Tuesday 12 December 2017

Not box office but die-hard fans still pitch up

Colin Gleeson

THE box office names we're all used to may not have been lining out -- but Arsenal and Manchester United's reserve squads still brought them from near and far.

More than 2,500 fans were at Tallaght Stadium last night for the second fixture of the Platinum One Challenge -- a three-way competition between Shamrock Rovers and the reserve squads of Manchester United and Arsenal.

The stadium has enjoyed a short but colourful history with some of the world's most prestigious clubs, such as Real Madrid and Juventus, playing matches there.

Getting fans flocking back through the turnstiles of Irish football grounds has proved to be quite a struggle in recent years, but the lure of seeing top teams in action seems to be doing the trick -- even if that is frustrating for fans of the domestic game.

While most of the players were largely unknown, the United side, managed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, included first-teamers Federico Macheda and Brazilian Fabio da Silva. Ireland legend Liam Brady kept an eye on Arsenal's youngsters from the stand. Michael Lyons, from Lurgan, Co Armagh, travelled down to the match with his eight-year-old son Joe.

"We're huge Manchester United fans," said Michael. "We're really looking forward to the game."

Martin Mann, from Clondalkin, Dublin, was at the match with his son Ryan (10) and his nephew Aaron Kenny (7). "It's a great night out," said Martin. "I've one supporting Manchester United and another supporting Arsenal, so it should be interesting. We have MUTV at home so the lads know some of the reserve players as well."

Liam Donegan, from Kinnegad, Co Westmeath, was at the game with his daughter Aoife (15). "I go over to Old Trafford four or five times a year," said Liam. "Some of the lads coming up through the reserves are looking good, so it should be a nice night out for us."

Irish Independent

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