Alan Quinlan writes an impressively honest and perceptive column in the Irish Times as well as commenting on the radio and TV. As well as being a former international, he’s also a fan. His latest column focused on atmosphere and lack thereof at Lansdowne Road/the Aviva Stadium during the recent match against England.
The Mole is interested to know what commenters think about the atmosphere at Lansdowne and other grounds around the country. There is much talk about the ‘ordinary fan’ not being able to get tickets for games but I’m not sure about who this refers to. No one wants to take umbrage with the ‘ordinary fan’ or the concept thereof but who is (s)he? It’s a generic phrase that applies to no one in particular and everyone in general.
For the record, the Mole was at the ground on Saturday and no one in the seats directly around me booed ‘Swing Low’ but the English fans two rows back were more vocal than any of the Irish supporters. I was at the same game in Lansdowne two years ago when the atmosphere before was buzzing (5.30pm kick off on a Saturday). Sexton and Reddan ratcheted the tempo up from the start of the game and the crowd lapped it up. A 19-13 victory in 2005 (Sunday afternoon kickoff) was a subdued affair while the 43-13 win in Croke Park was one of the highlights of Irish rugby.
However, the best atmosphere I’ve ever experienced at Lansdowne Road was 1993 against England. I was on the South Terrace behind three guys from Ulster who seemed to start every chant at that end before the rest of the ground took it up and the wheels came off the chariot. Were these guys ‘ordinary fans’? Extraordinary in my opinion, it takes somebody to start the chants and I never saw it again at first hand.
The atmosphere in the RDS for the quarter final against Clermont on Friday night a few years ago was electric and Clermont’s fans are the best I’ve ever seen or heard. ‘Qui ne saute pas n’est pas auvergnat!’ Having visited Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund for a game recently, I can say that my initial fears about the lack of terracing at Lansdowne are being realised. Terraces lend atmosphere to games because the lack of frills (comfort?) mean that only people who want to see the game are likely to go. The atmosphere rather than game itself is the reason that a large rump of people attend matches and likewise concerts. The designers of the new Lansdowne Road missed a trick.
One comment about atmosphere at games that has stuck with me was Geoff Moylan’s in the build up to the Croke Park Heineken Cup semi-final. Moylan had to be back for training on Sunday morning as Shannon were playing Clontarf in the league final the following week. Earlier on in the season he had been at Thomond for the match against the All Blacks: “The All Black game at Thomond Park was different as every guy who has every played club rugby seemed to be there and it was the best atmosphere I can ever remember.”
What’s right or wrong at grounds? What gets your juices flowing and who are the “Best Fans in the World”? What impact does the size of the ground have or is it all ‘location, location, location’. And before I forget, why are there so few toilets in the Aviva Stadium?