In the build-up to the big day I’d been toying with the idea of getting an Irish Indy R’s flag made up, but I couldn’t get myself to agree on an Irish logo to go with the hoops and the Indy R’s badge; the tricolour would make it a Republic of Ireland Indy R’s and that wasn’t what I wanted. Anyway I left it too late to get it printed.
I rang my son-in-law Ken, who works for Guinness/Diagio on Friday morning to try and sort a sponsorship deal for the Irish R’s visit to Kilkenny, so ended up ringing Inkedup to find out the name of the owner of Breathnach’s – sorted. Then rang John22, but he was only interested in whether I was bringing sandwiches with brown sauce.
Saturday was a bright sunny morning, the sort that you love to have when you’re heading off to a game in November. Left the house before 9.00, with my wife Mary driving because there might be beer involved, and picked up Ken on the way to Huston Station to catch the 10.15 train to Kilkenny.
I had originally planned to drive when the venue was Graiguenamanagh, but the switch to Kilkenny made the train a better option.
We often travel to matches with John22 who brings the sandwiches and talks non-stop all the way about the most bizarre topics, but people will know that from his posts. This time it was just me and Ken but fair play, Ken had made the sausage and rasher sandwiches with brown sauce and the bizarre topics managed to find their own way onto the train.
The train was packed and we were sharing a carriage with a hen party group, but we were trapped in the window seats beside two old dears who spent the first hour talking about the benefits of tea, and it got even more bizarre than John22 when they moved on to cures for a bad back.
I will share the secret; there is apparently a place called Father Moore’s Well, surrounded by crutches and other no-longer-needed-items left by the cured. Our experts advised that your ailments can be cured if you drink the water and wear the hat that belonged to Father Moore.
Trying to stay sane just watching the countryside outside, when a field that looks freshly plucked rolls-by with a big handwritten sign saying ‘Feck-off Crows’. I don’t know if it worked, although there were no crows around, but it felt like we were in ‘Father Ted’; this was definitely going to be a different sort of day.
When the train arrived at 11.40, we stood aside while the hen party spilled out into the city. We said goodbye to the tea ladies, dumped the remaining sandwiches and headed for Breathnach’s in John Street.
Kilkenny is a small city that works hard to keep a medieval feel so it’s normally a comfortable place for a meet-up with loads of great pubs and restaurants. There was an Economics Conference on that day so thank God we weren’t staying over. Kilkenny is known in Ireland as the Marble City (black marble) and is famous for its castle, for producing the best hurling team in history, being home to two beers (Kilkenny and Smithwicks) and the old saying ‘fighting like Kilkenny Cats’.
Even from the outside Breathnach’s looked the biz; through the windows you could see people in hoops moving around and flags everywhere. It was like walking into the Springbok but with more families and kids around.
(Welcome Irish R’s)
We were greeted by Inkedup (Steve), the first person we saw when we walked in, but then he’s always the first person you see when he’s around…what height is he? Next was FinglasR (Eamonn), who had brought loads of blue and white balloons and a big banner with ‘Welcome Irish R’s’. Eamonn also had a stall set out with hundreds of old QPR programmes free for the taking – so I got in early. I’d met up with both of them before, including the Macca Testimonial in Belfast, and they’re always great company.
(Eamonn aka FinglasR and John22)
The place was buzzing with everyone in hoops of different vintages; the crowd were also of different vintages as you can see from the photos. While Ken set off to organise the Irish R’s Diagio Sponsorship Deal (God Bless those good Guinness people) with the good lady publican, I managed to have a beer and meet-up with some new faces; QPRNuts, Cork-a-Hoop, CorkeR, Brunmahon Ranger and Tramore Ranger (hope I got all of those right!) before the game kicked off.
Still no John22 or Stephen so I was feeling a bit lonely as an IndyR, but then more R’s rolled in including the whole Cross clan and John22 who had been driven down by NavanQPR (Seamus).
A huge thanks to QPRNuts for the fantastic arrangements locally, even down to organising the best parking locations, which wasn’t really a problem for my train driver, but the others appreciated it.
Good to see Stephen again with his lovely family, but John22 was nearly apoplectic that we didn’t save him the sausage and brown sauce sandwich that we’d dumped at the station, so we had to calm him down with a beer.
(Ken and Steve Bolger)
The start of the game was incredible with the minute’s silence so eerie in a crowded pub that had been bubbling with conversation just seconds before and an eruption of sound with Urrrrrrssss ringing around the pub. The game didn’t stop the chat and it was good to meet new faces, Georgio from Blanchardstown via Bologna, who makes his own QPR scarves and QPREternal, Rod from Norwich with his son Tom, who had been late flying in to Dublin on Friday evening after missing his flight. True to form FinglasR, Eamonn, had driven them down.
No one could believe that we weren’t a couple of goals up by half-time and the consensus was that Pal Joey had been a revelation this year and that Remy would have destroyed teams in this division.
A few words at half-time from our sponsors; Diageo were covering two rounds for us all, so maybe we should start the negotiations on a shirt sponsorship deal. Well done Ken, I’m glad I interviewed him and outlined his Hoops responsibilities before he married my daughter.
(Stopping the mid-day traffic)
Inkedup organised the outside photos and for fear of losing an R on the bonnet of a car we got a local to take a full team photo from across the road. It’s hard to describe the scene; as you can see from the photo there was plenty of colour and lots of cheering and happy sounds. To make sure that we got some really good pictures the mid-day traffic stopped and waited till we were done.
There were cars beeping, people waving and passengers in a tour bus taking photos out the windows. It was official; the Irish R’s had taken over the city. As FinglasR put it, “It was just as well we moved it to Kilkenny or our cars would have clogged the streets of Graiguenamanagh and the poor farmers wouldn’t have had anywhere to park their tractors.”
(Sharon’s birthday cake)
As it happens it was Sharon’s birthday and a cake was produced with candles so we all belted-out a happy but raucous version of happy birthday, then cake was served. A couple of locals walked in and nearly jumped back, I reckon they went out to check the name of the pub just to make sure, then came back in again and settled in the backroom.
When Reading scored the sound dropped like a bus tyre deflating (I’m in the motor industry ok?). The boys in the backroom weren’t really watching the match. In Kilkenny football isn’t encouraged, if a kid wants a ball for Christmas he usually gets a stick with it to beat the ball around with; hurling is the only game in town. One of them asked me if our lot had scored and just thought he’d mistaken which team had taken the lead.
Sixteen minutes later when the team in green scored against the ones in blue and white almost-hoops. The whole pub full of blue and white hoops exploded, with grown men hugging and kissing each other and you got the impression that such public displays are not an everyday event in the pub. Unfortunately the official photographer was too busy celebrating to capture the moment.
The boys in the backroom looked stunned, in hurling you normally only cheer when the team wearing your colours scores; they’d probably decided that they’ll never understand football.
We had time for a raffle for the signed team shirt which raised £320 for charity. Sharon works for the PFAI and it seemed appropriate to support a fund for a current Drogheda United player, Gary O’Neill, who has just been diagnosed with Cancer.
(The ‘official’ Indy R’s photo-call)
We still had time for an official IndyR’s photo-call with Stephen, John22 and me, but with no flag we had to use the little sticker supplied by Steve Russell on a visit to Loftus Road last year. Over the next couple of hours there were beers, conversations and plans for future meet-ups, but the numbers dwindled as people slipped away, many who were staying-over were meeting up later on.
(Sean Lennon with his family from Cork)
Before leaving, Andy Noble sent his regards to Steve Russell with a request to whoever can help, for his daughter Chloe to be a mascot at some future R’s game…..any help appreciated.
Myself and Ken almost missed the train back, five hours after the game ended, thankfully the 19.02 was still in the station when we arrived at 19.10!
I don’t remember the journey back to Dublin, we were just glowing after the day and we came up with an idea for an Irish Indy R’s flag, but that’s for another post.
Stopped in Ranelagh for a pint on the way from the station in Dublin and the barman asked if the game we’d been at was at home or away? We looked at each other and answered together; we were at home, definitely at home…
(The above photos were taken by John22, CorkeR aka Eamonn Sweeney and a passing stranger)