Dundalk FC players celebrate after David McMillan's goal against Rosenborg in 2017, the club's last Champions League goal scored at Oriel Park. (Pic: David Maher/Sportsfile)
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Who remembers ‘Newbridge or Nowhere’? A different code, of course, but isn’t it a pity that the GAA motto can’t be applied in the case of Oriel Park, where European matches are concerned?
One can’t imagine that ‘Oriel or Nowhere’ would go down too well with the tailor-suited and booted at UEFA HQ. The GAA in comparison to European football’s overseeing body is like border fuel smugglers juxtaposed with Mexican drug lords. But a drop in an ocean. A Twitter hashtag and the odd outraged season ticket holder aren’t going to tilt the sway.
For those not entirely familiar with the ‘Newbridge or Nowhere’ controversy, it related to a 2018 All-Ireland football qualifier between Kildare and Mayo, whereby the Lilies were drawn first, meaning they were entitled to home advantage, only for the powers that be in Croke Park to fix the affair for Jones’ Road. In the end, the money-hungry had to renege and the match went ahead at St. Conleth’s Park, Kildare’s home.
But this piece isn’t controversial by nature. It’s simply giving a voice to the general consensus. Isn’t it absolutely fantastic that tomorrow night’s match is going ahead on the Carrick Road, but how pitiful is it that Dundalk will be victims of their own success if progression through the rounds is achieved?
People complaining about the trek to Tallaght was a recurrent point of the 2016 run to the Europa League group stages. It wasn’t just the travelling element, even though that’s what a lot of the discontent related to, the three-hour round trip on a midweek night et al.
Of course, there was little to complain about with the fares served up on the field, but the fact that the hype in Dundalk was fever pitch and yet the purpose of the excitement was so far removed from the hinterland took from the run, albeit minorly.
The atmospheres that have accompanied The Lilywhites’ European outings at Oriel remain enough to make the hair on one’s neck stand static, as though an inflated balloon was brushing gently along the skin.
Think of the night Rosenborg came to town? Last year when Larnaca visited? The reaction to Michael Duffy’s screamer against Levadia? David McMillan’s finish at the town-end versus FH? The noise that greeted BATE in 2015? The taste of the air on a European night at Oriel is just surreal. The whiff of Tallaght is less sweet.
Babbling I may be, but it’s out of pure giggle. Picture that old ground of ours, imagine it tomorrow night: decked out with flags; fresh paint; beautiful weather; the Oriel roar; the Shed; the stand; the team in a huddle; their brisk jog and light clap towards the terrace ahead of kick-off; dare it be said, the noise when Duffy curls one into the bottom corner…
Now think of the town afterwards. Fantasise about a 2-0 win. The pubs thronged, crowd spilling out of Oriel and down the Carrick Road, a spring to their step. Community. Unison. Pride.
“We see things they’ll never see,” was the chorus of a famous flag that once fluttered itself Shedside. On your doorstep, in your little town, where else would you get it? Not Tallaght. Not Cork. Seize the chance.
C’mon The Town!