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Garth Brooks' Ulster fans queue for days for Croke Park tickets

BY DAVE WHELAN

Garth Brooks may have friends in low places – but he won't have many more devoted than those in Northern Ireland.

In an era of internet ticket sales, hundreds of fans across the province proved just how hot tickets for the country music legend's world comeback tour are by donning their sleeping bags and deck chairs to sleep out.

Music stores and ticket vendors up and down Northern Ireland were this morning dealing with a swell of fans who had chosen to spend days queuing out for the tickets before they went on sale at 9am this morning.

In Belfast there were long queues in the city centre at Eason's, HMV and DV8.

And in Co Tyrone, Cookstown and Dungannon both saw diehard fans queue out for days.

Jolene McBride told the Belfast Telegraph she and her sister had been camped outside a ticket office in Cookstown since 8am on Tuesday.

"I said I would never camp out for anyone except Garth Brooks, so here I am. I missed him last time and I wasn't about to let it happen again," she said.

"I'd be highly disappointed if I didn't get them after all of this effort."

Renowned for their love of country and western music, Dungannon natives claim they are the star's biggest fans.

Enthusiasts began camping outside Stuart's Music store in the town's Irish Street from as early as Sunday morning – a full five days ago – to bag a ticket to the US star's first Irish concerts in 17 years.

Shop owner Raymond Stuart estimated more than a thousand people had been outside his shop.

"The earliest campers actually caught us unawares. We've provided a bit of a marquee for some cover from some pretty brutal wind and rain in the last few days but we had no idea they were going to be here so early. I was actually at Mass on Sunday morning when someone said to me they've started queuing outside your shop. I was shocked," he said. The shop owner said that the town has had a long standing relationship with country music and added that the shop was regarded as the "home of country music" since it opened in 1975.

"We have a great association. Nathan Carter launched his last two albums from our shop, as did country star Derek Ryan.

"We are a traditional record shop and we get people coming in because they have a long association with buying music here and they have been buying Garth Brooks here for many years," he said.

"They know that when they walk in here they will deal with a face and we will do everything in our power to look after them – they know than we can deliver tickets into their hands with no hassle and a smile."

Brooks is performing two dates in Croke Park from July 26, with tickets expected to sell out rapidly, leaving many fans hoping that a third date may be added.

Irish ticket site seatwave.ie was charging up to €820 (£670) for standing tickets to the Croke Park gigs yesterday. That's despite the fact that tickets are only officially going on sale with Ticketmaster at 9am this morning priced at €65.45 (£54) each, with additional fees ranging from €2.15 (£1.70) to €6.10 (£5).

In response to queries about the high mark-up and the origin of the tickets, Seatwave said it was a secondary marketplace and, as such, did not own any tickets itself.

"All the tickets listed on Seatwave are sold by individual sellers and so these sellers can list their tickets for whatever price they feel is appropriate," it said.

Mr Stuart said that he hoped to use some influence when he phoned Brooks' manager Bob Doyle last week to make sure the Grammy Award-winning singer knew about the Dungannon buzz. The pair met a number of years ago when on a night out in Nashville in America and it was a phone number the shop owner always thought might come in handy.

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