FOLLOWING the anniversary of Celtic’s UEFA Cup final appearance in Seville, The Celtic Star asked for your memories of the pilgrimage of 80,000 supporters to the South of Spain back in 2003.
Vinnie sends in his account of trying to get a ticket on match day involving a stubborn hotel manager, Mr Desmond’s ticket and following Mr Murphy’s lead.
I got the train up from Malaga the day before the game with my best friend from Leixlip, Dayo and the best dentist in West Scotland, Stevie McKinley.
Stevie was sorted but we were due to pick ours up on arrival. Put the call through to be told no tickets. Went weak with the thought of missing game. We went up to the stadium and into the hotel built into stadium. Started drinking in the bar and were trying all the staff and UEFA staff for tickets but no luck. Last to leave hotel and taxi home.
Got up early and said I had to try the hotel again. Dayo went with Stevie to the town in hope of picking up a spare.
I got a taxi to the ground at 11am with jersey on under top. Got past the first checkpoint but at second the police would not let me through. Told them I had to meet a guy from uefa with my ticket. The police let us through but came up after me and called the manager outside. The same guy I tried to bribe the night before. I said I had to meet “Senor Fernandez” from UEFA and wasn’t leaving til I meet him. We all went into the reception and he checked the system and told me no such person was staying in the hotel. I said I was told to meet him here and wouldn’t leave. A stand off between a tired, emotional Kildare Celt and a hotel manager. With guns drawn, I sat in a chair and said I wasn’t moving. The cops walked away and after shouting at me, then the manager walked.
Frantic calls to Dayo for updates on the hotel phone as the mobile wasn’t working. No luck with him. The hotel bar was closed with two security men at door, so stayed drinking in the reception area. When asked, I just kept saying Mr Fernandez was on his way.
At 3pm the Porto FC officials arrived for a event, tried them and no luck. The bar was opened for them, so i jumped in and bought my own drinks. I could hear the buzz outside but could not go out. I meet a tour operator from Dublin, Michael Cassin and said ‘he will have a spare’, but he had none.
I stayed drinking with Michael and his nephew until security told us to leave at 5.30pm as room was booked for a private party. The Celtic FC Official party were due in at 6pm. I said a visit to the toilet was needed, so I was marched downstairs to the toilet by a security man. Into the toilet I go, he’s behind me. So I went into the cubicle and will always remember the heat. My head was melted.
I can tell you now, I prayed to everyone for help. If I opened the door, I was out.
I stayed in the cubicle for just on 30 minutes until I heard a crowd of celts come in. I opened the door and asked them to check if the security guy was outside. He was so I got them to go out and hug him so I slipped upstairs. All the players families and officials were there, high profile supporters and me (STILL with no ticket).
Free bar for everyone, but I bought my own so no one could tackle me. I was walking the floor looking for a ticket. They couldn’t believe I was in the hotel seven hours. No luck.
I was sitting at the bar and big Dermot Desmond arrives in with his wife. Both dressed to perfection, I went over and asked for a ticket but he said the last few were after been handed away outside.
Back to the bar and then the moment arrived. Mr Desmonds ticket was on the ground. Like a young greyhound i was out of the trap and got it. I will say, it was tightly held in my hand while i had visions of the BBC cameras pointing to his seat and me waving back.
I was so tempted and probably would of gone for it, if it was wee Fergus. When Celtic and Ireland needed a man to write a cheque, Mr Desmond stepped forward. I couldn’t do it, i went over and said this was on the floor, you dropped it. Oh thanks, he replied.
I think he did send John Paul Taylor over. I knew John Paul from before and told him my problem. He said go to him when they were leaving and he will get me out through security to reception.
When the party was leaving, i got out past reception. He told me and two other girls, to go to a room at back of reception. Off we go, a private room with view of pitch. Living the dream, ten minutes before kick off.
Then a hand on my shoulder, out you go. The security guy from earlier. I begged him but no chance. The two girls out as well.
I sat in the reception a broken man. My team, my club, my fans but all in vain. A older guy from Belfast came in and we got talking. I think his name was Michael Murphy, who had bought tout tickets so his sons could get in and he stayed out. I asked him, how many security checks were left. He said just the turnstyle. I said lets go for it.
The game was on about five minutes.
We ran up to the turnstyle roaring and shouting that we got jumped down the steps and our tickets taken from us. We wanted in. The security staff got a UEFA official down.
It was unreal, we were shouting and then all quiet as he lowered his hand and zapped us in. We were in. I often think of the lads escaping from the Maze and geting blocked at the gate and just running for it. What a feeling. Mr Murphy and me hugged and ran up the steps to see a wall of green. No club could do it except my club.
I never met Mr Murphy again. I will end this on a high as the rest was tears…..
Sent to The Celtic Star by Vinnie.
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