Just the ticket: Despite Galway’s defeat, Croke Park experience was great

Our man Frank on a memorable day cheering on a gallant Galway; Dismay over a bus service blow; Menacing monkeys on the rampage in Japan…

All week I reminded myself of an octopus; I had feelers out all over the place for tickets for the All-Ireland final, stretching all the way from Ireland to my friend Dermot over there in Spain. But as the days went by it began to look more and more like I would be watching the big game from the comfort of my sitting room couch.

On the Wednesday, even though I was still ticketless, I decided that just in case any came up, I would book a few seats on the train from Longford to Connolly Station. However, the very helpful customer service person I spoke to told me there was no need to book…I was advised to just turn up on the day and hop on. I said there was an All-Ireland final on, but the answer was still the same – turn up and hop on.

Anyway, Thursday came, and out here in Creggs we had the big draw for two stand tickets. When my tickets stayed firmly in the drum, I went to bed resigned to my fate and to the fact that Croke Park would have to do without me.

Then, as I was about to drift off to sleep, I got the message from Creggs club secretary, Eugene Hanley, to tell me that I had a ticket for the Nally terrace. Remarkably, from then on, tickets seemed to materialise from everywhere. By Friday, it seemed that everyone that wanted tickets had got them. As I texted Dermot in Spain to tell him that I was sorted, I got a text from him to tell me he too had come up trumps (luckily enough, he was able to give them to – as he described them – a good Galway couple).

There were three from my house travelling – my sons, Paul and Mark, and I. We agreed we would meet in Longford on Sunday morning (two had to come from Galway) and take the 9.45 train to the city – the train we just had to hop on. Anyway, as luck would have it, I decided to ring Irish Rail again just to make sure.

Of course this time it was a different story. All trains from everywhere in the west (Longford is on the Sligo line) were booked out, and there were no seats available anywhere. Thank God I found out then, as it would have been very traumatic if we had arrived at the train station to discover we would not be let on.

And so, bright and early on Sunday morning, we hit off by car for Croker. I have to say that while the way up was busy, it was not too bad, and we were outside Croke Park before two o’clock, mingling with what seemed like a sea of maroon and white.

The atmosphere was just fantastic. I ran into people from all over, the craic was great, and it was so good to be there. You could feel the excitement in the air, and even though the bookies had us as complete outsiders, you could just sense that the Galway supporters believed we could do it.

As events transpired, they were right – for nearly all the game it was nip and tuck, and although Kerry pulled away in the last few minutes, they were definitely helped by a couple of ridiculous refereeing decisions. Now I am not taking away from the kingdom – as they have a really good team – but to make two decisions in the last few minutes of an All-Ireland final that were, to say the least, contentious (the free against John Daly and the subsequent throw-in that led to another Kerry score) was amazing, and in my opinion definitely turned the game on its head.

Galway should be proud of their efforts, but the big challenge now is to keep improving and stay up there near the top of the footballing pile – although I’m sure the Rossies and Mayo (among others) are already plotting to topple them in next year’s Connacht Championship.

With the game over, we made our sad, weary way out to our daughter’s place for a bit of grub and a little rest before heading home some time after 7 pm. The traffic was absolutely crazy, moving at a snail’s pace until we got past Kinnegad. Thankfully it opened up a bit then, and I made my way into the house some time after 10 pm, tired but delighted that – despite the loss – I had been there to experience an atmosphere that was absolutely electric.

We were in Croke Park very early, and present for the jubilee ceremony for three All-Ireland winning teams from the past – the Dublin, Meath and Kerry teams of 1995, 1996 and 1997 respectively. It was a shame they were introduced when there was hardly anyone in the stadium – surely they could have brought them out at half-time in the big game, when the crowd could have really acknowledged some of the greatest players the game ever produced? That is a very minor gripe with what was a great day. While we didn’t win, we more than played our part.

Bus blow!

As I was recovering from the shock of hearing that all the trains were booked out last weekend (see main item), I had decided to check out Bus Eireann in Athlone. On many occasions I have travelled to Dublin/the airport using the very efficient X20 service that had no stop anywhere between Athlone and Dublin.

However, when I rang Athlone bus station, a lad told me that Bus Eireann no longer has any bus service to Dublin. I have to say I was astonished to hear it. Whether some other outfit has taken over or not I don’t know, but it seems to be just as bad a decision as Sean Hurson’s late one against John Daly, i.e. that the national bus service has discontinued servicing such a busy and important route.

The man I spoke to was blaming Minister Eamon Ryan for the development, but I didn’t have time to fully explore his reasons. However, I am really shocked to find out that the X20 will no longer be there to bring me to the airport – that is if we ever get away again.

Menacing monkeys

One of the abiding memories I have of my short time spent in Hounslow in London was the number of foxes that used to roam the streets. We would often see them in gardens and even on low roofs as they foraged for scraps of discarded food. However, they were harmless enough and never made any aggressive moves towards the human population.

Over in the city of Yamaguchi in Japan however, the locals are not so lucky. A breed of monkeys, which are common enough in the city, have suddenly started to attack people. To date, a total of 42 have been attacked by the marauding monkeys. The attackers have entered buildings through windows and sliding doors and have scratched and bitten most of their victims.

Authorities are now using tranquilliser guns to try to stop the attacks, but so far they have failed to catch any of the perpetrators. In the meantime, people are advised to keep windows and doors tightly closed in an effort to keep the monkeys at bay.

It all makes me realise that a few bluebottles and an odd fly are not too bad after all!

And finally…

As the Galway Races continue, I hear that half a million pints of Guinness will be downed in Galway this week, along with 12,000 Supermac’s snack boxes – a figure that I think may be quite a bit low.

Knowing how my own appetite for fast food increases the more Guinness I have, I would think 500,000 pints would equate to about 100,000 snack boxes. Sadly I won’t be there to sample either of those culinary delights, but best wishes to all of you who are!