JUNIOR Transport Minister Alan Kelly has confirmed he asked Iarnrod Eireann to run a special train from Tipperary to Dublin for the All-Ireland senior hurling final.
But he denied he put pressure on the company to run the service -- instead insisting yesterday: "Loads of people made requests."
The Irish Independent revealed yesterday that the Labour TD travelled on the train -- along with more than 150 north Tipperary fans -- from his hometown of Nenagh to the game on September 4.
While special GAA trains travelling from Waterford to pick up Kilkenny hurling fans on the same day did not sell alcohol, the service Mr Kelly travelled on had a full trolley service.
The Birdhill line, which serves the Tipperary towns of Nenagh and Roscrea, is expected to be mothballed because of a lack of use.
It was at least a decade since a special train had run on the line despite Tipperary's appearance in All Ireland finals in 2001, 2009 and 2010.
"I think that's a great innovation, the train was more or less full and people had a great service and it encourages greater use of public transport," Mr Kelly said.
"I think it was wrong that they weren't putting on trains previously."
Rail staff had to be in place early at Birdhill, Nenagh, and Roscrea for the service; while an extra worker was needed at Ballybrophy to operate the signals. But Mr Kelly denied he had put pressure on Iarnrod Eireann to run the train.
"No, a number of people made requests to Irish Rail, including myself," he said.
Iarnrod Eireann has said that the special service was justified because it was 90pc full and made a small profit.