Belfast Telegraph

Visitors pour into Dublin for GAA and rugby

By Colm Kelpie

Dublin was alive alive-oh with the sound of sports fans last night.

Its streets were throbbing to the beat of a bumper sporting weekend with more than 100,000 fans enjoying the atmosphere of fun and anticipation promised by a veritable feast of GAA and rugby.

GAA supporters can look forward to a repeat of September's gripping All-Ireland final between Dublin and Kerry when the two counties go head to head to get the National League under way (7.15pm) tonight.

The double-header gets going at Croke Park with Kildare taking on Tyrone at 5pm.

Another high-point of the weekend will be Ireland's opening Six Nations clash against Wales at Lansdowne Road tomorrow.

Dublin's streets rang out to Welsh melodies sung with heart and gusto. In pubs all round town groups of them gathered to lift the rafters with rousing renditions of old favourites.

Irish fans will be hoping the game is not a repeat of the crushing World Cup quarter-final defeat to Wales in Wellington, New Zealand, last October.

The absence of injured talisman Brian O'Driscoll helped put the travelling Wales fans in buoyant mood around Dublin yesterday.

Peter Ayers (58), originally from Llanelli but living in Maynooth, Co Kildare, said: "Every match is different. It's there for either side. On the day it's going to be a rugby game that everybody will enjoy - win or lose.

"It's something special and hopefully everybody will have a good day."

Fellow Wales fan Keith Young (70), who lives in Foxrock but is also originally from Llanelli, believed the Welsh had a chance, especially if Ireland start getting overly confident.

"You guys are very confident and when you guys are confident, we get very confident," Mr Young said. "Normally, if you guys think you're the underdogs, you win.

"But now you think, Wales have lost a lot of players, four from the pack, half the pack from the World Cup are gone, so you think the Irish forwards can take over and win."

But he admitted the venue could play a vital role in the game. "You've got all the advantage of playing at home," Mr Young said.

The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) said it has received a boost from the match, with 6,000 rooms taken up in the capital last night by visiting fans, and up to 9,000 tonight.

IHF president Paul Gallagher, general manager of Buswells hotel in central Dublin, said the weekend was good for business.

"It's the first of the Six Nations so the expectation about who might win the tournament is not yet set," he said.

"Because they've got an early kick-off on Sunday, there's quite a lot travelling home, but some will stay.

"There are rooms still available. I don't think Dublin hotels will sell out on this, but it is very welcome."

Friends Mark Steery (47) and Susan Thomas (49), who travelled from Wales on Thursday, return to Caerphilly on Monday.

Ms Thomas said she was aware that it was a "grudge match" after the World Cup defeat, but Mr Steery thought it would be tight.

"I think it's going to be a close game, but I think Wales can do it," he said.

Adrian Powell (54), Mike Williams (54), and Gareth James (48) are regular visitors to Dublin for the big games.

Mr Williams thought the visitors could clinch it on the day. "We could pull a little bit of rabbit out of the bag."

Belfast Telegraph


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