Belfast Telegraph

Declan Bogue: New Casement is welcome but it is unlikely to beat the charm of Clones

By Declan Bogue

There was something poetic about a Monaghan double on Ulster final day, as construction on the new Casement Park is about to get underway.

It is quite incredible how much of a divide the place can stir. Some feel that Clones is hard to reach, the ground is an eyesore and the town is unsuited to hosting big occasions.

The first Ulster final your correspondent attended was the 1982 edition between Armagh and Fermanagh. The story goes that I wandered off and my name echoed around the ground through the tannoy, as the stewards appealed for my parents to make themselves known.

Happily, they arrived shortly after, though if Fermanagh had have been leading their response time might have been notable.

The new Casement Park will be salubrious and well-appointed, but Clones is a place for the sentimentalists – of which I include myself – to wallow in. It is a place of memories, such as;

Cheering each pass with an 'Olé' if your team is far enough ahead ...

Wee Peter and Kieran McKeever going hammer and tongs at it ...

Middle-age men with replica jerseys underneath suit jackets ...

A sighting of Nudie Hughes, normally in animated form ...

Throwing your car up onto a ditch miles from the ground and setting off on a trek to the ground ...

Eoin Bradley swinging from the crossbar after thrashing a shot past Paul Hearty ...

The little mound at the back of the hill outside the ground where fans can watch for free.

Groups of young lads dishing out hard-edged banter to television pundits when they leave the studio ...

Wee James' boot being flung into the stand by an eager Tyrone marker ...

The austerity of Kieran McGeeney not making a big deal out of winning three-in-a-row. Wondering does he now not regret letting himself go a bit more ...

Jumping on the field at the end of the game to meet your heroes ...

Eating burgers before lunchtime ...

Avoiding the young ones streaming out of the pubs with techno music blaring ...

The biblical floods of '93, when supporters clung to each other as they made their way off a lethal grass bank ...

Making it back to the car so you can catch the post-mortem on the wireless ...

The orange hordes of Armagh fans streaming onto the sidelines with five minutes of the 1999 Ulster final still to be played ...

Fans stomping out of the ground with ten minutes to go if their team looks beaten ...

"All stewards to end of match positions" ...

Negotiating a certain level of officiousness at the turnstiles ...

Barry Owens being stretchered off after mangling his knee in the turf during the '08 final ...

The subsequent joy that Armagh fans took from their win that year, in stark contrast to two years previous ...

Calling in on bars that retain their 1970's charm and decor ...

Treading carefully in the toilets of the same as you bemoan their casual attitude to plumbing ...

To be part of something ...

Next year might be the last Ulster final played there. Make your own memories.

Belfast Telegraph

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