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Dublin: 6°C Saturday 10 April 2021

Meet the Happy Camper: our man on the road in New Zealand

We’re sending one Irish rugby fan off to New Zealand with the keys to a van, a road map and a broadband dongle. He’ll send updates from the road throughout the tournament.

We’re sending one Irish rugby fan off to New Zealand with the keys to a van, a road map and a broadband dongle. He’ll send updates from the road throughout the tournament up until the point of his eventual  arrest or when the money runs out. Meet the Happy Camper, Sean Farrell.

SOME TIME AGO, TheScore took a poll asking why we Irish would not be travelling to the World Cup in New Zealand.

The vast majority of voters were upstanding, fiscally responsible souls and could not travel because the damned country is just too far away; too costly to fly to, with too many hostelries profiteering once you get there.

A few others were opting to enjoy the Irish TV coverage over breakfast. But there was also a foolish handful that had clearly defied all logic and reason by saying, “actually, I am travelling.”

David McNicholas and Mark McIntyre are two of those rapscallions. These boys take following the Irish rugby team very very seriously.

Attending the games and shouting themselves hoarse isn’t enough, they have moved lock stock and barrel to help cut the journey time.

Constantly they long to get closer to the action, to bask in the reflective military green glow of Declan Kidney’s men.

The magnetism was such that they shacked up in Rutland Street, a corner of North inner city Dublin where old boots just ain’t tough enough and nails, considered soft.

That move set a routine in stone for November, or Six Nations tests: Gaff, a few beers, match, and then back to the house for a few more brewskies.

Happy days, but the guys were forced into going their separate ways. Mark (henceforth to be known only as Tosh) shifted himself out West, David (or Del) moved across the Liffey to be “closer to work” in Dublin 4.

Of course, that move just happened to coincide with the opening of Ireland’s brand spanking new bedpan-shaped national stadium. Del’s commute to work was now a fraction, but the travel time to the rugby venue pretty much stayed the same.

Clearly missing each other’s company, the boys came together one night and came up with a plan. It was a ridiculously far-fetched idea that made no reasonable sense… so naturally, before my brain could stop my big fat mouth, I jumped on board too.

As a trio, we had vowed to enclose ourselves in the smallest of living quarters and keep on Ireland’s trail. ‘We shall follow them south’ said Tosh, clearly now in full Lord of the Rings mood, and he wasn’t kidding. We’ll be going all the way down, to the land of the long white cloud where the next land mass has a big imaginary pole stuck smack bang in the middle of it.

We applied for match tickets, booked flights we could scarcely afford and (having slept rough at the previous World Cup) arranged the relative comfort of a campervan to ferry us on a month-long odyssey, taking us the length and breadth of New Zealand.

From the sun-kissed northern capital of Auckland – where Ireland will face the Wallabies in Eden Park – a venue where they have not won for 24 years; to the deep south, where Italy are likely to enjoy the conditions on the Antarctic coast infinitely more than our free-running backline and tender scrum.

Travel plans

Despite the arrangements being set in stone, neither Del nor Tosh would be sated. Two months ago they reunited under the one roof in the shadow of the Aviva Stadium on London Bridge road, a mere 10-minute hike from their door to a seat on the summit of the East stand.

It was on that lofty perch, during the depressing 20-9 defeat to England, that it suddenly dawned on us all how real this adventure is about to become. The abject performance: a reminder of the debacle four years ago. The lashing rain: a premonition of what to expect in a Wellington quarter final… if we even make it that far.

So, unlike the 95% of sensible people who will keep their shoulder to the wheel on the emerald isle, we’ve taken leave of our senses to make the once-in-a-lifetime trip to follow our stuttering rugby team.

Like Kidney’s men, we will trudge on and on until we are sent home. We will vicariously channel our hopes and dreams through these 30 sturdy boys and move heaven and earth to serve our country as best we can. And we’ll hopefully meet some like-minded foot soldiers along the way.

Be part of the action, follow us. Not by taking planes, more planes and an automobile (you’ve more sense than that) but by keeping that URL locked on for our daily report.

‘We need to earn world’s respect’ – O’Gara

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