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Irish Post Article 14th Oct 2014

THE Republic of Ireland Soccer Supporters Club (RISSC) London held its 30th Anniversary dinner dance at the Crown Moran Hotel in Cricklewood.

Irish Post Article 14th October 2014

Many of the club’s members attended the 30th anniversary celebrations (Photo: Malcolm McNally)

Around 200 members and their guests attended and among those present were Irish Ambassador Dan Mulhall, Football Association of Ireland CEO John Delaney and former Tottenham and Republic of Ireland footballer Tony Galvin.

Many of those who were at the very first meeting of the RISSC London, which took place at the Prince of Wales Feathers pub in Warren Street in 1984, were present for the 30th anniversary celebrations, including our photographer Malcolm McNally.

There was much reminiscing on the night of the many trips made following the Boys in Green over those 30 years, as well as plans made for future games. All enjoyed a great evening.

Pictures by Malcolm McNally

This article appeared in The Irish Post October 2014, and on irishpost.co.uk

Irish Post Article 11th Sept 2014

FAI boss to attend RISSC London’s 30th Anniversary Event

Irish Post Article 11th September 2014

FAI BOSS John Delaney will be among the special guests at the London-based Republic of Ireland Supporters Club’s 30th anniversary celebrations later this month.  

FAI boss John Delaney will be attending the Republic of Ireland Supporters Club in London’s 30th anniversary celebrations later this month (Photo: Inpho)

A number of other special guests, including ex-Irish footballers and representatives from the Irish Embassy, will also be in attendance at the event on Saturday 27 September in the Crown Moran Hotel, Cricklewood, although no other names have yet been revealed.

The event will include an evening of dinner, dancing and a charity raffle with the chance to win signed shirts. Guests will be treated to live music from singer Barry Owen.

Club Secretary Martin Prendergast confirmed that 250 guests are expected to attend the anniversary celebrations of the RISSC, of which former Arsenal and Ireland player Liam Brady is Honorary President.

The organisation was founded in 1984, and held its inaugural meeting at the Prince of Wales Feather Public House in Warren Street, London.

The club is officially recognised by the FAI and aims to provide a forum for supporters of Irish football at all levels, from the grassroots to the senior international teams.

In addition to supporting the national teams, the club sponsored then Under 8 side of St Kevin’s Boys Club in Dublin in 2000, with Ireland’s Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick two of the success stories who emerged from the youth team and entered professional football.

The 30th Anniversary Dinner Dance will be in the Bentley Room at the Crown Moran Hotel, Cricklewood, London, NW2 on Saturday 27 September 2014. Tickets for the event were priced at £45 per ticket.

This article appeared in The Irish Post September 2014, and on irishpost.co.uk

Sunday Independent Article 26th May 2013

Sunday Independent Article 26th May 2013

Sunday Independent Article 26th May 2013 pdf

Tickets, tension and songs on night that changed everything
Sunday Independent Article 26th May 2013
27 March 1991; Republic of Ireland’s Niall Quinn scores a goal against England. England v Republic of Ireland, European Championship Qualifier, Wembley Stadium, London, England. Soccer. Picture credit; Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Like all Irish sporting stories, it begins as a story of tickets. The Irish in London were expected to overcome all the problems when Ireland played England at Wembley in 1991, not just their own problems but those of their family and friends back home.

There were more difficulties than some imagined. “I remember contacting the FAI and basically being told, ‘Sure you’ll be all right, don’t you live there?’,” Sean Mackey remembers, “although they came good in the end.”

But the tickets the FAI could provide were never going to be enough. For the Irish in London, England playing Ireland at Wembley was supposed to be a home game.

The English FA were believed to be looking sympathetically on requests but Mackey, a committee member of the London branch of the Republic of Ireland Soccer Supporters Club, heard other stories. “I was told that anybody with an ‘O’ or a ‘Mc’ in their name was being rejected. Anybody who sounded Irish at all in fact.”

Mackey was a bank manager in London. He had a secretary called Devini Patel and an idea occurred to him. That was how Devini Patel ended up with six tickets for England v Ireland at Wembley on March 27, 1991. It was also how Devini Patel’s sister ended up with six tickets for the Wembley game, dispatched by the English FA with kind regards. The Patels weren’t football people. Sean Mackey now had 12 tickets.

“We had Joe Delaney pestered,” Niall Quinn remembers. Ireland were playing England in the heartland of the London Irish and Quinn knew those people as well as anybody.

While he was at Arsenal, Quinn had drunk in the National in Kilburn and, when he ended up in the Galtymore in Cricklewood after the game, it wasn’t the first time he’d ended up in the Galtymore in Cricklewood. “I drank in those places,” he says, “but I drank in pub hours.”

What were pub hours exactly?

“Well,” he says with a smile, “I’ve been to a few of those pubs where they wouldn’t let you out.”

The Irish in London at times felt under siege then, like others do today, and some were fleeing economic despair in Ireland, just as they are today.

“When I flew home to see my family, the planes were always empty,” Quinn says. “And when I flew back, they were always full.”

The Ireland that arrived at Wembley represented a changing Ireland. After the 1990 World Cup, the team had more confidence and the country had elected a woman president the year before. Other changes were evident too. The day before the game, Hugh Callaghan, one of the Birmingham Six, travelled to training with the players and stood on the Wembley pitch talking to Jack Charlton.

Old consolations and old stereotypes remained about Ireland and the Ireland team.

“The Irish will play the long ball but we musn’t try to beat them at their own game,” England manager Graham Taylor said the day before. “We must keep the ball on the floor and impose our own style.” The game would reveal that Ireland’s style was not what England expected and England’s style was no style at all.

“That was the first night that we pretended not to hear Jack’s instructions,” Quinn remembers. The team was growing in belief, and everything that happened at Wembley, except perhaps the result, would confirm that belief.

The Irish supporters who were at Wembley that night recall the performance of the team with pride, but the other memories aren’t as cosy. “Hostile,” was how one man recalled the atmosphere, while one of Sean Mackey’s tickets was given to an English acquaintance who, he was told, didn’t stand for Amhrán na bhFiann and participated in some “vile chants”.

When Ireland played at Wembley in 1985, there had been outbreaks of trouble. The match in Dublin the year before had been rowdy and, four years after the ’91 game, the friendly at Lansdowne Road would be abandoned. For some the day and night of the game was long and edgy.

Pat Redmond was drinking in the Black Lion in Kilburn that afternoon when a group of England fans charged down the Kilburn High Road and started throwing missiles into the pub. “A glass came in and cut my head open,” he recalls.

The Irish fans in the Black Lion responded. Redmond recalls years later reading an account in a book about hooliganism in which an England fan remembered being hit by a pint glass thrown from within the pub. “Hopefully my fingerprints were on that one,” he laughs.

The cut head was one thing, the game was another. Redmond had blood streaming from his wound but a trip to casualty was too much of a detour. “There was a bit of a gash but the blood soon stopped.”

Redmond headed to Neasden, where he heard some English fans had stood on a table in a pub and sang God Save the Queen with predictable results, before he made the final journey to Wembley.

For those who were covering the Irish team, the night would represent the moment when Irish football was viewed differently. “Even after we beat England in Stuttgart, there was still the view that we were a crowd of Paddies,” says Peter Byrne, then The Irish Times’ football correspondent. “But after that night in Wembley they totally respected us. To their credit, the English are a magnanimous race.”

On the morning of the game, newspapers reported that 20,000 Irish fans were expected at Wembley but the main news concerned the announcement of what the Irish Independent called “historic round-table talks to devise a new beginning for the North”.

The old history was played out in the crowd, especially for the many Irish among the home supporters. £20 tickets were selling for £120. On the field, there was a new story and the respect for the Irish team centred, as it so often did, around one man.

“Paul McGrath,” Taylor would say later, “was outstanding within the context of the way the Irish play.”

Taylor may have been hinting at his desire to adopt a similar way of playing. But there was more than just brutality about the first-half Irish performance as they recovered from England’s fortunate early goal to dominate as few Irish teams have ever dominated in an away match.

For 15 minutes, England couldn’t leave their half and when McGrath floated a ball into the box, Quinn, who had dominated in the air, gently side-footed the ball past David Seaman.

Quinn had been enjoying a fine season at Manchester City, scoring 12 league goals before that night but he changed when that goal went in. “It turned me into a different player,” he says. “When we were growing up, Allan Clarke used to finish like that but after that night I had the confidence to try it all the time.” Quinn scored another eight goals in the final nine games for City that season.

At half-time, Ireland were level and everything everybody knew was wrong. Ireland, Eamon Dunphy said on RTE, had broken England’s nerve. On the BBC, Terry Venables and Jimmy Hill were acknowledging this new force.

“Their success is based on as good a midfield as any,” Venables said. Hill added that “the Irish are under-rated as footballers.”

At half-time, Taylor abandoned his system of three centre-backs and sent England’s latest wonderboy Lee Sharpe on to make his debut. This, Dunphy remarked, was another sign of a manager losing his nerve.

If Ireland had won, they would have gone top of the group but their chance went when Ray Houghton missed an opportunity which was never forgotten by Charlton.

“Jack gave me an almighty telling off after it but he didn’t do it in front of the lads,” Houghton recalled last week. “He did it up in the bar, in front of my wife. He told me I could have been a hero again, but I messed it up. That’s the polite way of saying it.”

Ireland were still in a strong position but a scoreless draw at home to Poland and the 3-3 in Poznan allowed England to qualify. By that stage, Roy Keane had been added to the Irish team and Byrne is not alone in thinking that if Ireland had made the finals, they would have had a real chance of winning it. “It was,” Quinn says, “a travesty we didn’t qualify.”

But on that Wednesday night at Wembley, Ireland felt they could celebrate. While the VIP guests – Gay Byrne and Fr Michael Cleary were among those at the game – made their way to central London, others headed for more traditional haunts. Mulligan’s in Kilburn had hired ‘Vance and the Dark Secrets’ to entertain supporters.

Pat Redmond’s head had stopped bleeding and he went to the team hotel after the game and then accompanied the Honorary President of the RISSC, Chris Hughton, to the National in Kilburn. “It was a normal night in the National,” Redmond says.

Byrne’s clearest memory is of David O’Leary heading up to talk to reporters in the press box at the final whistle, with O’Leary still in his Ireland kit.

Quinn’s night hadn’t ended. After the game, he joined a queue for a payphone outside Wembley as he wanted to call his then girlfriend Gillian, who would soon become his wife.

“A man behind me offered me a hand [£500] if I’d come up to the Galtymore in Cricklewood,” Quinn says. Quinn took up the offer and recalls singing on stage with Kathy Durkin in front of 3,000 people. Just a normal night in the Galtymore. When the time came to collect his money, Quinn found that he was £50 light.

Representations were made that it wouldn’t be right to short-change the man who had scored for Ireland at Wembley earlier in the night. “He held up his hand and he was missing half a finger,” Quinn recalls. “He said, ‘I didn’t say whose hand!'” A lifelong friendship developed.

Quinn returned to Manchester a different player and Ireland could expect a different future. In that weekend’s Sunday Independent, Dunphy pointed out that this result shouldn’t be confused with previous Irish moral victories. “The moral victories we used to crow about were usually valiant defeats or desperate survival jobs. On Wednesday, the desperate men were wearing white.”

Some of the men in green had desperations of their own. “Peter Reid had said he’d sack me if I didn’t make training,” Quinn says. He made it, but in his own fashion. “I had won a Jag playing Kalooki in a snooker hall,” he says. “And the guy I’d won it from drove me to Manchester. I stepped out of a smoke-filled 1960s battered old Jag at the training ground.”

Quinn got on with training having scored at Wembley the night before, taken £450 from a man missing half a finger, sung on stage in front of 3,000 fans and got home in a car he won playing cards in a snooker den. The next week, he scored a hat-trick.

“It was a friendlier time,” Quinn says, “and London was a better place.”

It was a story that ends, as all Irish stories end, with wonder that they managed to make it home at all.

Sunday Independent Article 26th May 2013 pdf

Article also available at independent.ie

Irish Times Article 8th June 2012

Support systems for those abroad

Irish Times Article 8th June 2012

Thousands of Irish emigrants will watch the national team play Croatia on Sunday no matter what time it is in their part of the world. CIARA KENNY found out where they will be watching the games, and what supporting Ireland means to them.

VANCOUVER: Daniel Tinnelly

The massive increase in the number of Irish people settling in Vancouver in recent years has led to a growing appetite for Irish sports in the city, but there was no club or venue dedicated to Irish soccer before Daniel Tinnelly, a structural engineer who moved from Dublin to Canada in 2009, decided to address the issue late last year in anticipation of the Euro 2012 finals.

“I used to find it very difficult to find somewhere to watch the Irish football matches when I arrived in Vancouver first, even in the Irish bars,” he says. “If they were shown at all, you had to pay a $20 (€15.50) cover charge, to cover the bar’s pay-per-view subscriptions.”

With permission from the Football Association of Ireland, Tinnelly set up the Official FAI Supporters Club of Vancouver last December, with the aim of creating a big enough group of Irish fans to fill a pub, and ensure there would be a venue where every Irish soccer match would be screened live.

They have since teamed up with Mahony & Sons, an Irish bar at Burrard Landing in the city, which has now become the first FAI Supporters Bar of Vancouver. Every Irish match in the European Championships will be shown in the bar.

The first game on Sunday will be a family event, with face-painting, drinks promotions and a raffle, and a $5 (€3.90) donation at the door will be split between three Vancouver charities with Irish affiliations, the St Vincent de Paul, the Irish Benevolent Fund and the British Columbia Cancer Foundation.

“The venue has a capacity of 495 and we’re expecting a huge turnout on Sunday,” says Tinnelly. “Sports events like this play a huge role in bringing the Irish community together here. I have met a lot of people who are away from home for the first time, who may have come over on their own, and they’ll be able to walk in here and meet a whole host of new people. That’s what events like this are all about.”

SYDNEY: Gemma Callaghan

The Ireland-Croatia match kicks off at 4.45am on Monday in Sydney. Gemma Callaghan (23), who moved to Australia from Cabra in Dublin last year, plans to stay up with a group of friends to watch it in one of the city’s 24-hour bars.

“There’s a huge Irish crowd expected at Scruffy Murphy’s and the Cheers bar, where the matches will be shown,” she says. “It is a bank holiday here on the Monday, so everyone will be off work. There’s always great banter at Irish sports events, but because this is the biggest football match for the Irish team in a long time, it will be extra special. It is all everyone is talking about at the moment.”

Callaghan, who is a qualified secondary school teacher, now works for Taste Ireland, an online company importing goods such as Barry’s Tea, Club Orange and Tayto crisps for the Irish in Australia.

“I meet a lot of families through work who have moved over here recently, and the kids are all getting excited about waking up early in the morning to watch the games online,” she says. “Euro 2012 is something really positive that the whole Irish community can look forward to, a change from the doom and gloom that we are used to hearing from home.”

BOSTON: Declan Meighan

Boston publican Declan Meighan and his business partner Joe Dunne have been promoting the upcoming Irish matches since Ireland qualified for the Euros last November. They expect their two Irish bars, Lír and McGann’s, to be packed for all three games.

“We have a clock counting down the days to when it all kicks off, it is a really big deal among the Irish community in Boston,” Meighan says.

“We will have a great mix of people here to watch the matches. Lír is in a touristy area, so we’ll have lots of European visitors on each day, but both bars will be popular with the older Irish community for the Irish games, as well as the younger, more recent arrivals who have come to work for the big companies. We’ve had an influx of J1-ers coming in looking for work over the past week, and many of them will be in to watch the matches too.”

Meighan, who moved to Boston from Monkstown in Dublin in 1986, co-owns seven bars in the city, as well as the Front Lounge on Parliament Street in Dublin.

“The local hotels in Boston send their guests to Lír or McGann’s whenever there’s an Irish soccer match on, because there’s always a great atmosphere,” he says. “There are no fans in the world like the Irish soccer fans.”

LONDON: Declan Finnegan

RISSC members with Shay Given after the qualification game in Macedonia in June 2011. Left to right are Declan Finnegan, Kevin O’Brien, Shay Given, Bernard O’Reilly and Stephen McNulty.

Declan Finnegan, chairman of the Republic of Ireland Soccer Supporters’ Club of London (RISSC), is one of about 20 London-based Irish who have been to every match the Irish team have played in the Euro 2012 campaign so far.

“We are really committed,” he says. “I was at the friendly in Budapest on Monday, flew back to London afterwards, and am heading off for Poland tomorrow in time for the first Ireland match on Sunday.”

The RISSC in London has been going since 1984. They currently have almost 500 members, 175 of whom are travelling to Poland for one, two or three of the group stage matches.

“We haven’t organised an official club trip this time because a lot of people wanted to do their own thing, flying, driving cars or camper vans, or taking the train or bus,” Finnegan says. “For those who can’t travel to Poland, there are plenty of Irish bars in London showing the matches, and they will gather together to watch them there.”

Finnegan has been living in London since 1971, and has been involved with the RISSC since 1989. “There are people who have been here longer than me in the club, and people who have only just arrived in the last year or so,” he says. “One of the strongest elements of the club membership is the second or third generation Irish, who are still die-hard Irish football fans. Some of them are more Irish than the Irish themselves.

“I wouldn’t miss the games in Poland for anything. We’ve booked our trip for 12 days, so if Ireland make it through to the next stage, we’ll be there supporting them all the way.”

NEW ZEALAND: Ciarán Lowney

When the Ireland-Croatia match kicks off on Sunday, Ciarán Lowney will be boarding a plane with his Kiwi wife and four-year-old son in Auckland, bound for Toronto in Canada where they will spend a few days before travelling to Ireland for the first time in seven years.

“When we qualified, I thought it would be perfect, that I would be home for all the Irish matches, but I’ll be on the plane for the first and in Toronto for the second, but we’ve already sussed out an Irish bar where we can watch the game there,” he says.

“I’m most looking forward to the game against Italy, which I’ll get to watch with my brother in Cork who I haven’t seen for years. I haven’t watched an Irish match in an Irish pub since the 1994 World Cup either, so travelling home and being home for the Euros makes the sporting event all the more special.”

The Irish community in Auckland will be watching too, but as the matches kick off at 6.45am, they will be celebrating over cups of tea rather than pints.

“The pubs will still open, even though they won’t be serving alcohol,” Lowney says. “When you are away from home, whether it be just for a few months or 20 years, any kind of sporting event becomes a much bigger deal, meeting other Irish people, and sharing that sense of Irish pride.”

Ciarán Lowney is involved with the Irish People Living in New Zealand social network.

This article appears in the Life & Culture section of The Irish Times 8th of June 2012, and on irishtimes.com.