Monday, February 05, 2007

TSA Report: Stadium of Light

So you organise a few tickets for some friends for the Dublin v Tyrone match. You figure the occasion of the turning on the Croke Park floodlights to be one worthy of a bit of a night, maybe a few pints to end the January season of temperate introspection.

Also, like quite a few of the almost 82,000 teeming into Dublin 3, several of your party are not regulars around these parts. Not that they're Pale-embedded-what's that, bogball?-Gaelbashers or anything. No, just members of that part of the population who have never shuffled hurriedly down Clonliffe Road on a summer Sunday; who were as likely to line out on a hurling or Gaelic football field as they were to head down to their local dojo for a spot of sumo.

In other words, the people who have been drawn in by the GAA's great glasnost of recent years. The people hitherto without a context for the organisation, except maybe a second-hand scepticism about cultural oppression and being in cahoots with Fianna Fáil and the Church and that lot, but who instead are curious now.

Invited in by the majestic buttresses of the new Croke Park. Drawn to investigate the commotion of an incendiary Championship afternoon. Charmed by the technicolour passions of the supporting factions. Hooked by the association's smart marketing and blue riband sponsors. These people might never have gone to Croke Park in any other generation. But they were coming to this game.

Or at least they said they were. But 7pm came and went on Saturday evening and you're standing on Dorset Street, in the cold as even the beeriest Dubs (the ones who'd started their supping with the Merseyside derby at 12.45 and seen the day through) have made their way into the ground, and you're waiting for some taxis to grind through the traffic with their cargo of interlopers. Grrrr.

Still, even glasnost had its teething problems.

Despite missing the Great Ceremony of the Flicking of the Switch and the Saw Doctors and the frickin' Dublin Gospel Choir and the bloody Artane Boys' Band and - goddamnit - the points that went to make the score Dublin 0-5 Tyrone 0-1, there was amply sufficient time on arrival to pause in wonder and awe (Awwwww!) and the sight of the place.

It was like seeing the fresh-faced girl from school on her debs night, transplendent in radiant evening wear.

The mind started to wander. Will this ever happen again? Or are most of these people day trippers like my tardy friends? Or seekers of a novelty Saturday evening diversion? Or moth/human mutant crossbreeds involuntarily attracted to bright lights?

But I mean, isn't it fantastic? This fantasmagorical stadium, fuller in its glory than it had ever been, the pitch framed like a stage in a glamourous wash of light.

But the only time that a crowd like this might gather again - once the novelty of oooh-sooo-bright! is gone - in this uniquely atmospheric setting would be for the Championship. Which happens in summer. When the evenings are long and lazy and full of promise but do not lend themselves to the use of floodlights.

Shame. Still, maybe down the line when inter-county GAA's exponential development has turned its Championship into a longer-spanning affair, we might see these nights regularly. For now the next time the arena will dazzle like this will be two weeks on Saturday, when England attempt to deflower the rugby-virginal Jones' Road venue.

There was a game to enjoy as well, Tyrone eventually showing their class against a Dublin team who have become specialists in letting winning positions slip. The quality of the match just about befitted the occasion. Dublin played confidently and with Championship intensity in the first half, while Tyrone were as limp and unimpressive as the first half streaker's chilled appendage.

The roles were reversed in the second period, the northerners overturning Darren Magee and Declan O'Mahony's midfield dominance and bringing on the influential Kieran Hughes to match-turning effect. Hughes dovetailed with Owen Mulligan and Sean Cavanagh to master the half-forward line and Dublin shrank in that familiar way.

So before the new tenants move in the householders got to throw a fabulous party for all their friends, and a few new ones. Like my dawdling pals, or the kids from 18 different nations who played a Cumann na mBunscoil game at half time, which quickly turned into the first soccer match played in Croke Park. I couldn't quite hear the múinteoir shout "pick it up, boy, pick it up", but I could picture it.

Thin end of the wedge, I'm telling ya.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a man who respects the discipline of those who choose to commit to the shadowy world of blog writing, if not the ease with which facts can be quoted, tattle woven, and innuendo introduced, TSA has disappointed me with its jaundiced account of its Saturday evening.

As a man who respects that blogwriter's devotion to the world of sport, if not his knowledge of female hurdles split times, TSA has saddened me with its almost condescending view of those who haven't received their GAA attendance education through skulling Buchfast from 6am on a Doyle's 30 seater direct (except for piss stops) from Errigal to the Gresham, O'Connell St

And as a man who respects above all the right to choose, I feel it only right to comment that TSA you chose to eschew the wonders of "the Great Ceremony of the Flicking of the Switch and the Saw Doctors and the frickin' Dublin Gospel Choir and the bloody Artane Boys' Band" in favour of a few warm convivials less than 3 miles from your home.

Just as I respect other interlopers right to choose to travel from England and pay 100 euro plus to be there (almost) on time.

And not to cast aspersions on TSA's undoubted thoroughbred non-garrison games background, it's a long way from U13's camogie in Parnell Park you were ra'red.

5:54 p.m.  
Blogger Tommy77 said...

Reveal yourself Mr Anonymous, who could you be?!

In fairness, your heroic efforts to make it on time deserve a place in the GAA Hall of Fame.

And fair cop, the missing of pre-match festivities didn't cause too much pain from within the warm embrace of Fagans. Busted!

And you're right U-13's camogie in Parnell Park wasn't my thing, being a boy, and from Donegal.

U-12s football at the Mullaghderg Banks, home of Naomh Muire was my schoolin'.

6:29 p.m.  
Blogger PC said...

Humblest apologies for lateness once again TSA...

Much like my home county, I can't claim to have a particularly glittering GAA history... That a Louth man made it to Croker at all is probably historic in itself!

10:39 p.m.  

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