The Chips are Down

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?

41 thoughts on “The Chips are Down

  1. Fully agree with you on the Clermont QF in the RDS Mole, That was the best atmosphere that I’ve ever been part of -you could feel the electricity in the ground! (For a frame of reference, I wasn’t at Croker in 2007 nor the Aviva in 2011) but I did get to the Grand Slam games in 2009 plus most of Leinsters home games over the last 5 years. I’d say Leinster/Munster 2009 was a close second.

    Quinny is right about the fans doing their part for the team, but at the same time, when you’re soaking wet on a Sunday there’s a long queue for the toilets & bar….

  2. In the old Lansdowne, it was always the school boys and terraces that got the singing started.
    I think the close confines of a terrace is what brings out the atmosphere.
    The different provinces have supporters clubs, which always seem to make a deal of noise. I think the Irish team could benefit from same.

    • We have all been those schoolboys on the South Terrace…but I would venture it just seemed like our squeaky voices were starting chants. In reality, it was more likely the Ulstermen on the terraces (mentioned by Mole), with a strong supporting role played by hipflasks of Bushmills. Back then it was Molly Malone – rather than ‘The Fields’ – that used to ring out (the Fields only emerged about 10 years ago to my knowledge).

      The best atmosphere in Ireland was and remains (in spite of Quinny’s lament) Thomond. However, nothing compares to atmospheres at French club matches. Anyone who has been to Clermont can testify to the special atmosphere there but I’ve been to plenty of other places that can compete: Bayonne, Montpellier, Toulouse being a few that come to mind. Now contrast that with the Stade de France – truly one of the worst atmospheres in rugby (especially if things aren’t going their way).

      Before the provinces really got organised and developed loyal and motivated fan bases, the Irish team and Landsdowne Road was the only outlet for such tribal support (the Irish clubs being too small to generate an atmosphere). However, after years of underperforming and growing provincial rivalry, I reckon the average provincial (or club) fan couldn’t be arsed wasting their time and money going to international games. The lack of any good toons – that unify the fans – also must play a role.

      • I forgot to give a hat-tip to the French Oompah bands. The brass and – particularly – timpany group, which most clubs have at least one of, is a really great way to get songs going. Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba….OLÉ!

    • Similarly I’ve been wondering if the addition of cheerleaders would help drum up a bit of atmosphere at the provincial games. Not the pom pom variety but rather the megaphone wielding songsters whose presence I will always remember from my school boy days, always made a huge impact on the crowd. The new Leo ain’t cutting the mustard these days at the RDS and I’m wondering if the “new rugby fan base” needs something a little more to bring out the passion the rest of us grew up with…

      Also with regard the “ordinary fan”. I don’t buy in to that either. The IRFU make no secret of the fact that tickets are first sold through the clubs. If you want to increase your chances of getting a ticket for these highly sought after games, support your local club by joining them as a non-playing member.

  3. Bayonne against toulouse in san sebastain
    With its running track around it
    The bayonne fans were fantastic with there donkeys mascot and there drums the guy behind me nearly busted my ear drums and they got there big win

    Was in same ground for heineken semi v biarritz i too witnessed a abbeyfeale crowd trying to get munster going but in my opion too many lads brought girlfriends for holiday and lot of lads were mickey mouse supporters

    Thr decent edge of seat fan is priced out of it for these big clashes prawn sandwich brigade if you like

  4. I think the whole thing comes down to the problem of so many tickets being given away as prizes/freebies/corporate tickets.

    On most of the occasions I’ve been to The Aviva you are surrounded by people drinking and chatting. If you start singing people look at you with a ‘who’s your man?!’ look on their faces. People might join in if its a scrum or Ireland are defending their line but for the most part you may as well be in the pub.

    When you invest time and money into following or supporting a team you get emotionally involved in every aspect of play. When you get a ticket through work or a competition you’ll go along for a few beers and the ‘day out’ mentality takes over. If you’re with a client, you’re unlikely to stand up and start screaming at the forwards to dance on a player on the wrong side of a ruck.

    I’ve no idea what the solution is, but I don’t think the Aviva is doomed to be a terrible stadium. As Quinlan pointed out, it has to be run as a business, but maybe if they stopped serving pints 10 mins before kick off people would get I to their seats early. That’s unlikely to happen though.

  5. Best atmosphere Munster – All Blacks or France – All Blacks in 07 RWC. Probably due to the unexpected and closeness of the games but even before kickoff the atmospheres were electric.. Looking back at 5 nations games on the terrraces in the 80’s they all seemed to have great atmosphere. While not always as electric as the games above there was great banter and the amposphere started on the way to the stadium. By the time you got in the place was hopping. We never frequented the stands, always the teraces and you were pressed up against random people fighting for a decent view with no big screen to assist. ‘What happened?’ was the most frequent comment. I thnk the comraderie made it and you alway had some nut near you with comments that you rememer to this day. Nowadays you get a nice comfortable seat and can take your time at the bar or toilet as it will be there when you get back. Theres no rush in to get in and stake a claim so you arrive for the anthems if you are interested. If you are lucky you got two seats together or someone beside you who played the game or at least is a bit of a laugh. More oftern you are sitting on your own just watching the game and the person beside you has never been to a game before, doesn’t understand the rules and his girlfriend inbetween checkins on facebook wonders ‘what happened?’ You explain the first couple of times but lose interest after a while. Its just not the same although I might just be old and cranky.

  6. The last 2 England-Ireland games I have gotten tickets for were both so-so atmospheres – these were last Sunday and the Grand Slam year when we edged past England by a point (though in fairness they got a late try to make the game seem closer than it was).

    Hard to call what exactly was wrong on Sunday other than what has already been cited: the day being Sunday, the awful weather, maybe the general ambivalence to DK’s reign, the fact that ticket access and prices are squeezing out the more diehard fans.

    In the GS year, it almost seemed that the emotion of 2 years previously hung over the game. And it was a dogged affair which didn’t have much for the crowd to get their teeth into. Still, having only seen the previous Croke Park match on TV, I was expecting a hell of a lot more.

    It should be said that the atmosphere was no better for the 6N opener last year against Wales – again, another Sunday game. Again another game where there was everything to play for.

    With respect to other grounds, I can only speak really for the RDS and that has generally been a very enjoyable place to watch games (that Clermont QF being an obvious highlight). Heineken Cup games usually have a cracking atmosphere in the RDS and so did the Munster games before they were switched to the Aviva.

    Speaking of the Aviva in a Leinster context, I think the Munster games have gone stale from repetition and the Clermont game this year was a tepid environment.

    Having said that, the previous games there against Clermont, Leicester and Toulouse were excellent atmospheres (I missed the Bath game, but that was more a turkey shoot than a rugby match). It makes the atmosphere at the Clermont game this year all the more puzzling. It should have been buzzing – Saturday evening kick off in the middle of silly season.

  7. Think the weather doesn’t help things and I have to admit there can sometimes be a large number of fair-weather fans at matches. I was at the Germany – Sweden match last year in Berlin and the few hundred Swedish fans drowned out the 60000+ Germans. I do have to admit that even watchin in the pub it was difficult to get excited after ROG missed that kick 😦

  8. The same is equally true of matches in Wales. New stadia, too many international matches, the make up of the crowd, high ticket prices, quality of the rugby on show, etc.,etc. The game has changed for the better in some ways, but for the worse in many others. IRB and the Unions needs to take a look at the way the game is going and listen to the fans, rather than servicing the broadcasters and their bank managers. In Wales, I would say the majority of true fans are fairly bored of seeing the same teams each Autumn and being squeezed for £50-80 a match. Why not scrap the Autumn tests, and revert to old style tours by one Souther Hemisphere nation? That way they could still run two test matches (cash cow), and then spread some of the love (and money) around the regions by arranging tour fixtures with the All Blacks/Boks/etc. These games against local sides were part of the folklore of rugby, and ones that everybody remembers. Do we really revere the Autumn internationals in the same way. The Autumn internationals are devaluing the currency of International rugby, which in turn is having an impact on the enthusiasm of the fan, and similarly the atmosphere in the big games. Something needs to change.

  9. I was fortunate to get a ticket for the England game but most of my friends did not. I would consider myself an ‘ordinary’ fan and this was the first Ireland v England game I have ever attended. The tickets are far too hard to get. I know that the stadium needs to be paid for but I think that there are too many tickets given to corporate sponsors.

    My brother in law got a corporate ticket and was on his own in the area for the first 10 minutes of both halves as people were propping up the bar and watching the game on the TV.

    Finally as much as I hate to say it but the poor atmosphere was because people were not drinking. A late game on a Saturday is always going to have a better buzz then one on a Sunday afternoon.

  10. Curates Egg has once again hit the nail on the head. Back in “the day” there were just a handful of big rugby matches in Ireland every year. Now the demand for provincial rugby is such that even Pro12 games are pretty big and when the Test match prices get to a certain level, those fans, also known as the ones we want, have been pretty much tapped out. Doesn’t really help when provincial and test matches are on the same weekend; that’s taking the piss if you ask me.

    On the subject of atmosphere, I personally think it’d be extreme to turn off the tellies in the concourse and if people would rather watch there that actually take the seat they paid for then that’s their look out.

    But as a nation we can’t compare ourselves to the Swing Low-singing brigade until we can unite behind a similar chant ourselves. I’m pretty sure Phil Coulter penned Ireland’s Call with that in mind but while a fair amount of people sing it at anthem time there isn’t a hope in hell getting it going on the terraces as a rallying cry. Fields, SUFTUM & Molly are grand at the provinces but due to that association wont work at Ireland matches. The way I see it we either come together and agree on a chant and just sing the bejaysus out of it until it catches on or the status quo will continue.

    Hmmm…Status Quo…maybe one of their tunes will work? 😉

    • Strangely the French love Irelands Call. They reckon it’s fantastic while most of us are pretty ambivalent about it at best. In Bordeaux last year we were being asked to sing it constantly.

      Personally I couldn’t give a fiddlers whether we sang Fields or Molly. Or took turns singing both. But there are so many people going to the games these days that either don’t want to sing or who won’t sing “that Munster/Leinster sh!te” that it’s going to be very difficult to make a change.

      DKs reign is one of the reasons I don’t go to Ireland games anymore. Another reason though is the crowd. I’ve been stared out of it for singing our national anthem. I’ve been told to shut up when trying to get behind the lads. And I’ve almost always been one of a small number of people actually bothering to make ourselves heard. Most of the crowd suck the life and enjoyment out of going to Ireland games.

      What we need is a singing section that’s all free seating. We can get groups of people all together and not be made feel like planks for getting stuck in!

    • I think the lack of a song that everyone can sing is actually a big problem. I’m a non-militant Leinster fan so I’ll join in with Fields etc no problem but loads of people won’t. And if I’m to start something myself I’ve no idea what to go for…

      One thing that bugs me about a lot of the debate is the elitist twits giving out about people who haven’t had tickets passed down to them over 15 generations getting to go to matches and not being “real rugby fans”. The sport has grown – this is not a bad thing.

      One of the worst atmospheres, from a Leinster perspective was the 2006 Heineken semi against Munster. I’d only started going to the matches in any kind of regular way & didn’t even have a jersey at that point. The sea of red & the ensuing comments in the media (many very unfair I thought, given that red is always going to be a lot more visible) made me realise the importance of everyone doing their bit to be seen and heard. There was a real sea change at Leinster after that. The club & supporters club have made a massive effort since then to encourage atmosphere, wearing blue etc & it’s what makes the RDS brilliant to go to for nearly every match. Some people will argue that this is in a way “organised fun” and people shouldn’t need to be prompted to show passion for the game but it starts the ball rolling and creates an atmosphere in which people want to shout & sing. I think a similar effort for Ireland would be good, to suggest a few songs even. If we want to have the best atmosphere it’s worth putting a bit of work into it.

  11. Went to the pre-World Cup warm-up game against England at the Aviva, and when the rain came down I saw grown men running – RUNNING – to the back of the stand to get under the roof so they didn’t get wet. Granted, we were totally pish that day, but still…

    From my experience, the expectations of fans are hugely important. Fans at Ravenhill know it’s not a polished, slick uber-stadium, so they’re there to watch the game and back the team. Whereas some fans at Murrayfield, Aviva etc are there for something to do, or a nice day out, so they treat the game as though they’re watching it on TV – occasionally cheering, and nipping to the loo every 15 minutes.

    That said, an exciting and controversy-filled game usually gets everyone out of their seats, cc. 40,000 mostly fair-weather or casual Edinburgh fans screaming to get William Servat the bin in the HC QF last season.

  12. I don’t believe that it has that much to do with the stadium at all. We were having this conversation about Croke park after the initial novelty wore off, and we were having it about Lansdowne Rd for a few years prior to it being demolished. The absence of terraces doesn’t help, but i’ve been to plenty of stadiums without terracing that have had great atmospheres in them. And i’ve been stood on terraces for matches in Lansdowne when leinster were in Heino knock outs (Biarritz & Perpignan one year) and the atmoshphere was terrible. Some Ireland matches too. I can agree with some peoples views on annoying PA and so on, but those are minor issues. I read the flow of comments in the Irish Times today about Quinlans article. All giving out about other people at the stadium and what they were doing. What were THEY doing? Did THEY start a song? I mean really try, like those fellas from Ulster you’re talking about.
    One point that I haven’t seen raised is the saturation of supposedly top class rugby these days. The atmosphere these people are lamenting the absence of, was when there were maybe 3 or 4 home Ireland matches in any given year. Theres 5-7 now. Leinster automatically play 2 matches in Aviva each year. Could be 4 if they get to the 1/4s or 1/2s of the Heino. So theres 7 to 10 matches in Aviva each season. 1 in Oct, 2-4 in Nov, 1 in Dec, 2 or 3 in Feb/Mar, maybe 2 in Apr. Whats seldom is wonderful.
    Also, fans need “a cause” to get them into full flow and there hasn’t been one in a while. Heinken Cup wins and Grand Slams have seen to that. Whats the next great Everest for Irish rugby? We’re not going to win a world cup, and if we were ever in contention, the match probably wouldn’t be in Ireland anyway. I think a grand slam decider or maybe a Wales or England team strutting into town expecting to wrap one up, would whip the crowd up into a frenzy. A disrespectful guest would do, saying mean things about us beforehand. Maybe if we ever feel we have a team good enough to genuinely go toe-to-toe with the All Blacks.
    Also, Saturday matches better than Sunday ones, yes, but late kick offs are more importantly better than early ones (yeah, the drink helps, but so what?), and night time ones in particular, seem to create a greater sense of ocassion in the Aviva. Theres too much daylight coming in from all sides through the glass permimeter, it creates a sort of “open” feel, and not the cauldron effect you would want. This is less noticeable at night time, when you don’t see anything outside the stadium. They’re never going to bring back terraces, FAI won’t have it, so we’ll just have to accept it. The best we can hope for in the future is that they buy up enough of Havelock square to be able to finish off the stadium properly, and help create the cauldron effect we’re looking for.
    Anyway, I’m supposed to be working………….

  13. As has been mentioned before and will again further down this thread, Clermont fans bring some of the best atmosphere going with them. Not only to the ground but the walk in and pubs around the area as well, even if you discover you have mis-interpreted their chant ‘Mont Ferrand, Allez, Allez, Allez’ as ‘En Vacances, Allez, Allez, Allez’! At the recent Leinster-Clermont game, I was in the South Stand. 7 (count ’em) Clermont fans were seated near me and managed to make more noise then the rest of the Blue-clad section, through no more than boundless enthusiasm and actually having songs to sing! Internationally I always enjoyed the presence of Italian fans; normally few in number but always loud and happy to be there.

    I had the fortune of getting a job as a steward in Landsdowne Road, during my formative years up until it closed for redevelopment. Through that I was able to be at many 6 Nations, Heineken Cup and even Schools Cup games and experience the match day atmosphere from a variety of positions. The redeveloped stadium has definitely lost some of the old magic, a certain ‘Je ne sais quoi’ as Thornley might say. The loss of the terrace ends, which were always boisterous rain or shine, and were good for generating noise, Regular early attendees will remember the line of warning tape that was strung across half the terrace at the start and was slowly retracted, section by section, to allow the cramming of more people in. The small 5-seat tier of seats running along the touchlines are now gone as well and they were good craic. In place we have an impressive, much more modern stadium but it lacks the history of the old. I don’t walk into it and get instantly reminded of past games, old glories or stinging losses to get the blood flowing. Maybe its the same for other fans?

    One thing I’ve been puzzling over is has the nature of Irish fan-dom changed? Did the years of Triple Crowns, a Grand Slam and various levels of Heineken success spoil us? Are the late arrivals, muted enthusiasm and, most grievously in my opinion, those who leave early signs that Irish fans now arrive expecting entertainment rather than going with a mission to cheer team to overcome the odds or to do something special? Yet the provinces retain vocal support….

  14. The lack of terracing has a detrimental impact on atmosphere, but I don’t believe it’s a pricing issue. What is lacking is allowing groups of friends/like-minded folk to flock together and assigned seating having no drawback to late entry. The terrace I have most experience of is that in Ravenhill and you can see the groups develop – the hardcore with the flags take the centre early, the interested, but not fanatical (like me) rock up 15-30 minutes before kickoff and arrange ourselves in the remaining space while those with more interest in drinking/chatting may leave the bar at some point and take up the fringes (all the while complaining that they cant get a better view). But all of the chants and most of the atmosphere come from that hardcore section. And most definitely not from the god awful PA blaring out.

    The same effect can be seen in modern English football grounds where atmosphere usually comes from the away fans – they’re still paying stupid prices, but they’re all on the same level of investment.

    And the saddest thing of this whole debate is the unquestioned truth being trotted out and unchallenged that Irish people can’t enjoy an occasion without being completely pissed – are we really that repressed a people that we can’t get excited about an event for which we paid so match and travelled so far without taking one some liquid courage?

  15. First, great to see you question the concept of the ‘ordinary fan’. It’s thrown around too much – everyone thinks that they are the embodiment of what the ordinary fan is, and yet thinks that everyone else got in on a corporate freebie.

    I agree with JP above that it would help a lot if we had one simple song that everyone knew and could get behind – I always feel that Fields is hard to start, and hard to keep going, as most of the song doesn’t get sung for the most part, just the chorus repeated over and over again. Ireland’s Call, much as it’s grown on me and I sing it with gusto at the anthems, just isn’t a good tune.

    The way ticketing works, it’s rare you get, for example, a group of six lads sitting together – on Sunday there were four of us but two were in the North and two in the South.

    I’ve been to a lot of games at the Aviva with poor atmosphere, and very few with good atmosphere. The nos 1 and 2 were Leinster v Toulouse and Leicester respectively, in 2011. In contrast, one of the Leinster Munster games, and the recent HC group loss to Clermont stick in my mind as quiet.

    I know there is an element of chicken and egg, but for me it seems like the games we remember with the best atmosphere are also the ones that are great wins – such as the examples above. During the Croke park era, I was usually able to get tickets for the Wales/Scotland/Italy set of home games. From memory, all of these were dire, and from them I formed the opinion that Croke Park was a poor rugby ground. However, I was at two great games in Croker, the 2009 win v France, and the 2009 Leinster Munster semi.

    A lot of the reason Sunday was so flat was Ireland’s performance on the pitch. From the start we never looked like winning. If we had played better, and sneaked it at the death with a late converted try, I don’t think we’d be having this conversation.

    Honest question for DM, would you feel the same way now about England 1993 if it wasn’t also a famous victory?

    • No, almost certainly not. I was also in the south terrace for Ireland-Australia quarter in ’91. Talk about letting the air out of the tyres. The best atmosphere for a match that we lost that I went to was v England in 2003. We were hosed and they brought a big crowd with them. That game was on a Sunday in late March and the weather was really good. Each team was going for a Grand Slam but from the time that almost half the crowd sang God Save the Queen it was an uphill struggle for Ireland and perhaps the best display from a great team.

  16. Firstly, excellent site. I have been reading it avidly for some time, but this is the first time I have posted. Thank you.

    I have two, perhaps slightly off-topic, points:

    1) When did the whistling at penalty kicks creep in? I noticed this while at the Irl. v SA match, and heard it again on Sunday. I live abroad and have played club rugby in many countries and the Irish have always been famous for staying quiet. I hope this disappears soon.
    2) Just as I hope the current PA’s obnoxiously biased announcements disappear too.

  17. There was one suggestion on IT comments section that I think could work and that is having some sections as a first come first serve basis. This works quite well in RDS’s North & South stands where even if 5 of my mates have bought seperately, we know we can still sit together and scream and shout advice/encouragement at the professional athletes in front of us. You get 6 people singing, you’re more likely to get 6000 to join in than if you’re starting with 3 pairs 20 metres apart. Also it means that you have the people who want to go to the bar/snack counter/toilet every 5 mins at the back and the people who want to sing and stay at their seats at the front.
    I think we’re making excuses for ourselves by blaming the stadium btw. I’ve been in Twickenham, Millenium Stadium & Murrayfield and have experienced great atmospheres in each. I don’t see anything in these enviornments that is more condusive to creating an atmosphere. Ticket prices are a problem. Hardcore fans access to tickets is a problem. The product produced by Ireland is a problem. These things are all ultimately controlled by the IRFU. The blazers need to sort it out.

  18. IMO Ireland matches just arent a big deal anymore for people, who are getting their rugby fix from the provinces. Provinces generally win 90%+ of their home games, and a lot more of those games have rivalry eg Leinster have 3 interpros, Ospreys, Clermont etc
    Then you have the traditional low interest/low risk/low contest element of home games v teams ranked 6th or lower in the world coupled with us almost never beating the top 5 teams bar Australia and England.
    Cost feeds into the familiarity/habit of it too. I spend approx €400 a year on 15-20 Leinster matches. Same money would just about cover the 5 Ireland home games where the result of only maybe one or two games might not be foregone. Plus fans more behind provinces in terms of coaches, team selection etc

  19. The thing about atmosphere’s is that people have this ability to only remember the good ones. People go on about it all the time in Munster. About the old stadium when Munster played Sale, or Saracens or Gloucester and they ignore the fact that most of the time the atmosphere was just average. I don’t think Ireland is that different, admittedly I wasn’t at the game but there have been plenty of subdued games in the past!

  20. I thought the whole point of getting ex-internationals to give their views was to impart knowledge about the finer aspects of the game and inform the rest of us. It’s not to have a good whine about the fans (though he has a point). That could have been dealt with in one paragraph. It was an easy article to write and waste half a page of the sports section as opposed to some insightful analysis which would have required several viewings of the match and some research. Leave moaning about fans to pub bores. We can all see that for ourselves. At least Toland will give his views on strategy, tactics etc. That’s what he’s paid to do.

  21. One of the best stadiums is the Sportsground.

    Went down to see a mate and caught a HC game – can’t even remember who Connacht were playing and they were tanked by 30 minutes but the banter was mighty.
    There is something unique about standing with your pint next to a dog track in a stiff Atlantic gale getting soaked but to the skin knowing that you are among the hardest of hard core rugby fans who cheer everything their team do until the final whistle and then hop the barrier to congratulate a team who just took a pasting. Never seen a group of fans lift the spirits of a group of players so much before or since. You’d have to travel far to meet more dedecated fans than the boys out west and it makes a fantastic night out for the rugby geeks of Ireland.

    In terms of pure partisan intimidation, Ravenhill on a winters night is also electric. The stadium looks like the kind of place you would hold public hangings and the Belfast crowd take great pleasure in making the night as uncomfortable for visiting teams as possible

    • I agree re Ravenhill. As an Ulster fan myself, I find howling blue murder on the Terrace in driving rain is pretty close to the peak experience in life.

      It’s all good-natured though.

  22. Yeah, that’s what’s wrong with Ireland. The fans are crap but everything else is rosy. Nothing wrong with the selections, game plan or coaching ticket. No geriatric has beens, Just poor, uninterested fans…in my hole.

  23. Nice Mole, I see you’ve added a vid of Pena Baiona. Such a great experience to be at a game there. With a massive hat tip for Patooka their inredibly acrobatic mascot pony, who gees the fans up no end. Have seen a few Bayonne games now – including the Biarritz derby this year (albeit that one in Biarritz) – and their fans are great. Be nice to have them in the Heineken Cup once…just to hear the Pena and marvel at Patooka (or Pachooka or however its written).

    • Patooka gave an incredible display at the first home match of the season. Bayonne played Clermont and even though the game kicked off at 7pm it was still around 30c. Clermont won without having to get out of third gear but Patooka was still doing somersults and pop ups after more than an hour in baking conditions. Brilliant performance.

  24. First to address jacothelad’s point – I don’t disagree with any of his criticisms but one cannot deny that the atmosphere was poor and it is a topic well worthy of discussion.

    Your last point re: the toilets is spot on. Being an exile whose access to tickets often comes through the RFU, I have been to Twickenham quite frequently of late. FOr a long time it was my least favourite ground, being so far out of town and very corporate. In recent years, following the completion of the redevelopment, it is a magnificent stadium. It has many bars run by motivated and well-trained staff. Consequently, one never seems to queue for long. And when the hoppy brew has worked it’s way through, the toilet facilities are ample so the requirement for crossed legs is minimal.

    My first visit to the Aviva was for the 2011 thumping of England. The atmosphere was fantastic, especially when Ireland got the shove on in the first scrum. However, having struggled to get a beer in the abject bars of Ballsbridge (D4 hotels you know who you are) we went to the Stadium early for a pint and to soak up the atmosphere. We were seated in the upper south, and swiftly purchased a couple of pints each to see us through the first half. We went to take our seats and were advised that, for health and safety reasons, we couldn’t take the drinks in. I politely suggested to the steward that he catch himself on but the nice fellow was not for budging. Consequently we necked our pints whilst the few who were not in the same position belted out Ireland’s Call.

    Given the quality of the game, the red bladder captions were ignored until the half-time whistle upon which we sprinted for the loos only to find that the Aviva designers thought that 20 mins of musical urinals during the 10 min half-time break wold be highly amusing. Both the loos by our entrance were for ladies as the stadium had neglected to change one of them back after the Michael Buble concert a fortnight before. Having fought my way through the scrums of fans queueing in vain for a refreshment, I eventually found myself back at the ‘ladies’ in a ridiculous queue for one of the two pans.

    Whlst in their the match re-started shortly followed by an enormous cheer to celebrate BOD’s record breaking try. So when people say can you remember where you were when BOD scored that try, I can say in the ladies’ loo on the upper south concourse at the Aviva!

    Much work required before I can love the Pallindrome.

  25. Half of the seats in the stadium were empty at the start of the second half so this has nothing to do with the ‘ordinary fan’ or fans not singing – a big sing song isnt going to happen if one half of the crowd , who might be inclined to sing, see that the other half aren’t arsed getting back for the kick off.

    Its to do with 20,000 of the ‘fans’ not being that bothered with seeing the rugby live whether its because they can get a view whilst sipping a beer in the corporate section or because they are on a day out and want to have a chat with a mate or a client before heading back out into the cold or because they dont really care about rugby.

    In the old lansdowne, those options simply weren’t available and so those sorts of people just wouldn’t have taken a ticket had they been offered one. The IRFU are trying to make money at it and are doing a pretty good job at that. There is a golden goose potential to it though. The reason rugby has been so popular has been because of great occasions with great atmosphere. If the set up is preventing this from happening then it won’t sustain itself.

    The ryanair type proposal is nice but would end up with the very odd scuffle so theres no way itll happen.

    Short of the IRFU committing hare kare by cutting off revenues through reduction of the corporate scene or closing bars/food kiosks early, articles like Quinlans which shame people into getting behind the team are probably the best thing that can be done. Id say the atmosphere for France will be a good bit better after all the talk of a shameful atmosphere for England. Please god, France will have beaten England in the meantime…

  26. I blame the stadium, gently sloping away from the pitch, no terraces and pitifully low capacity. Ireland have the smallest stadium in the 6 nations this year. Typical back-arsewards thinking from the Irfu whose sole remit for the new stadia seemed to be eh “amenities , shiny and nice looking”.
    Tightly packed vertigo inducing terraces filed with 80’000/90’000, allied to a roof designed to keep the noise in is how a stadium should be built. The corporate nice looking but already obsolete Aviva stadium is not conducive to building an atmosphere it doesnt hold people or noise. Also the fact that the rugby is garbage doesnt help matters

  27. Is anyone, especially in-stadium fans, just plain fed up with Deccie? I mean, for the last few years, I would roar at the tv for any Ireland match which worried my neighbours as it would be around 8am here in the US – they probably thought my wife was in serious danger.

    This year, I just reached a point where I was tired and fed up of being perpetually angry at Deccie and depressed after the team’s tactics/performance or lack thereof. There’s just a constant sense of under achievement. Since last years mixed 6n, I’ve been up for the games alright, just not as vocal and passionate about the team – maybe the fans that can make it to the games feel the same?

  28. The IRFU hurt themselves when the new Lansdowne opened. When the lowest price was 360 bills for the EOYTs (which are realistically glorified friendlies) it’s going to put a lot of people off.
    Clubs that couldn’t sell their full allocation of tickets were told that their allocation would be permanently reduced if there was any returns.
    Meanwhile, I know people working in large city centre companies that get free tickets for all international games and show up just for something to do. You end up sitting beside some guy spending the whole time on his phone or running in and out constantly to the bar.

  29. The situation with the toilets is even more confusing considering how the stadium developers were so proud that the new stadium had more bars per person than any other stadium in Europe.

  30. I think it is not so much the terrace per se but that on the terraces in the past people could stand with a group of mates. There was a bit of safety in numbers when starting a song or chant. NO as kick off approaches groups of friends will split up just before kick off. Perhaps having Ryanair style unreserved seating areas would help. Fans would arrive early to get seats together with the beat view.

    By the way, this is a fantastic blog and I much prefer it to reading the papers now…. It is especially gratifying not to have continuous plugs for Carton House.

  31. Pingback: Give it a lash, Joe! | Digging Like a Demented Mole

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