30-degree summer heat to northern Europe for pre-season training," he said. "We needed five-star accommodation and food with on-site training facilities and the teams would not entertain even a two-minute bus journey to train."

His company worked on the development of a facility at St Andrew's Old Course, the birthplace of golf, across from St Andrew's University and convinced Barcelona to train there.

Carton House approached Platinum One -- which counts Manchester United and Barcelona among its clients -- to discuss pre-season training in Maynooth.

"I was approached by a third party who works with Real Madrid last September and we went with two Real Madrid representatives to look at venues in Scotland and Ireland, and they chose Carton House," said Mr Drury.

Real Madrid had trained at the same facility in Austria for six years and felt they needed somewhere fresh, particularly at the beginning of a season when they had the most valuable players in the world on contract.

Every detail of Real Madrid's accommodation and food requirements was checked and double-checked, menus were emailed from Dublin to Spain and last week Real Madrid's executive chef arrived at Carton House to supervise.

Lots of fruit, protein and carbohydrates are on the players' menu -- but ordering burgers or fast food from room service is not allowed.

Platinum One, meanwhile, will not be resting on its laurels. As Real Madrid board their plane on Wednesday, the company will be hosting a one-day golf showdown between Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy at Lough Erne.

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