Standing Up for Sitting Down?
It's 0-0 in your local derby. You've been through 90 pulsating minutes but not yet secured the win that gives you bragging rights on a Monday morning in the office or factory floor for at least a couple of months. The fourth official shines a neon sign into the night with the number 5 on it, indicating exactly how much time you have to kick every ball and win every header from the stand in hope it translates to your eleven on the pitch.
You stand and bellow support to them , willing them on. It doesn't matter if its to finally make the net bulge or hanging on for dear life, throwing their bodies in front of everything to make sure your mental health doesn't suffer by a last minute own goal off the referee. Stood on the balls of your feet, arms aloft, with your comrades in arms , hopping up and down , moving forward at every attack, almost sinking to your knees with head bowed when defending , the stand almost becoming a moshpit of activity when the ref points to the spot for a penalty but has his mind swayed by his alert linesman who spotted the dive. In the end the final whistle shirls into the night, and , one way or another, you get to relax and head to the pub for the post-mortem. Now replace the word stand or stood with sit or sat. Not quite the same experience is it? Yet there is only one of those situations that is an offence - that would mean ejection from the football match that you were enjoying. If it had been in England and not a League of Ireland match it could possibly mean a lenghty ban....from watching your football team. Ever since the awful tragedy in Hillsborough , football stadia changed. Forever. The Taylor report would call for all-seated stadiums at the top level in England, which has of course filtered down, and new safety regulations to make sure there would never be a repeat of 15th April 1989. Though clubs would lose revenue at first (putting in 3,000 seats in one stand when double that would have stood every Saturday) it ushered in a more fan-friendly era. And why not. I'm of an age, like many, who recall either seeing or being at a Division 1 (before Premier for you youngsters) game in England with cramped space, bog standard toilets and heavy policing...and the wire...Who will ever forget those tall brooding barriers with barbed-wire.
The event of Sky TV or course enhanced the fan or family friendly feel. Now dedicated family enclosures spawned , with proper seats and not wood bolted to a cement terrace. Of course here things moved a little slower! Shelbourne's chairman Tony Donnelly had a vision for Tolka Park when the club moved there from Harolds Cross in 1989 and duly completed Ireland's first ever all-seated stand. With safety regulations coming to the fore, practically every League of Ireland club had to make some effort, however small the margin of money they were working with. Cork City turned Turners Cross into a 7,366 stadium to be proud of, but in doing so lost 'The Shed'. Sligo Rovers made a top notch job of making The Showgrounds a stand out stadia which holds 4,500 but again lost 'The Shed'. United Park was transformed on the O'Raghallagh GAA side from terracing to a seated stand which can house 2,128 Drogheda supporters (though they still have terracing) and it's been the same with Waterford United (move from terraced Kilcohan Park to the RSC) , Longford Town from Abbeycarton (though they would argue a much better facility at Flancare Park or The City Calling Stadium as we now know it) and clubs like Athlone Town (terraced St Mels to Lissywollen) and Shamrock Rovers who moved from places like Glenmalure and the RDS to their fantastic Tallaght Stadium.
Of course now it meant if you stood up you could incur the wrath of those sitting behind you. Every time you hopped into the air to head that invisible ball you could be sure of a 'Sit the f*** down' from behind you.By changing the game for the safer it took all of the 'danger' out of it! And I mean danger in somewhat of a non-offensive way. We all loved hopping onto each other when our team scored. I vividly remember myself and my mate Damien starting a ten man snowball that started at the back of the terracing in Kilcohan Park and almost laying out an old age pensioner at the bottom steps...and there was only 150 at the game! And yes most hardcore fans will still go to their seated ground and stand in defiance - and to those I salute, but my question is, I guess, simple..........Stand or seat. Who's side are you on?