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'Celebrations went on late into the night': Fans tell their stories of Ireland v Scotland in the Six Nations

Memorable trips to Edinburgh feature heavily in this week’s instalment of our ‘Hear The Roar’ series with William Hill.

IRELAND ARE AWAY to Scotland this Sunday in a fixture that usually brings a party atmosphere and camaraderie between both sets of fans. 

This year, however, it will be played in front of empty stands at Murrayfield. 

In the penultimate instalment of The42′s ‘Hear The Roar’ series with William Hill — our Six Nations coverage sponsor — Ireland supporters remember previous outings with our Celtic cousins. 

emma-and-john-anderson An Ireland and Scotland supporter pose for a photo. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Late Fitness Test – Simon McDonald

It was 2015 and Ireland were travelling to Edinburgh on the last weekend of the Six Nations with an outside chance of winning the title, having come up short against Wales in a bruising encounter the previous week.

While they had been beaten up by the Welsh, I had taken a battering from a trampoline — breaking my foot during a work outing and thus beginning a nervy week of whether or not I’d be able to travel.

Thankfully, like all big game players, I was passed fit in time for the match, swapping the cast for a more ‘travel-safe’ moon boot the day before the flight. So with that, my dad and I were off to Edinburgh, via Glasgow, to avoid the airline’s steep surge pricing.

Crossing the Scottish countryside, there was a full solar eclipse on the Friday, a rare celestial event. It somehow felt fitting.

Edinburgh was littered with green jerseys that weekend. You could feel a collective sense of anticipation that this was something worth travelling for and many hopefuls prowled the bars asking for tickets.

10854911_10206710456826333_2750778432246098466_o_10206710456826333 Simon and his dad. Source: Simon McDonald

By the time we made it to Murrayfield I was knackered, sweating and sore from my newly acquired boot. It wasn’t helped that our seats were situated in the very topmost row and getting to them (tray of pints in hand) was part endurance, part fear that I’d break my other foot in equally ridiculous circumstances.

Wales edged in front earlier in the day with victory over Italy and as we settled in for a stirring rendition of ‘Flower of Scotland’ we both knew Ireland were up against it.

A comprehensive performance saw Ireland win 40-10, my dad and I exchanging a look that said “how important could that be” as Jamie Heaslip denied Stuart Hogg a try with a last-ditch tackle.

As we watched the madness of England v France unfold in the fan zone, the mother kept us updated via text on what the shifting score lines and permutations meant for Ireland.

Against a backdrop of The Proclaimers being blared out, the sun slowly faded and England-France reached a nervy yet suitably chaotic end game. That was it… Ireland were Six Nations champions.

A subtle announcement earlier had indicated that Ireland would lift the trophy on the pitch in Murrayfield should they win and as we made our way back into the stadium we mentioned what a shame it was that they would have to celebrate in an empty stadium.

That was until we realised it was not empty, not remotely. Thousands of Irish fans had stayed behind (in hope) and were now crammed into the stands, the flash of camera phones lighting up the arena.

rugby-union-2015-rbs-six-nations-scotland-v-ireland-bt-murrayfield-stadium Ireland captain Paul O'Connell lifts the trophy at Murrayfield. Source: PA

As Paul O’Connell, in his suit, lifted the trophy and the fireworks soared overhead, my dad and I hugged, elated to be part of such a surreal and special moment.

We had been travelling to matches for over 10 years at that stage and while we made some amazing memories it was rarely accompanied by success on the pitch, let alone winning the Six Nations championship. The thoughts that a stupid trampoline accident had almost caused us to miss it weren’t worth thinking about.

To Alaska and Back – Richie Powell

After a great trip around France in a camper van for the 2007 World Cup, I headed off to Alaska for the winter to work with people with developmental disabilities. When that came to a sudden end, my flights were booked to return Dublin on Saturday, 23 February 2008. I missed a couple out of Alaska with the emotional goodbyes but still made it into Dublin on time.

Not wanting to head straight home to Tipperary, I was able to source a friend’s couch for the night — as well as a ticket for the Scottish match at Croke Park that evening. It works out at nearly 7,000kms travelling to get to the match.

It was getting close to kick-off and I had to find my friend outside the ground and then make it to the other side of the stadium to get in. We ended up going the wrong way around didn’t catch either anthem (he hasn’t forgiven me for missing Flower of Scotland!). Anyway, we eventually made it in and Ireland gave a great display — Tommy Bowe scoring two tries.

We had serious craic that night and the next morning I rang my very confused mother to tell her I’d be home later if there was any chance of a nice dinner.

The Hospitable Scots – Cathal Donnelly

I attended Ireland v Scotland on ‘Super Saturday’ in 2015.

I paid over the odds buying my ticket from a Scottish fan as I just felt this could be one of those special occasions that don’t happen every year.

I managed to book onto a package staying in Glasgow and travelling to Edinburgh by bus. In a bit of a setback, however, the bus driver told us he wouldn’t be waiting around until after England v France to make the return trip.

Listening to the Scottish anthem at Murrayfield is unbelievable — it makes you worry as a fan.

the-teams-stand-for-the-national-anthems The anthems being played at Scotland's home ground. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Thankfully, this was a day when Ireland threw off the shackles and scored some great tries. After full-time, the amazing hospitality began. After a couple of minutes watching the England-France game on the large screen outside, they opened the stadium again and both Irish and Scottish fans alike cheered on France, who did just enough to win Ireland the title.

That resulted in unbelievable scenes as the Scots allowed Ireland to pick up the trophy on the pitch and amazingly all the fans repaid the respect by enjoying the celebrations and staying off the pitch.

We piled onto the train back to Glasgow and it was after midnight when we arrived at our hotel.

An unforgettable day and while we have a great rivalry with Scotland, the fans were top class celebrating with us and being so happy for a team who beat them by 30 points just because we stopped England winning.

Dressed For The Occasion – Shane Dineen

My story is a bit of an embarrassing one and relates to the time I travelled to Edinburgh to visit my Scottish friend who I had first met in Australia.

Upon arrival he took us kilt shopping, meaning I would be rocking my Ireland jersey and my new purchase for the game. When we got to Murrayfield, our seats were at the bottom of a set of stairs in the middle. So I went to climb over rather than shifting across in front of people — totally forgetting I had gone full Scotsman and exposing myself to the crowd.

Later, when Paul O’Connell scored the opening try, I jumped to celebrate and spilled a full pint over the Scottish supporter in front of me. Instead of being annoyed, however, he grabbed my other one and downed it before laughing it off in true rugby fashion.

Ireland won the match to be crowned Six Nations champions as the French denied England scoring a late try and we spent the evening celebrating with the locals. 

Remembering Dad – Tom McCabe

In 1982, rugby’s oldest international competition was being staged at the oldest international rugby ground in the world that was Lansdowne Road.

For the first time since 1949, Ireland were destined to win the Triple Crown in what was then known as the Five Nations.

I spent the months leading up to the game convincing my now late father that 1982 was our year, and that Ollie Campbell was Ireland’s most complete fly-half since Jackie Kyle. By the week of the match, Ireland had already beaten England and Wales in the championship and the excitement was unbearable.

My father had never accompanied me to an international game at Lansdowne Road before, owing to his vocation as a busy family GP in my home village of Dunboyne and me being away at boarding school. However, I managed to rearrange my weekend at home to coincide with this massive event in my life.

Ticketless but determined, I set out early catching the Ballivor to Dublin bus that passed our door at 8.30am alone but with a small budget and the plan to hunt down a pair of tickets for myself and my father. I had just turned 16, so I now had the confidence to head into town unaccompanied.

Arriving into Dublin, I made a beeline for Jury’s Hotel where a number of touts were busy parading their gems like proverbial hen’s teeth. I negotiated a fair price thanks to watching my uncle Tom’s prowess as a farmer haggling the price of cattle at the marts when I used spend my summers on his farm in Tipperary.

Ollie Campbell scored all 21 points for Ireland, kicking six penalties and a drop goal. It finished 21-12 and Ireland had won the Triple Crown for only the fifth time. But where was my father?

irelands-paul-dean-and-ollie-campbell Ireland’s Paul Dean and Ollie Campbell facing Scotland at Lansdowne Road in 1982. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Upon meeting him 20 minutes before kick-off, we had walked up past the old Berkeley Court Hotel, when suddenly my father stopped to rest against the old black railings under the evergreen oaks. Within minutes, he was in a cab on his way to St Vincent’s hospital — where he suffered a heart attack upon arrival. 

The following week he underwent quadruple bypass surgery and survived 27 months but passed away at the age of 53 in early 1984 – a month before I sat my Leaving Cert.

I now have two sons myself, and every second year when the Scotland team play in Dublin I make it my duty to bring one of them to Lansdowne Road, past that same railing. They are memories I treasure and look back on fondly, but that day in 1982 with my father is the most special one.

The Biennial Pilgrimage – Liam Kidney

Myself and and a few friends have been going over to Murrayfield every two years since 2001. It gives us a chance to catch up while enjoying the Scottish hospitality. We are all devastated that we were not able to go this year due to Covid-19. We also have Scottish friends that travel home to Edinburgh for the match, so it is always a fabulous weekend.

The best trip by far was the year we won the championship in 2015. Three teams could finish on eight points so it was all going to come down to points difference.

Our day started when we walked out to the ground early and watched Wales v Italy on the big screens behind the stands. Wales won 61-20 to set a high challenge for Ireland, who were playing in the second game of the day.

We knew that we had to win by at least 21 points to outdo Wales, while Scotland were playing for pride to avoid the wooden spoon.

IMG_6960 Left to right: Liam Kidney, Paul Gordon and Pat Connaughton at Murrayfield.

Ireland started the game well and were 10 points up in as many minutes. Sean O’Brien extended the lead on 25 minutes before Scotland struck back with a try of their own. It was 30-10 when Jared Payne scored Ireland’s third try. The nerves started to tell when Sexton missed two penalties before getting one to get us over the 21-point margin.

O’Brien rounded off the scoring with his second try to leave a final score at 40-10. A very satisfactory victory but we all knew the job was only half done. The Scottish Rugby Association the announced that they would show the England v France game on the big screens and keep the bars open, much to the delight of the travelling Irish fans.

At half-time in that match, Irish supporters were invited back in to the East stand to watch and as darkness was falling the atmosphere was rising. When the full-time whistle went, we were ecstatic as the Fields of Athenry echoed around Murrayfield.

Allowing the Irish players to come back out and lift the trophy in front of fans who had hung on was the icing on the cake of a perfect day. The singing and celebrations went on late into the night.

Do you have an unforgettable story about attending a Six Nations game between Ireland and England? We want to hear from you! 

Simply email competitions@the42.ie with your full name and where you’re from, and tell us all about it (the year, the city, who the opponents were, what made it so memorable etc) in 150-200 words. Over 18s only. 

Those picked to feature in the series will win themselves a Six Nations matchday hamper that is sure to improve your experience of watching the action from your home.

William Hill are sponsoring The42′s Six Nations coverage this year. New online customers get €30 in free bets when they bet €10 with William Hill. Just use the promo code H30. For all the latest prices, visit williamhill.com. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see gamblingtherapy.org.

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