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Irish rugby team's return to Ravenhill stirs memories of controversy in 1954

By Matthew McCreary

Published 24/08/2007

Tonight's historic rugby match between Ireland and Italy at Ravenhill will bring back special memories for one Co Down grandmother.

Margaret Glover, from Dromore, was one of the thousands of fans who cheered from the sidelines when Ireland took on Scotland in 1954, the last time an Irish international match was played at the Belfast stadium.

" I came up with my friend on the Enterprise," said Margaret, who lived in Dublin at the time. "It was very exciting. I was a fanatical supporter of rugby, I was madly in love with Jackie Kyle. I remember walking along Royal Avenue and seeing City Hall, which we thought was like a palace."

Behind the scenes, however, the match was marred by controversy, as a number of southern players threatened to remain in their changing room while God Save the Queen was sung. The match was also held against a backdrop of political tensions.

"We had knitted little green and white woolly hats but we were advised not to wear them, which we didn't quite understand because we'd never come across anything like that," said Margaret, then aged 16.

"We were in the touchline seats they used to have around the ground. There was a big commotion because there was this guy dressed in ski pants and a sweater and a silly old hat. He ran (onto the pitch) with a tricolour and was grabbed by police."

Margaret says she is delighted the Ireland team are back at Ravenhill after a 53-year break.

"I was thinking about Ireland playing and the advances we have made," she said.

"I think it's wonderful; it's a sign of the times. Having been brought up in Dublin we never had any divide. When I moved to the north I found that rather difficult. But we've got to move forward and let go of the past."

And although unable to get a ticket for tonight's match, Margaret says she will be eagerly watching the game anyway.

"I'm a member of the supporters' club and I got on the net but I didn't make it," she said. " But I will be glued to the telly!"

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