Monday, February 18, 2008

A Night With Galway United

Not one minute inside the grounds of Terryland Park, the home of Galway United FC, and we take a wrong turn. We were late getting to the game, thanks to the extra pint of Galway Hooker Derek ordered in the pub beforehand. And despite the precise directions to the park given to us by our host Jim at the Dun Aoibhinn Guesthouse, it was a bit more of a hike than we anticipated--not so much far away as it was, as Jim described it, "awkward," including navigating a stretch of dark road with no lights or shoulder to walk on. And if you've ever been to Ireland, you know that drivers here are not what you'd call cautious.

But late is late and we were tardy at the wrong time. The home team scored as we bought our tickets. We raced in and tried to get our bearings. The stands were nearly empty, so we headed toward the rowdiest group, only realizing our mistake when I spotted the banner "Limerick Ultras" on the wall behind them. Good thing we're starting our football pilgrimage in Ireland and not, say, Italy. This ground of ultras numbered about thirty, all lanky young man, and they terrorized the Galwegian side by standing throughout the match and smoking the occasional banned cigarette. They even managed to start the game's only chant--"You'll ever be a wanker," we think, directed at the opposing keeper during a penalty kick. At any rate, we managed to hightail it to the other side of the pitch before someone forced us to stand or smoke as well!

Once settled in the bare stands, with only a couple hundred home side fans scattered throughout, we were able to focus on the match. Galway United FC is not a bad team. They seemed to have better ball control than the Timbers (though who could control the ball with that crap turf of old?), and a couple of pretty fast players. The Timbers could definitely give them a run for their money though, and would provide a pretty fair match-up. Galway was also better about attacking the goal (particularly in the first half) than the Timbers of late. They did seem somewhat predictable and lacking in creativity; however, a late-night perusal of the fan board revealed that some, at least, found the match a bit dull due in part to some key missing players. Apparently, Galway United FC does have some prettier moves. The keeper--we think it was their first string guy Alvin Rouse--made a couple of great saves, while defender Wesley Charles packs a powerful header. (We hope we are identifying players correctly here; Galway supporters please correct us if we're wrong.)

The final score was 3-2 with the tie broken in the 89th minute by a Galway penalty kick. A few moments earlier, unrelated to the penalty, a melee erupted on the pitch when a tussle in the midfield led to a Galway United player grabbing a Limerick player in a headlock. Much shouting and shoving ensued. Something to keep the blood up in the bitter cold--and speaking of the bitter cold, that's why we don't have a picture. Fingers too frozen to retrieve camera in time. It had been a long time since that halftime cuppa.

The crowd consisted mostly of men, either with friends or kids, and some teenagers, including a few teenaged girls. We spotted exactly two grown women. Galway seems to have an enthusiastic fan base online, but at this friendly there were no chants, no instruments, no singing, no tifo. No TA atmosphere in other words. The lack of women did mean that for once the line for the women's toilet was shorter than for the men's. In fact, I walked into a deserted toilet--deserted, that is, save for the one man in there pissing with the door wide open, as my mother would say, in front of God and everybody. I beat a hasty retreat so as to avoid embarrassing us both and tried to look nonchalant when he emerged sheepishly.

All in all, an interesting night, and we'd certainly attend games regularly if we lived there. One can't help wondering what it would be like to go to a match on a warm summer night, as opposed to a cold February one. But the lack of a vocal and visible fan base for this friendly, at least, made us long to stand shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of crazed Timbers supporters.

this was written by both Derek and me, even though my name is the only one on the post


Georgina Best said...

Spectating at a live match on a cold February night is hard core. No wonder there weren't many girls there.

What were the pies like?

Lynda said...

A very important question! Alas, there were no pies!! Just crisps and candy and some hotdogs. And tea so hot it melted some poor girl's plastic spoon.