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A Grumpy Old Man's Dispatch From The International Rules Romper Room

A Grumpy Old Man's Dispatch From The International Rules Romper Room
Conor Neville
By Conor Neville
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The game was good but there was much to annoy in the Croke Park crowd last night.


Before last year's international rules test in Perth, a game which attracted little interest in Ireland, Keith Duggan wrote about the concept which he said 'was always destined to end in noble failure'. Sounding like a French existentialist philosopher, Duggan pithily outlined what he regarded as the game's central failing.

There has always been one central problem with the sport of International Rules: it doesn’t exist.

Apathy reigned supreme. Every international rules series is now accompanied by speculation that it will be the last.

It would seem that the last two tests have probably saved the series for another while yet. Against all odds, a happy median between violent slug-fest and bloodless turkey shoot has been found. The game was tight and competitive and the Australians did themselves justice.

However, at its heart it remains an exhibition match. The composition of the crowd proves this.


We must warn at this point that the following reflections come from a man who is notoriously Victor Meldrew-like in his sensibilities, has a poisonous dislike of air-horns at GAA matches, and is prone to expressing himself in a tongue in cheek manner.  

The most annoying crowd of all populated the lower tier of the Cusack Stand last night. By rough estimate, we calculated that 80% of those in attendance were under 16 years of age.


We suspect that most of them were probably bussed in by their local minor club for an end of year treat. They are not usually well-connected or resourceful enough to get their hands on All-Ireland tickets so their days out in Croke Park are confined to exhibitions like yesterday.


Put simply, they were the kind of clientele for whom we used to have the Nally Stand. It was a mistake to knock that ramshackle edifice. It was a vital, caged in enclosure for these youngsters.

Throughout the game, there was a constant din immediately reminiscent of a packed classroom before a teacher enters. It sounded like a gaggle of school kids milling around in a swimming pool.

Most offensively of all they seem to derive great enjoyment from blowing air-horns.


Air-horns are one of those things which are more fun to blow than they are to listen to being blown. The nerve of Europeans moaning about the vuvuzelas during the 2010 World Cup when our own governments have taken no steps to ban these implements.

In principle, this writer has nothing against the idea of kids attending games. The atmosphere would have been slightly quitened without them.

But they must learn to modify their behaviour and, if they can't, then they need to be hemmed in, confined to one section of the ground in the interests of older ears. The men who built the old Lansdowne Road knew this. That's why they had the old schoolboys enclosure.


Clearly, a large number of adults couldn't take it. It was for that reason that the bowels of the stand, usually only thronged at half-time and immediately before and after the match, housed bigger numbers than usual during the 3rd and 4th quarters, weary looking men cradling pints in their freezing hands, watching the game on the telly above the shop.

It wasn't right.

We need to rebuild the Nally.


Read more: Tadhg Kennelly's Accent Was The Source Of Much Amusement During The International Rules Game

Read more: The Hardest Shoulder: Anthony Moyles On The 2006 International Rules Series



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