Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

The rave at Ravenhill

The colour, the atmosphere and the make-up of the crowd makes it unique to any other sporting event that I have ever been to in this country, or any other country for that matter.





First of all there is the social aspect, as hundreds of dolled up teenage girls carry Belfast Fashion Week forward by a fortnight, tottering around in attire that would surely not be seen on the muddy grounds of Ballymacarn or Chambers Park.

And those at the other end of the ‘age spectrum’ were suitably togged out too — that Gucci sunglasses stall must have been at a different end of the Cregagh from where I came in.

But what really sets the final apart from the rest is the sheer noise; and what a noise it was, too.

It’s quite difficult to describe the high-pitched racket of adolescent excitement that ensued as Methody and RBAI took to the Ravenhill pitch.

Something of a cross between a full house at the Odyssey for a Take That concert, Lewis Hamilton zooming around Silverstone and a screaming ambulance in an emergency would be as close as you could get to pinning it down.

Let’s not make light of our over-exuberant noise-makers though as it was they who kept interesting what wasn’t exactly the blockbuster showpiece showdown that everyone was anticipating, or even hoping for.

Inst were, alas, no match for the might of Methody who on this kind of form could show quite a few senior club sides a thing or two.

Their fans, though, won the off-pitch battle as they strained their vocal chords right up to final whistle in a very polite singing contest, which was marred at some point by a few expletives which will see a few boys reading this article in between writing out, ‘I must not swear in public’ a thousand times, in detention today.

Seemingly the working classes had sneaked in!

Methody’s supporters tried to usurp the atmosphere award by bringing their school band, who with their trumping and harrumphing took us from 21st century east Belfast to a 1950s seaside town, but even — bizarrely — the appearance of crashing cymbals couldn’t help them to that particular prize.

On the field, however, there was only going to be one winner and RBAI were the authors of their own downfall as they gave away more penalties than an excited traffic cop.

The boys from College Square East had actually made quite a good start but once Paddy Robinson had opened Methody’s account from one of those penalties, there was already a sense that the prestigious trophy would be winging its way across town to the, equally leafy, surroundings of the Malone Road.

Then the star of the show turned up as last year’s man-of-the-match, Michael Allen threw his hat into the ring for another gong by bursting through and touching down the first try — game over.

The noise didn’t subside though, despite the obvious trek towards a Methody victory, and the Inst supporters even offered Ravenhill a taste of Windsor Park, by doing ‘the bouncy’.

For the uninitiated, ‘the bouncy’ is an act which sees purveyors jump up and down to the strains of ‘let’s all do the bouncy’.

For those taking part, it’s tremendous fun.

For those not, but standing within a few inches of having a Converse trainer stamping all over your Prada boots, it’s not quite so invigorating.

Michael Allen dived over the line for his second try of the day to put a flattering gloss on the scoreline in a second half which was slightly more entertaining than the first and that, as they say, was that.

The minutes ticked towards the inevitable before referee Mark Hermin put Inst out of their misery by blowing up slightly early and sparking scenes of unrivalled joy and despair in equal measures.

All that was left was the handing out of the medals.

Inst were given a rapturous reception by everyone in the ground in a terrific show of sportsmanship before Methody’s fans raised the roof as skipper Niall Annett lifted the old trophy.

In a final act Annett, as is tradition, stood in the stand and offered a speech that would befit an uber-sober Best Man at a wedding, with everyone thanked and not a single person left out.

Even the players’ mummys and daddies were applauded — and rightly so.

The mothers, in particular, had been adding their considerable noise to the proceedings, showing just one reason why it must be very embarrassing to be on the field and seeing your parents waving at you as you race down the wing.

Nevertheless they played their part, though were probably more Bay City Rollers than Take That.

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