Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Behind the Wire at the Railway Cup

Thorny wire, yesterdayAn Spailpín Fánach damn near spat his morning cheroot right across the room this morning on reading a very self-congratulatory report in his Irish Times about the Railway Cup football final, played last Saturday in Dublin's Parnell Park.

"McEniff Sees Progress as Crowds Return," reads the headline, and the body of the text says that "a combined total of well over 12,000 supporters [have] attended the three M Donnelly Interprovincial football games this season," an attendance which that grand old man of football, Brian McEniff lauds as "a great boost for the Railway Cup."

You'll notice that one of the reasons why McEniff is such a great man is that he refers to the Railway Cup as just that, and not this spurious occupants of interplanetary craft mararkey. What caused the gag reflex in your correspondent is this joy at the size of the crowds. I can't (nor wish to) speak for the majority of citizens of Dublin, but I can assure Brian McEniff, the GAA, M Donnelly and all associated bodies that the crowd would have been bigger at the Railway Cup Final by two, at the very least, if the GAA, in its wisdom, would only open the fecking gates so people could go in.

The situation is this. An Spailpín Fánach and a very dear and close friend, Banríon Mhór na gCispheileadóirí, had decided, early in the week, that if we could not score two tickets for the rugby (and what a mixed blessing that might have proved, eh?) we would stroll up to Parnell Park and take in the Railway Cup final. Nothing much else to do in Dublin on a Saturday night, you know. The rugger did not work out, which leaves us, at about seven on Saturday night, with An Spailpín cooling his heels in his Dublin domicile, and BM na gC gunning her motor back to Dublin, the cabin no doubt clouded in cooling clouds of mentholated tabaccy smoke.

An Banríon arrived in the door at eight, and we decided that we'd head up to the game. We had missed the first half, but nothing could be done about that now. And at least we'd see the end, and the presentation of the cup.

We drove up to Parnell Park, and fluked parking near the ground. We strolled down to the grounds, where we remarked on how quiet it was, especially considering that there was a football game on. Six thousand people were being terribly quiet. Still, on we strolled.

Until we were stopped by the great big gates and many miles of thorny wire that surround Parnell Park. There was no way in.

We went around and around, but no point of admittance could we find. At one point, one of the great gates swung open, to allow certain urchins to exit. We started veering towards the light, but sentries must have sensed our movement just as the Ninja do, and they quickly swung the portal shut again. An Banríon looked at me; I looked back at an Banríon. We turned on our collective heels, and went back to the car, the cheers of the crowd not echoing behind us. At all.

I've spent the days since wondering what happened them when they didn't open the gates. They do it all the time at home. Here, in Dublin, that place that famously deserves to win an All-Ireland on a regular basis, they do not open the gates at half-time, and the reason can only be because if they did, no native would turn up for the first half. Instead, they'd huddle over their JP Blue butts down the road, rather as they do outside the bars at half-time on Sky Soccer Sundays, and wait there until they were sure of getting getting something for nothing. God help them.