Monday, August 12, 2013

From The Green Brigade to The Dublin Brigade

When I flew over to Dublin early last Monday morning I had a few aims, some personal, some hard, some made very easy by others.

However, as I was working my way round a Dublin Bus strike, Peter Lawwell was issuing this statement:

Now, I happen to know that after the BMG on July 27th there was a hastily arranged meeting among board members to discuss potential things that Celtic could do and I am pretty sad that just over a week after that it got to this stage.

Thankfully I was spared some of the tripe that came on Twitter after this statement but was unfortunate to read nonsense about the Green Brigade being compared to casuals and getting chased out just like they did. There are few things funnier as a Celtic supporter when you read folk, who seem utterly appalled by almost everything our supporters do, congratulate the board on getting rid of a section they say was trying to change everything our supporters do.

My own take is that the solution to this has to be the creation of a standing section. I'll be honest, a standing section was never top of my list of priorities over the years but I think now that is a must so this situation can be resolved ASAP. My concern would be how strong the will of Celtic would be for the creation of one. There does seem to have been an element of "and another thing" coming from Celtic regarding The Green Brigade.

Cool heads, progressive discussions and solid agreement are needed here I think.

My mind was elsewhere when this was going on I have to say.

I have a son in Ireland and was seeing him for only the third time in a year. Thing about that is you look forward to it so much and then, before you know it, it's over. Has to be said that I've not been in a good place since and want to pay tribute right now to @thesammcleod who got in touch to say hey whilst I was at my lowest point. Thanks mate.

Before long though it was time to meet up with The Dublin Brigade. Dublin is a place I love. There so much shite written about the place and the Tims there I am happy to have an informed opinion on it from the last week. First of all, whilst there are plenty EPL tourists there (and some hardcore fans of English teams, @graham_byrneLFC springs to mind) it has to be said that Celtic are woven into the fabric of Ireland. The number of conversations I had about Celtic with bus drivers (The strike lasted until the Wednesday), taxi drivers, bar staff, hotel receptionists, folk in pubs and so on was both incredible and heart-warming. These were dedicated and educated supporters who all had the stories to tell and I could listen all day.

I hooked up with @conorfbhoy (who has read my books and still put me up) @sheenie24 (who I am positive could have a fair crack at drinking The Liffey) and @DarH1888 (Who I could indulge my love of Love/Hate with)

The hospitality shown to me by these Bhoys was out of this world.

Their welcoming manner was matched only by their love of Celtic and they even put up with the fact that I am not drinking just now. That was another of my aims by the way, and I never touched a drop in the week I was there. To say @sheenie24 was perturbed by this was like saying Molly Malone has a wheel barrow.

There was a welcome surprise in the shape of @chibchenko who hooked up with us also and by the amount of Bulmers she sunk on the Friday, I'd say she regretted having a flight home on the Friday night.

I managed to do lots of tourist stuff during the week, The Writers Museum, Collins Barracks, St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin Zoo, Arbour Hill, The Four Courts, The JFK Exhibition, St Stephen's Green and many other things too but twice Conor and I tried to get into Kilmainham Gaol only for it to be packed out both times. Has to be a good sign that it is easier to get out of Kilmainham than it is to get in it these days.

Nothing could prepare me for the Friday experience though.

Conor had arranged a little walk on the roof of Croke Park.

It was amazing to hear all the history of the place, some I already knew, and fantastic to know that Hill 16, built from the rubble of the 1916 Easter Rising, still stands to this day.

So there we were harnessed up and being told a million times what buildings we could see from the roof of Croke Park (yer man that was taking us round seemed to be on a mission to get himself thrown off the fucking thing) when suddenly we were walking a long a metal path that had nothing below it until the pitch way, way, way down. It rocked and swayed like it was auditioning for a part in a Hitchcock re-make and put me the closest to God that I have been since Henrik Larsson left us.

After that brush with the clouds, we headed for an Irish stew in O'Neill's just off Grafton Street and then to Mulligans pub, which has stood on Poolbeg Street for nearly 300 years. It is said that James Joyce finished Ulysses here so, after visiting it, it is probably about time I did.

From there we moved to Cassidy's in Westmoreland Street, made famous by Bill Clinton visiting it in 1995, but it was too packed and @sheenie24 wasn't sure if he was barred or not given that a previous visit had saw him demand to know why the DJ wouldn't serve him a drink.

It was off to The Celt on Talbot Street (Yeah I know, I should have been given a gold medal for staying off the drink) which was targeted in the Dublin bombings of 1974.

After that, it was off to Murrrays on O'Connell Street to catch The Quadrofenians and the many folk who were now falling down for reasons other than the floor being like an ice rink there. Was good to catch up with Stephen Dodds in there and the ever charming Jo Laing. Once my heart stopped fluttering, it was time to head back to Conor's in Artaine and get some much needed kip.

It always good to be made welcome by someone so dialed in as Conor as the first thing he handed me on arrival at his house was the WiFi password.

His partner Mary could win awards for the breakfast she prepared on Saturday, and Sunday, morning, and I can't stress enough how much it meant to me to be made so welcome.

Saturday was another failed attempt at Kilmainham and then walk to Slattery's near Landsdowne Road. Fans mixed freely and the craic was superb and was made even better by the arrival of my HomeBhoys comrade @harper1888 who could light up blackout.

You know all about the game but I was delighted with the win mostly because of what it meant to the Tims in Ireland, saturated with the EPL, who can walk tall into their workplaces this morning.

There is something in the air for Irish Tims. Celtic's recent success has awoken a feeling that the hardcore Celtic support there always had and had been having to fight harder and harder to preserve and it is up to Celtic to help them with that fight. Inspired by this, I made a little plea to Celtic on their behalf, highlighting a few issues the support in Ireland have and was delighted to be met with a positive response that could well lead an easier life for the Tims who back the club to the hilt in Ireland.

It is that belief that also extends to the whole Green Brigade situation. I believe it can be rectified positively and that all hope is not lost.

Post match we ended up in the pub The Dubliners used to play in for some more craic but it was clear that the session of the day before was starting to take its toll on my companions and a day was called on it by 10.30pm.

Conor being Conor, drove me to the airport on Sunday morning and I was sad to go.

The week had seen many highs and lows for me but whilst family heartache was experienced, new family was gained.

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