Friday 17 January 2020

Act of kindness won't be forgotten

• As we are all subsumed in negative stories across all elements of the media, I want to relay a little positive sporting story to you, as World Autism Day was this week.

Two Saturdays ago, I picked up my brother Brian, who lives in the Pope John Paul Centre on the outskirts of Galway city. Brian is 29 and suffers from Autism. On a rare sunny March evening in Galway, and with a smile on Brian's face, I decided to go to the Connacht v Munster game in the Galway Sportgrounds. Brian was never at a rugby game in his life.

Outside the stadium, we stood ticketless and watched the record crowd enter. I decided with a little brazen self-confidence to ask the gardai outside the ground for spare tickets.

Unfortunately they had nothing, but they asked us to wait around until the game was to start. We waited outside the gates and remained positive at the prospect of sourcing two last-minute tickets.

Suddenly, a Connacht official and a garda appeared with two unused tickets. We gladly accepted the complimentary tickets and made our way into the terrace. As we walked in, Connacht got over the Munster line for a try.

The crowd erupted with delight and I looked nervously for Brian's reaction. I think he still was acclimatising himself to the new surroundings with a smile of approval.

Two years ago, it would not have been possible to entertain the thought of him standing contentedly at a Connacht rugby game, as Brian was in a different place back then.

Luckily, thanks to the hard work of the John Paul Centre staff and his dedicated teachers, Brian was able to see his first Connacht game. This is something that, as a brother, I will cherish forever.

We managed to get great viewing in the terrace and enjoyed the first half, with plenty of room for my brother, which was important. At half time I decided to buy him a Connacht rugby cap and cup of tea, the latter being the most important to him. We watched the second half and full time came but not the result we wanted.

I want to thank Connacht rugby and the gardai for recognising the situation, pulling out all the stops and making Brian's night.

It's refreshing to see them reaching out to a vulnerable member of the public. This kind act will never be forgotten.

It is great to see that Connacht rugby has not lost the spirit of looking after its fans when it is selling out games for provincial and Heineken Cup fixtures. Long may this ethos last.

Kieran Joyce (brother of Brian Joyce)
Newcastle, Galway

Irish Independent

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