Groundhopping: Ireland (vs Wales, Aviva Stadium)

Date: 11 October 2020

Competition: UEFA Nation’s League, League B, Group 4

Result: Ireland 0 – 0 Wales

Tickets: Not available to the public (entry via press pass)

Attendance: circa 50 press.

The game: It’s a really quite surreal experience watching international football from a socially distanced press box, fully masked, far enough from the other journalists in attendance to make a conversation almost impossible. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a game quite so quietly, chomping away on the free crisps and sandwiches and watching the action unfold far below, yet still hearing every word the players shout at each other.

I reviewed the game in full here if you’re tempted to read up; it wasn’t a classic, with Ireland hampered by corona withdrawals ahead of the game, especially up front. In truth, in going to almost every Ireland hme game for the last 3 or 4 years, I’ve only seen a couple that I really thought were great entertainment. They should probably have won, however, with Wales – despite the presence of the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Daniel James – offering precious little. I quite like the look of Ireland under Stephen Kenny. It’s a far better style of passing, attacking football that’s actually really quite pleasant to watch, if frustratingly inefficient at the sharp end. Hopefully, the results will come.

Groundhopping: Bluebell United (v Crumlin United, Capco Park)

Date: 23 July, 2020

Competition: Leinster Senior League, Sunday Senior Division

Result: Bluebell United 2, Crumlin United 2

Tickets: No entry fee (they have charged a fiver in the past, which I believe is normal, but seemed to be waving people through after taking names for contact tracing at this game).

Attendance: circa 90

The game: A first game back after corona for me (though the second for the teams). A cliched game of two halves, in which Crumlin United utterly dominated the first half winning two penalties, the first of which was saved by the charismatic Andy McNulty in the Bluebell goal. They scored the second and then added another, and then seemed to fall apart in the second half.

Crumlin looked like getting the win anyway, but Bluebell’s very late scrambled equaliser tied the game. Strangely, that was the same result as the last time I saw these two play at this ground, a final day of the season contest for the LSL top-tier title which saw Bluebell win, as Crumlin needed to win the game to overtake them. They’ve typically been at the top of this league, though both have faded to upper mid-table in recent years, which is a shame, as the rivalry is intense, making for quite aggressive-feeling and argumentative games – always entertaining.

Groundhopping: Wexford FC (v UCD, at Ferrycarrig Park)

View from the bar at Ferrycarrig Park

Date: 21 February, 2020

Competition: League of Ireland First Division

Result: Wexford FC 1 (Conor English, ’90+1) – UCD 1 (Colm Whelan, ’15)

Tickets: €10 (adult), €2 (child).

Attendance: Perhaps 100, but the storm front can take some of the blame for that.

The game: One of those early-season contests that felt a little bit like the teams don’t quite know each other yet, played out in absolutely horrendous conditions in a spot that offers very little shelter. UCD are newly relegated from the League of Ireland Premier Division, but a much-changed team from last year, and might struggle to get back. They started stronger in a first half that was a real slog. As the game went on, Wexford looked the neater team and better able for the wind and sideways rain. After putting the visitors under pressure they eventually scored a real beauty of a last-minute goal that sent the locals home happy. Not a classic, but it certainly improved as it went on, and the last 15 or 20 minutes were really worth watching.

The ground: A very nice pitch with a chunk of space between it and the barriers, there’s a bar/ club house with a nice view over the action from the first floor in one corner. The main stand is on the far side from the entrance, and is one of those temporary-type things with only netting along the back. Decent in the summer, no doubt, but pretty horrible to sit in mid-storm. There’s a little press/ commentary box on the halfway line, and other than that it’s railings around the pitch the whole way. The bar is decent, though.