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Dublin: 10°C Sunday 9 May 2021

‘I was blown away by the home anthem’: Fans share their stadium memories of Ireland v Wales clashes

We’re kicking off a new series ‘Hear The Roar’ with our Six Nations coverage sponsor William Hill.

CAST YOUR MINDS back to Saturday, 8 February 2020, when Wales were last in town to face Ireland.

We had come to take it for granted — the singing in the streets, the overspill from the bars and the mingling of green and red everywhere the eye turned.

ireland-fans-celebrate-a-try Supporters at last year's fixture between Ireland and Wales. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

A sell-out crowd of 51,000 crammed into the Aviva Stadium to watch the reigning Grand Slam champions test Andy Farrell’s side. They roared, they rose to their feet and jumped into the arms of the person closest to them when Jordan Larmour danced by, Tadhg Furlong bulldozed through or Andrew Conway sped around.

Rugby fans haven’t been able to flick down a plastic seat at Ireland’s home venue since that day and their voices will be sorely missed this year.

But together with William Hill, who are sponsoring The42′s Six Nations coverage, we want to relive some of the great times experienced together during the tournament in our new series ‘Hear The Roar’.

To get us going, we asked Ireland fans to share their memories of clashes against Wales…

Land of My Fathers – Aisling Fagan

The biennial Wales trip for Wexford Wanderers RFC kicked off with the usual late Friday night ferry from Rosslare to Fishguard. With our sausage sandwiches and Ireland jerseys in tow, every two years the club crew gets together — young and old, men and women, players and management — off on a journey to the ‘Land of My Fathers’.

Image from iOS (1) The gang from Wexford Wanderers RFC.

The club has stayed in the same teeny tiny B&B for years when we get into Fishguard — knowing all of the staff, the manager aptly named Bernard Jackman. They have the pints ready upon our late night pre-match arrival, and the full Welsh breakfast the following morning without fail — stunning hospitality if I ever saw it, in what has been coined ‘the worst B&B ever’ on TripAdvisor.

A bus full of slightly dodgy heads set off for Cardiff — an electric Millennium Stadium and a stunning Six Nations opener against the defending champs awaits. Nothing quite compares to the passion of the Welsh anthem booming around the stadium, fans with tears in the eyes and hands on their hearts.

A cracker of a match to say the least — a 23-3 half-time lead, a famous Simon Zebo backheel move, Johnny Sexton on form, a stupidly strong Wales side, but not strong enough for the Boys in Green.

Image from iOS (2) Aisling and her dad.

To say a hooley followed in the centre of Cardiff is an understatement, the Welsh the ever graceful losers welcomed us with open arms to every establishment. Clwb Ifor Bach is where the evening takes us each time, dancing with red jerseys, swapping Irish scarves for inflatable daffodils, followed by a pit-stop in Cross Hands, Llanelli, on the way back to Fishguard for our late-night ferry home.

Left on The Bench – Patrick O’Brien 

gang_1 Patrick O'Brien and his merry band.

In 2015, Ireland went to Wales with three wins from three and the hosts were still in with a chance at winning that year’s Six Nations title, chances that had improved by full-time.

We made a belated decision to travel over to Cardiff to cheer the team on. Unfortunately, there were bumps in the road, which we felt on an excruciatingly slow bus from Birmingham airport that delivered us in about five hours and with mere minutes to spare before kick-off.

That was the least of our worries as it turned out. Our last-minute planning meant accommodation was low on supply and the hostel bunks we had been promised by a friend turned out to be about as reliable as Owen Farrell tackling above the waist. 

Time to do the maths on the problem: pubs shut at 2am, train to the airport is off at 8am… carry the one and we opted to curl up on a bench on the platform of Cardiff Central.

The Bench - Jamie Heasheep The bench in question, featuring the lads' mascot 'Jamie Heasheep'.

I’d wager a half hour in a cryotherapy chamber would have been warmer, but at least we can say we certainly answered Ireland’s Call.

Ticket Hunt – James Coffey

There was a Grand Slam at stake in 2009. Four of us decided on the Tuesday evening we had to try and make our way to Cardiff for the Saturday of all Saturdays.

When would we get the same chance again to see history made?

Fog had delayed the flight, traffic into Cardiff was manic and we arrived after a three-hour trek from Southampton airport with a few hours to frantically look for tickets.

We split up to cover more ground. 20 minutes in and I had a ticket sorted. I paid twice the face value, but I was in. A Welsh lady who decided she was better off watching from the pub provided our party’s second ticket soon after and we felt we had momentum.

Every bar, hotel and beer garden was searched for spares. We even asked future Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the street if he had any — no joy.

ireland-fans An Ireland fan in Cardiff. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

With time running out, mercifully we happened upon a Welsh couple in two minds about whether to watch in the local or in the flesh. I convinced them the latter was the best option and they parted with their prized possessions for a good price.

When I got to my seat I was informed by the person sitting next to me that the ticket I bought outside was in fact stolen from a buddy of his and he tried to get me thrown out.

Thankfully, the steward was decent about it, believed I had done nothing wrong and re-seated me in another spot just as the anthems were belting out.

The rest of the story needs no telling. What a game, what a finish and what a night. 

Worth The Wait – Ray Spillane

I’ve only been to one Six Nations match ever. My family spent years trying to get me tickets, my daughter entered every Facebook competition going.

jacob-stockdale-celebrates-scoring-his-second-try-with-teammates The crowd celebrates Jacob Stockdale's crucial try. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

One day in 2018, she ran outside to me screaming and caught her breath just long enough to tell me she had won eight tickets for Ireland v Wales and a pre-match stadium tour, to be led by the one and only Alan Quinlan. The only dilemma now was who to bring with us. 

There were long-standing favours returned to old friends and rugby-mad godchildren. My eldest isn’t into rugby and my other son was in Australia, but we found enough suitable candidates.

Brilliant game, great to meet a rugby legend and have a few pints with lifelong pals. It was probably one of the best weekends I’ve had.

Away Days – Tom Hanratty

My Dad brought me to Cardiff for the Six Nations fixture back in 2003. I remember being struck by how central the stadium was to the city and then the sheer size of it, in contrast to Lansdowne Road at the time.

Our seats were up in the heavens, but it was a great view — the whole place was so impressive. I know there is a lot made of the Welsh and their singing and, having only ever been to internationals in Dublin before this, I have to say I was blown away when the home anthem struck up.

rbs-6-nations-wales-v-ireland Ronan O'Gara's drop-goal in 2003. Source: PA

Wales were in a bit of a rut at the time and got whitewashed that season, but Ireland made hard work of things and needed a superb drop-goal from Ronan O’Gara to win it in the last minute.

Despite the result, Cardiff was absolutely hopping that night and it was probably the first time I realised how much the fans mingle and come together around this tournament.

Do you have an unforgettable story about attending an Ireland Six Nations game? 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. 

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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