Exodus – a departure or going out or away from a place that involves large numbers of people
So it begins.
The Ulstermen (women and children), enumerated at 40,000 able-bodied people (not counting bus drivers), with their Ulster shirts and carry outs, set off for the Aviva.
The journey proves arduous. The Ulstermen complain and long for home, but the service stations and white lightning provide manna and miraculous drink for them.
The Ulstermen enter the Aviva stadium to the accompaniment of thunder and white lightning, fire, clouds of smoke, and the sound of trumpets. At the trembling of the stadium, the teams appear on the pitch, and the players see the flegs and hear the voice [or possibly “sound”] of a demented stadium announcer.
The Ulster team ascends up the mountain into the presence of the Heineken final and are transformed, as are the Ulstermen who celebrate wildly and dream of ascending the mountain one more time to win the coveted Heineken Cup.
The truth is:
In the week leading up to the Heineken cup semi final between Ulster and Edinburgh, it made the national news that more than 2% of the population of Northern Ireland were making an exodus in the direction of Dublin and the Aviva stadium.
My journey on that momentous day began with Mrs. Parky driving me to Newtownards via Conlig, to pick up elder brother, Parky senior.
With an arduous day’s journeying, drinking and much standing up in store, it was jointly decreed that sustenance of a National variety was essential to guarantee survival.
One suitable cafe later and a breakfast of egg, bacon, sausage, potato bread, soda bread and coffee were consumed as credit in the food bank.
Belatedly we discovered our Ulsterbus was travelling to Dublin via Bangor where we picked up some decidedly unsteady folk.
A pit stop followed shortly thereafter, with the undergrowth being used as a toilet and a smoking den at the side of the dual carriageway near Hillsborough.
A second pit stop duly happened at a service station near Dublin.
Having noted the queues as we arrived in Ballsbridge (and that was just for fast cash), I ducked into a hotel near the RDS and emerged with some money from an unattended fast cash machine.
Having made contact with Insider by phone we arranged to meet at the Berkeley Court Hotel for a few pre match drinks. Insider also held the tickets, or so he thought!
Ten to minutes to kick-off at gate ‘O’ at the Aviva we were shocked to discover, our tickets were not valid, even though they were ordered several weeks previously and posted out a few days prior to the game.
We were advised to make our way back to the Berkeley Court Ticketmaster kiosk where they issued new validated tickets.
We finally arrived at the vertiginous reaches of block 507 with the scoreboard at 3 all. The match is well covered in detail elsewhere so I’ll not dwell on the intricacies.
Robust Edinburgh attacking play kept the mainly Ulster crowd on edge for long periods of the first half and it wasn’t until Ruan’s break up the blindside that one felt the tide turning against the Scots.
At the climax, 2-4% of Northern Ireland’s population were on their feet as the match closed with a belated Edinburgh flourish.
All that is, except for one frail old individual, glimpsed amidst a mass of foot stamping, singing able bodied people. He sat glumly rooted to his seat.
Earlier in the match, things just in front of me got a little fraught when two guys squared up to each other like rutting stags over a mishandled flag. It all calmed down again thankfully but not before we had who blinks first contest.
A fairly slow journey home left me standing alone on Newtownards Main Street at 12.15a.m. Sunday morning nervously watching groups of drunks and waiting for Missus Parky to pick me up.
The Bit to Forget
We won but I was tired before I started and got fed up with some of the crew at the back of the bus. Add in ticket frustrations and my journey to the semi holy grail of the Heineken was not one of fulfilment, though that may come next week when we lift the trophy.
On a side note, I appreciate that there were 40,000 odd folk at this and one can expect a few to let themselves down. As witnessed at the service station near Dublin, the young guys getting off the buses and peeing against a wall in full view of the car park is a huge let down for both club and country.
Of course there where buck eejits in 1999 but by and large they conducted themselves in good humour, not as yobs on the rampage. It was clear that some folk saw this as primarily a day out on the booze with a rugby match on the side.
Let’s hope Ulster get a divine wind and reap the rewards of honest endeavour on the 19th May.
I was in Holywood on Mayday morning with my Ulster jacket on and a woman who later revealed herself as Darren Cave’s mum, asked me had I been to Dublin for the semi.
A short discussion later and we parted agreeing, Ulster being the underdogs in the final was no bad thing.
Before we parted I asked her how she felt about Glynn Commando’s bid for a place in the Ulster squad going to Twickers.
Some of you may already be aware of his widely publicised move. Glynn Commando has returned to the pitch, er sand pit, in an effort to persuade McGlocks he’s available for May the 19th.
Mr. Commando’s bid for glory has taken the form of a facebook campaign replete with a photo of him diving in the corner for a try, wrapped in authentic Stevie Ferris knee bandage.
GC endorsed his squad credentials with documented evidence on of his social side that show he’s as lethal a finisher of San Miguel off the pitch as he is with a rugby ball on it.
Chapeau to GC, though I imagine Mrs Cave will not feel her son is under pressure for the 13 shirt – yet!
An Unfair Wind.
In an effort to blow away the cobwebs after Saturday’s Heineken trip to Dublin I cycled forth, Sunday week ago with my cycling buddy and near neighbour Brian.
Pedalling into a strong and Baltic headwind we traversed the Ards peninsula eventually finding ourselves standing drinking a cup of tea on Millisle main street and being stared at in a confrontational manner by a guy who was clearly the worse for wear from the night before.
I was reminded alarmingly of some of the boors who let themselves down badly the day before in Dublin.
I note rival blogger, the dual faceted DLS, has attempted to open a debate on flags for Ulster on the FRU site.
I guess he may as well try and start a fire in a swimming pool for all the enthusiasm it’ll garner.
As Paul McCartney sang: “Get back to where you once belonged.”