The Squinting Eye - A side-angled look at our beloved sports


This piece was first publsihed on the An Fear Rua website!

The Croke Park gatecrashers association

“HER first achievement was to use her athleticism to by-pass the turn stiles. She then showed remarkable ingenuity in wangling her way past the security men guarding the Premium Level section. She enjoyed the All Ireland from one of the best seats in Croke Park, completely free of charge.”

That is the citation, inscribed in elaborate Celtic lettering on a vellum scroll, set in a handsome frame of seasoned ash. It was presented to the glamorous Breda McKenna, amid a roar of applause, at the first annual dinner of the Croke Park Gate Crashers Association.

The Association was formed by adventurous individuals who love a challenge. And one of the most formidable obstacle courses that anyone can tackle is to gain entry to the Premium Level on the day of an All Ireland in Croke Park without the benefit of a ticket. Only state bodies, banks, corporations and Ansbacher account-holders can afford the thousands of pounds that these seats cost. They are prohibitively expensive but, especially those parallel to the playing pitch, give by far the best view of a game.

At its first meeting, held in the Gresham Hotel in Dublin, several decisions were made. One individual only would be chosen to make the attempt the first year. On no account must that person resort to any illegal activity, such as forging a ticket or using a revolver in order to gain entry. They could be imaginative and daring but they could not leave themselves open to criminal prosecution.

Names went into a hat and the bold Breda’s name came out. She went about the task with admirable determination. To use the coarse language of American gangsters, she first cased the joint, spending a prolonged visit to the GAA Museum, looking over the approaches to Croke Park.

Come All Ireland day a lone figure apron was seen walking along the railway line from the docks that runs beside the Royal canal and under the overhang of the Canal End. She wore the luminous orange apron that all Iarnrod Eireann line personnel are required to don while walking on tracks.

On reaching the shadowy sanctuary at the back of the stadium, hidden from view, she deftly flung a light rope ladder onto the wall; its hooks found purchase easily. With remarkable agility she shinned up the ladder and dropped onto the ground. She had by-passed the turn stiles.

When she discarded the apron she was attired in a long navy-blue cloak, like that sometimes worn by nurses. She added to the impression by putting on a white nurses hat under which almost every strand of her hair was covered. She carried small medicinal-looking hold-all.

Breda walked briskly to the Premium Level entrance, concerned look on her face, mobile phone jammed to ear. She stopped at the entrance, well within earshot of the two watchful guardians who were scrutinising the tickets of all who entered the holy of holies.

“OK, OK. You look after the ambulance. I’ll look after him until it arrives,” she barked. When the security men looked at her questioningly, she simply said “It could be a heart attack,” and went straight past them. As soon as she got off the escalator she went straight into the “mná” and entered a cubicle.

When she emerged five minutes later she was totally transformed. She was wearing a pastel pink suit, with a low-cut frontage. Her golden hair reached her shoulders in luminous waves. After she had applied lipstick and make up before the mirror, she emerged into the crowd, one of the most glamorous women among the huge crowd. Her holdall, in which her nurses cloak and hat had been tightly folded, had been turned inside out and now matched her ensemble.

She went straight to the bar, ordered a gin and tonic and took it into the restaurant to sit down at one of the few vacant table. Then several middle-aged men asked if they could share the table. They were much taken by her comeliness and insisted on buying her a tasty prawn salad and another gin and tonic.

That picture went all round the world. It ended up on the Internet. A friend saw it being stuck on the wall of a seedy, sweltering bar in Port Moresby in New Guinea; the fuzzy-headed blacks sitting around roared with delight, even if they did not fully understand what it was all about. Those two dedicated umpires had their moment of international fame and fair play to them.

Breda then went out to look down at the seating near the centre of the pitch. She knew that even on All Ireland day not every seat is likely to be taken, since some guests of companies and corporations do not value the All Ireland and fail to turn up. While she was thus scouting, she saw several of the security staff walking about, looking around, with mobile phones glued to ears. She actually overheard the words “heart attack” and “nurse”, “not the duty nurse”.

Eventually, when the minor game had finished, she made her way to a vacant seat, almost opposite the centre line. “I seem to have lost my ticket,” she said to the good-looking young man in the next seat.

“You’re very welcome. The uncle won’t be coming. Took the fast route to the
downstairs bar in the hotel last night.”
“I hope he wasn’t badly hurt.”
“Twisted the two knees. Ah, he’ll be all right. But he won’t be auditioning for
Riverdance just yet.”

She watched an enthralling game from the best vantage point in the stadium, did not miss a puck of the ball. She exchanged friendly conversation with the handsome fellow. He was witty, looked her in the eye, had a peculiar attractiveness for her. The excitement of the game aroused her and when it was over she asked him directly if he would like to come to her apartment for a drink. But to her disappointment and surprise he responded, “I sorry. My partner is busy getting the dinner. If I’m late he flies into terrible tantrums.” The look of expectation disappeared from her gorgeous face and as she made her was down the stairs she said to herself “Ain’t life a kick in the head.”

When later she recounted this to the members of the Association, one of them admonished her. “ Don’t complain. You crashed the Premium Level. You saw a great game from a great seat. You got a free lunch and had several gin and tonics. Don’t be greedy – you can’t have everything in one day.”