So the Barclays Premier League is over. Manchester United won their 19th crown. However that does not mean the season is over and my work is done. Yesterday Manchester United youth team won the FA Youth Cup and tonight the first team played Juventus in the Gary Neville Testimonial before the small matter of deciding who would win the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final against FC Barcelona on Saturday night. (It does not seem 5 minutes since I was writing the blog in Madrid following Inter’s success last year)
Today I traveled to Dublin, Ireland again. Last week when The Queen was there it was the UEFA Europa League Final and after the US President left to visit The Queen in London, it was the Carling Nations Cup.
I grew up loving the Home Nations – they were nearly as exciting as the World Cup. In those days we only got to see one game a week on Match of the Day on BBC and one on Star Soccer on ATV. I could watch Manchester United stars like Sammy McIlroy playing for Northern Ireland, Gordon McQueen playing for Scotland and Steve Coppell playing for England. It was only because of this tournament that I realised Liverpool’s Kenny Daglish was Scottish.
The Premier League clubs that AMA are the official photographers for had an array of players playing for all the competing teams so I set off for Holyhead in good time after encountering road works on the island of Anglesey last week.
However, I did not factor bad traffic around Chester due to a crash and more road works around Conway. To cut a long story short, I arrived at the ferry check in at 11.31 when the last passengers were accepted at 11.30 for the noon departure. To say that I was annoyed was an understatement. The little Miss Hitler was having none of my sad tales and stopped myself and a cute American girl from boarding.
Having some time to kill, I went back to my car, spoke to fellow AMA snapper Sam before having a drive around the town of Holyhead. Three minutes later I had finished and parked up over looking the sea and sent some emails and finished editing AFC Wimbledon securing promotion to the Football League from Saturday. Then sent a text message to my best friend in the world Sarah whose birthday it is today. I forget somethings, but I never forget May 24.
I got the next Irish Ferries after Stenna Line spectacularly demanded the crazy price of double what Irish Ferries were charging – and that was not even first class. The Welsh lady representing Stenna Line didn’t seem too bothered that I wanted to get to Dublin quickly and was late due to someone else having a bad day in a road crash.
I waited for the Irish Ferries boat instead. Eventually it was time to get on deck and I spent the three-hour journey editing a video for a song my friends have recorded at the famous Rockfield Studios. I’m now 75% done, but not showing it anyone until I’m 100% happy. I may be some time!
I walked off the ferry and found a passport belonging to someone called James. His passport was heavily stamped like mine. I was impressed with his Columbia stamps. I left it with the Polish girl on the boat reception who did not seem bothered that someone was about to have a bad day.
The Irish taxi driver taking me to the Aviva Stadium relayed countless stories on people he had picked up who had missed ferries – I was not alone!
I got to the stadium, collected my accreditation and chatted at length to a colleague from AFC Wrexham. Eventually the media people handed out the team sheets and it stuck me that I only knew 4 Northern Ireland players. No Pat Jennings, No Norman Whiteside, No Sammy McIlroy and certainly No Gordon Armstrong or No Martin O’Neill.
No Chris Brunt of WBA either.
Only Gareth McAuley of Northern Ireland who has signed for the Baggies, so my self-imposed challenge was to get him alongside Simon Cox playing for the Republic of Ireland as they will be team mates next season and may make a nice picture for a pre-season match day programme.
The fans had not come out to support the tournament. It was a bit bare compared to last weeks FC Porto v SC Braga Europa League Final. The stadium announcer in Dublin kept reminding fans that they could watch tomorrows contest between Scotland and Wales for free with the tickets for this match.
In Dublin it is the only stadium in the entire world that does not let photographers stand in front of the players singing the National Anthems, so no head shots to have on file. This meant more stock to be shot in the game in a bid to get some ‘top halves’ and shots suitable for magazine editors wanting head shots.
Again for some reason, photographers were only allowed up until the 6 yard box on one side of the pitch. The Aviva Stadium is built primarily for Rugby, hence the poor photographer needing a 800mm lens instead of a 400mm to shoot action like in most other stadia as advertisement boards are placed after the try lines behind the goal. I sat on the other side with my 500mm lens next to bemused stewards in yellow jackets being paid to stare at lots of green seats during the match.
Quite frankly Northern Ireland were terrible. The Republic playing well with Stephen Ward of another AMA team, Wolverhampton Wanderers scoring a goal on his debut. A text message was sent to the WBA Press Officer when I had my picture of their new signing next to Simon Cox.
It was on the WBA website for the Baggies fans to see. Not the world’s best picture but certainly editorially relevant to the WBA website.
The Republic of Ireland came out 5-0 winners. Highlight of the night was Simon Cox scoring a goal in his International debut.
The Irish fans singing “We love Cox”. After I though they were still horny as they sang “We want six” but with their accents it sounded like “We want sex”.
The best game I had been to in years, probably a good decade was Wigan Athletic v West Ham United. However for every good game at the moment I have to endure 10 bad ones – these are bad to photograph – I still don’t really watch or know what is going on like a fan watching.
However with some photographers complaining that this game was dull, I had other thoughts. I had captured a few decent action shots, a multitude of stock pictures and some goals and celebrations to wire out to the Irish newspapers.
I finished editing all of my pictures in the stadium and instead of paying a 20 euro taxi fare got the local train to the city centre from just under two euro. Getting off at Connolly I remarkably bumped into the American girl who had been not allowed on the ferry like me. She had also argued with the other ferry company why it was so expensive and like me took the later ferry. She was off for some food. I needed to find my hotel, which I did with ease. The only issue was that the hotel had lost the room key.
In my hotel room I found that Wolves had covered the game from their own club’s perspective focussing on Ward’s debut goal.
With no urgent emails to attend to, I embarked on another episode of the excellent and addictive US TV show Breaking Bad.
Another 16 hour day over and done with. I won’t stay up that late as I want to explore Dublin again. I charged my batteries up for tomorrow and found my paperwork for the return trip and my passort.
I wondered if the chap had was re-united with his passport that I had found and left with the Polish girl on the boat with the bad attitude.
Luckily the only thing I had forgotten to do today was eat.