The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Fan Abuse


Sean Smyth • July, 2004

Having been a fan of Gaelic games for sometime I jumped at the chance of a ticket for the historic Ulster Football final to be held in the 'home of the GAA Croke Park' Dublin on Sunday 11th July between Counties Donegal and Armagh. 'Ulster' finals are played in Clones or Belfast but the GAA thought that the final would be between Tyrone and Armagh - a repeat of last years All-Ireland Football Final and would attract a 70,000 + crowd. Translink had put on extra trains. The carriages were from the old GNR days 'of steam' as the game had a earlier throw-in time than usual. At 9.05 the football special pulled out of Belfast Central Station on-time with about a dozen or so people on board. I deliberately sat as far up the train as possible seeking solitude as I was intending to read the Business Post in peace and quiet; at least until we reach Lurgan where I expected many hundreds of Armagh supporters to join the train. No sooner had the train moved when I was joined by four blokes from North Belfast each armed with a 12 pack of Harp and enough sandwiches to feed a small army. They introduced themselves and insisted that I join them which I did. They then insisted that I take a beer, and after much arm twisting I took one and then two and three and …'just to be sociable of course.' As expected we were joined by hundreds of jolly Armagh supporters and were joined by two girls and a bloke from Lurgan who were just as well armed as the Belfast Brigade.

By the time we had reached the border town of Dundalk the supporters were beginning to feel the effects of the alcohol and rebelled against the smoking ban on the train and in public places in the Irish Republic. Their war cry was “Bollocks the smoking ban.' There was much banter between the two groups. The Lurgan group took great pleasure in slagging the blokes from North Belfast about the Orange Order walking past Ardoyne, and that they couldn’t even defend a lamppost, and that the Orange would never again get down nationalist roads in Armagh. The 'lamppost' in question was the one with spy cameras.

As I am no stranger to the wooden spoon, I decided to try and mix-it up a bit and slag off Sinn Fein - British rule in Ireland was OK so long as uncle Gerry and SF were the administrators; and that by registering to vote you are accepting partition and legitimising British rule in Ireland. Big mistake - the Armagh Brigade thought that the sun shone from Gerry’s proverbial.

As I was out numbered 800-to-1, I made a tactical retreat. The beer loosened our inhibittions as we were led in to one republican song after another by the Armagh Brigade. With each we were quizzed on the history of each song as if to prove that they were better nationalist/republicans that anyone else. We arrived at Dublin’s Connolly Station half inebriated but still managed to make our way to the Clonliffe Bar where we managed to sink a few Guinness before the game which ended with a comfortable win for Armagh and a mad dash back to Connolly to catch the football special back to Belfast. Which was just as noisy as the forward journey but uneventful.

The experience had smitten me and feeling I need another fix I travelled back to Croker on July 25th to cheer on Antrim in the quarter-finals of the Hurling Championship. This time I travelled on flagship service The Enterprise with no more than a 100 Antrim supporters. The journey was quieter than the last and the Antrim supporters showed none of the passion of the Armagh fans. I went to Casement Park in Andersonstown on Tuesday 21st July to get my ticket for the game. The ticket at 35 Euros was more expensive that the Football ticket but I was told that if I showed my student I.D. at Croke Park that I would get a 20 Euro refund.

We arrived in Dublin with time to spare so I went for a few sups of Guinness and then on to the ground. I went to the turnstile for the Hogan Stand where my ticket was for and was told that if I wanted my refund I would have to go the Cussack stand on the opposite side of the ground. I had counted for the 20 refund in my spending money for the day. However, I was to be disappointed for when I went to claim my refund I was told the only people with tickets for the Canal End and Cussack Stand of the ground were getting a refund, I asked for a reason for this but none was given. Is this because there can be no reasonable explanation as both tickets cost 35 Euros?

The game was disappointing and Antrim were well beaten by a in-form Cork team who give an exhibition of how hurling should be played while Antrim give a lacklustre passionless performance.

The second game of the day was between All-Ireland champions Kilkenny and Clare. A fine game full of passion and incident, but which ended in confusion when the referee blew for full-time with the scores tied. Initially, we were told that there would be 20 minutes extra-time and then ten minutes later we were told that the game would be replayed next week, We made our way to Connolly Station for the 18.30 service to Belfast which was quiet and uneventful until we reached the border when a fight broke out in the train's bar, which forced the train to stop a Newry to wait for the riot ready PSNI-RUC-SF’s Bully-Boys, which delayed our journey by 30 minutes and brought back memories of the P-Checks of old.

Tired and disappointed by the county’s performance we arrived back in Belfast. But even more disappointing was the fact that the fans and supporters of the county team have had their eye wiped by a bunch of money grabbing officials. The crowd of just over thirty thousand was disappointing; the Hurling Board of the GAA would do well to follow the footballing counties and how they treat their fans. The Antrim GAA need to realise that the supporters have other less expensive options of supporting their county, such as 'staying at home and save the cost of ticket and travel up to £70.00, go to the pub and still save money.' If they keep abusing the fans the way they are then the future looks bleaker than most people realise. Cork may have ended our dreams of All-Ireland success but the county board have shot themselves in the foot - for it will snow in hell before I ever again put my hand in my pocket for the Antrim GAA.







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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

16 August 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Repression in Rathenraw
Anthony McIntyre

Beating the Wife
Kathleen O Halloran

Fan Abuse
Sean Smyth

Save the Black Mountain
Davy Carlin

Parallels and Paradoxes
Liam O Ruairc

14 August 2004

At One with the West Belfast MP
Kathleen O Halloran

Disbanding the Provos
Tommy McKearney

Lessons from the Ceasefire
Mick Hall

Jobs for the Boys
George Young

Working Withing British 'Law' With A Vow NOT to Use Force Against the British
Sharon O'Sullibhan

Conditions for Irish POWs Today
Deirdre Fennessy

The Faithful...
Liam O Comain

Globalised Indifference
Anthony McIntyre

No Human Being is Illegal!
Sean Matthews



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