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Referees Bundled Away In Boots, Flares, And Death Threats - The Myth Of Fortress Aughrim

Referees Bundled Away In Boots, Flares, And Death Threats - The Myth Of Fortress Aughrim
By Maurice Brosnan

You rotten so and so [sic]! You robbed us out of the Leinster final. If you put off the three lads for using the fist, what broke Gerry Browne’s nose? And your so and so [sic] linesman!

Don’t forget we are watching you. It may not be now but don’t travel too far on your own from home. You are going to get what they are getting in the North…the bullet!

And we mean every bit of it. You may never get the chance of taking the whistle in your hand again. I think you were treated with a bit of alright in Laois. We are not letting you away with it. No way. We don’t mind what happens to us so long as we get you. Besides it will never be known who did it. It may go a while but we will get you and your car.

Carthage “Catch” Buckley, reads out the death threat he was sent after the 'Battle of Aughrim', a 1986 game between Wicklow and Laois. 

 

After sending four players off, the referee couldn't leave the dressing room for a prolonged period after the final whistle, and later received a death threat for his troubles. The rumour after the 'Battle of Aughrim' was that he was bundled away in the boot of a car, but Buckley denied that when speaking about the game on Newstalk.

 

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In the lengthy encyclopaedia of GAA anecdotes and legends, Aughrim would receive its fair share of references.

Its mythical aura may have begun in 1986 but it shows no sign of waning, for that fabled ground in Wicklow remains the stereotypical ‘difficult place to go and get a result' - "Fortress Aughrim", if you will.

Aughrim has this mythical kind of... I suppose we don't see it because we're from there. We've played nearly more than in Rathnew. It's probably logistics. It's tricky, it's not on the main road and I think teams see that and they think it's awkward to get to. But the sod is as good as any sod in Ireland. The facilities are as good as any in Ireland. There's been a couple of battles gone ahead there that live long in the memory.

Peter Dignam will be back in between the goalposts of Aughrim this Sunday when his club Rathnew welcome Moorefield for the Leinster Club Quarter-Final. Rathnew are just the latest underdogs to spring a shock from Aughrim. They blew the Championship wide open when they saw off Dublin champions St. Vincent's there in the quarter-final.

Pathetic fallacy is a term when human motion reflects an aspect of nature. It is apt here. The scenic, yet difficult to access, Aughrim’s spirit is matched by the people of Rathnew’s:

I think it's hardwired. You could see two lads in Rathnew playing pool and the blood vessels would be bursting on their necks trying to beat one another and they'd probably be related!

So it definitely has to be hard-wired. The success in the village through darts, pool leagues, soccer, everything.

Give no quarter and take no prisoners. A direct input that’ll garnish delight or devastation, tears in either sense. It is an in-built mentality.

We've been successful and once you're successful you're hungry for more of it and I think that's probably where we're coming from.

You're growing up in houses with fathers or brothers who have won a couple of medals. Like, my own brother would have played Irish 'A' rugby, played at a high standard, so the standards are set by the ones that go before you and then you just have to try and reach them, if not surpass them.

That's where the winning mentality comes into it.

For visiting teams, the ground is an unwelcoming cauldron. Prior to the 2015 Wicklow county final, Rathnew’s supporters released flares as they took to the field. It’s enclosed by an intertwined mesh that St. Vincents recently entered through. It all screams one thing; prepare for war.

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Daryl Flynn will lead Moorefield into the lions den this week. As Moorefield captain, he is keenly aware of the challenge it poses:

Yeah its tough, but it’s probably different for our players with going away. It’s a different kind of mentality travelling away together in the winter for the campaign, it’s a good thing. I’m sure if you asked boys would they rather travel to Aughrim on Sunday or be sitting at home watching Coronation Street there’d only be one answer.

Flynn has been unavailable for the past two games after he and his vice-captain David Whyte were sent off early during their county final. His ban was increased to two games because of a GAA rule that prohibits a sent off player lifting the cup, but the second game of the ban doesn’t kick in until next year.

It's unheard of. Has any team won a county final with 13 men? We were probably underdogs at the start of the game and after 20 minutes down to 13, (we were) probably more underdogs, but again, like last Sunday. the fight the squad showed... Lads came in, a few tactical changes. It was an unbelievable performance, one I’ll never forgot anyway.

Perhaps harder to watch from the side-line?

Maybe that’s why I’ll never forget it. If anyone asks, it was all part of the plan!

Rathnew are underdogs again this time round, a tag they no doubt are content with. After all, they were 15/2 against Vincents. As Peter explains, they were keenly aware of that:

Yeah, you knew about them and you knew they were writing you off and you maybe used it as a little bit of a motivation factor, they don't obviously rate us.
But Vincent's didn't set the odds. So you're really using these things against them and they maybe don't deserve it.
We were conscious of it, we used it as a factor to try to get an edge, an extra inch out of the lads, and it worked on the day.

Peter only wishes he'd born them more consideration:

 I might've had a few bob on it! I didn't anyway.

Moorefield and Rathnew are this year's 'giant slayers' having felled Portlaoise and St. Vincent's respectively. With a Leinster final spot beckoning, there is no doubt some form of battle will take place in Aughrim this Sunday.

SEE ALSO: Padraig McKeever's Comeback Story Is One Of The GAA Stories Of The Year

 

 

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