Posts Tagged ‘Manchester United’

Hard as it may be to imagine, there were more worrying times for League of Ireland fans than the present. As tough as the declining crowds and folding of clubs appear to a staunch and loyal fan base these days, events at the turn of the millennium really didn’t bode well for our League.

First came Wimbledon’s proposed move to Dublin, one which could well have destroyed the domestic league here. Thankfully, this fell through. Next, came the formation of Dublin City FC, a new team that threatened to usurp those fans that sit on the fence with regard which team they follow in Dublin, but make up the bumper gates on big match days; that didn’t go too well for them either. And thirdly, something which may seem insignificant, but Manchester United’s Superstore and Café on D’Olier Street really could have had a knock on effect as the fate of Ireland as a nation of barstool football fans may well have been sealed.

Clipping from the Irish Independent, August 19th, 2000.

The premises, on the junction of Westmoreland Street didn’t come cheap, but the prime location and massive footfall that came along with that encouraged the club to splash out on a 25 year lease on the building, before investing a reported £1m in fitting out the store which was split over three floors – the ground and first being the store itself and the Red Cafe, a Manchester United themed cafe in which games would be streamed live, in the basement. (Games could be watched whilst munching on a Beckham Burger, with Man. Utd. Ketchup.) The building, then owned by Treasury Holdings would set them back €400, 000 a year. Their previous ventures on these shores, spurred by a pop-up shop opened by the legendary Bobby Charlton in Roche’s Stores on Henry Street were booming, so perhaps it seemed like a license to print money for the club. They were wrong.

The store opened quietly in August 2001, with its official opening not happening until mid October to a huge fanfare, with the bottom of O’Connell Street, D’Olier Street and Westmoreland Street shut off in expectation of crowds of up to 5, 000. The opening reportedly ran three times over budget, a bill footed by Roche’s Stores, who ran the Club’s five stores in the Republic. Roy Keane, Gary Neville and Mark Bosnich were in attendance, along with Sir Alex Ferguson  himself.

Peter Kenyon, then the club’s Chief Executive said of the store:

Manchester United’s historic links with Ireland and the huge support that exists today presents a unique opportunity to bring the heart of the club closer to those supporters.

Sir Alex at the official opening of the store, October 2000. From the Irish Times.

To bring the club closer to the heart of their supporters indeed, and to empty their wallets of their hard earned cash. But despite all the fanfare, the shop never really took off. Extortionate prices, a soul-less store and less than friendly staff saw the place become a ghost town. Row upon row of replica kits, shelf upon shelf of pencil cases, books, quilt covers, key rings, bath towels, teddy bears, quilts and even cricket bats, gradually gathered dust.

A selection of their “competitive” prices. From the Irish Independent, August 29th, 2000.

The store shut, quietly, in February 2002, being in existence less than two years. But the debacle didn’t end there, as their lease still had another twenty two years to go; it still has another twelve or so years to go in fact, as Manchester United Commercial Enterprises (Ireland) Ltd. are still down as the lease holders on the building. The firm tried their hand at damage control, opening Redz Bar, home to the Dublin MUFC Supporters Club. This venture didn’t last long and was supplanted by the notorious Redz Nightclub, now closed. Their debts last year were a mere €200, 000 or so, down €2, 000, 000 from 2010, due in part to the building being sublet by a new group, Lafayette, who seem to be trading steadily. So there you have it. Man Utd, it seems, were signing flops long before Eric Djemba Djemba, and for the League of Ireland, perhaps thankfully so.

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The first Irish national to score in the new Lansdowne Road? Dave Mulcahy. A nice goal against Manchester United, and no doubt a mantlepiece photograph for decades to come.

Saint Patrick’s Athletic played in the last soccer match in Lansdowne before renovation, so how fitting one of our own would be the first Irish player to pop one in. Sure Jonny Evans got one for United (You know, that team everyone was cheering for….) before Mulcahy, but he’s from ‘up there’.

Whatever you make of the poxy Calcio Moderno, or modern game, there is no denying the mess the Football Association of Ireland made of it tonight. Was that fixture designed to promote the Irish domestic game? Did they not consider the fact that before earlier this week, many of these lads have never played together? For the second time in a week, a Dave Mulcahy goal felt more like a victory in itself.

In another pretty meaningless friendly only last month, Bohs managed to beat a strong Aston Villa side at Dalymount Park. Without ringing up Sherlock Holmes, one can presume the fact Bohemian F.C are an actual football team themselves and not a selection of players from the four corners of the country helped in that one. This might have been a pre-season for Manchester United, granted- but League of Ireland fans know only too well we’re more than halfway through a season.

Hopefully one moment of skill or two from a domestic player tonight will lure a family to their local club this weekend. It was quite sad to hear the usual ‘is the League a pile of crap’ debate open up on Adrian Kennedy tonight. Even a small portion of the money that leaves this country weekly at Dublin Airport to travel to football abroad, if directed into the domestic game, would have a huge effect. It’s the financial instability of Irish football more than anything that holds the game back. Why are clubs with mass community support and history like Derry City F.C kicking a football around the First Division? Money my friends, money.

Can the FAI really complain about the Celtic/Manchester United/Sunderland (Or eh…never mind that one) leanings of most of the nation’s youth, when the way to promote the domestic game is to send a mix-match of domestic players out to be slaughtered? There is absolutely nothing wrong with supporting any of those teams, the SPL and EPL are both entertaining, but no doubt tonight should have been about Irish football.

Roll on Friday, when three points are at stake again. I just hope our lads aren’t too tired.

Any ideas on building support for the domestic game? Anyone? Send your postcards to...

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On the fourth of August, a League of Ireland selection will take on Manchester United Football Club in the new stadium at Lansdowne Road. Before we go further, that’s what we call it around here. Lansdowne Road.

The day after this, Shamrock Rovers will take on Juventus on Italian soil, in a crucial competitive match. Juventus and Manchester United, two football giants no doubt. Unlike the Shamrock Rovers side taking on Juventus however, the League of Ireland selection are playing for nothing. They’ve never really trained together before this, they play for a wide variety of teams. They’re not a team themselves, and they’ve been chucked together for a glory friendly. To be frank about things, this isn’t the best time either.

Why? Look at the League table. Bohemians, Saint Patrick’s Athletic, Shamrock Rovers and more besides stand a very realistic chance of lifting the League. So far, it’s been rollercoaster stuff, with nobody running away with it and surprises and upsets coming in thick and fast. In the midst of this, I’ve heard this game referred to in the media on multiple occasions now as a ‘pre-season friendly’. This is not a pre-season friendly for us. This is a match that couldn’t be timed much worse in truth.


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