Clap chants and traffic jams – fans invade Salthill

DAN DOONER hopped on a bus with a group of Roscommon fans from St. Faithleach’s…

My day started bright and early as the girlfriend’s mother presented me with a Roscommon jersey and told me not to make a ‘Holy show of the county’ or she’d ‘kick my a**e back up to Dublin’.

  Boosted by this show of faith, I made my way to Ballyleague to catch a bus from St. Faithleach’s GAA Club with Alan Manning and a hardy group of Roscommon ultras. The bus was delayed leaving as Alan struggled to round up the ultras who had spent Saturday at a ‘Lip Sync’ fundraiser for the club – from what I gathered, ‘My Lovely Horse’ went down well.

  Our transport was loaded with supplies and one brave Galway fan and we set off at about ten o’clock with the patient driver stopping along the way to pick up a lad called James ‘Quig’ out the road. ‘Quig’ boarded the bus to a rendition of ‘James Quig’s on Fire’ a lá Northern Ireland’s eternal substitute, Will Grigg. No lip-syncing on this bus.

  This was the first of many chants that morning as a St. Faithleach’s version of the Icelandic ‘clap chant’ was also auditioned for the first time. This proved quite popular and would be seen throughout the day on the bus, in Pearse Stadium and on the way home in Abbeyknockmoy.

  If I thought I was special in that I was the only Dub in the travelling party, then I was sadly mistaken; I wasn’t even the only adopted Rossie from Lucan present! Proving that the world is indeed a tiny place, Colleen Gallagher from an estate not too far from where I grew up sat down beside me. “No way! That’s mad,” was the reaction when I told her I made my one and only appearance for Lucan Sarsfields as a late replacement for her brother. Among the Rossies there was the brave Galway fan, two Dubs and a Mayo woman, a truly multi-cultural bus.

  We arrived on the outskirts of Salthill where we sat in traffic for what seemed an eternity. A few actually got off the bus and started walking from about 6km out. In a cruel twist of faith we failed to stop when the bus sped past them ten minutes later (to the sound of jeers).

  The game itself was a nervy, subdued affair in dreadful conditions. Behind the goal for Enda Smith’s poked finish, the travelling Rossies went berserk. The second half was a different story as Galway came alive. So too did the Galway fans, one of whom had managed to carve out a two-metre radius of space in an otherwise packed terrace. I put it down to his demeanor and body language. His poor kids looked as perplexed by his taunting of the Roscommon fans as those same fans watching Roscommon’s performance.

  The match ended anti-climactically with Roscommon handpassing in patterns Louis van Gaal would have been proud of. We made our way back to the bus, soaked and bemused at the thoughts of having to do it all again the following week.

  The trip home was far quicker and far drowsier and included a stop-over in Abbeyknockmoy, much to the amusement of local Galway supporters. The now famous John Collins from Elphin was there with his ukulele and the craic was mighty as the ‘We Gotta Bus Now’ co-producer performed for Rossie and Tribesman alike.

  We arrived back in Roscommon on our own bus and I said my goodbyes to a chorus of ‘Cheerio, cheerio’. A clenched fist and a quick ‘Up the Dubs’ and I was back out in the rain. My first Connacht final couldn’t have been spent with a better bunch and I found myself partially converted by the time I got home that night to dream of a last-minute winner in Castlebar this Sunday.