Dunedin goes green for the Irish

Sunday, 02nd Oct, 2011

Green is the new black in Dunedin.

Dunedin, normally conservatively Scottish, has uncharacteristically splashed out on a brand spanking new roofed stadium just in time for the Rugby World Cup.

Now it’s gone totally green for the greater good. Broken out the blarney big time. Schools and businesses, shop windows, houses, letterboxes, and cars – they’ve all gone Irish. Shamrocks on faces everywhere.

And the bars are well stocked up on Guinness. Yes, the fierce deep-seated loyalty to the Otago tipple, the famous Speights ale? Gone.

Guinness is the drink of the hour.

The normal ”Gidday, mate”?

Gone.

It’s ”Top-o-the-mornin-to-ya” this weekend.

If the All Blacks could see it now, they’d be green with envy.

And something a bit different for Irish eyes to be smiling at, the Dunedin- based Nude Blacks (a New Zealand nude rugby team) bares all against an Ireland-Italy selection side on Sunday, October 2.

A rude tradition perhaps, but a proud one for Dunedin as a preamble to all international matches.

Three Irish fishermen from the West Cork village Schull, Paul, Danny and Aidan O’Regan, are devastated to be missing the Nude encounter. They’ll be at sea, taking in a harbour cruise.

The brothers spent their first hours in Dunedin sitting in Irish pub, the Bog – a stand out trio in their dazzling green shirts and scarves. Danny says they’re contemplating the 100 litres of Guinness the pub has brought in for the weekend.

”We’re wondering if we can drink it all before we leave Monday.”

Like many of the Irish fans Wexford County couple Jim Collins and Marguerite Ahearne have been following the team on their Rugby World Cup campaign and staying at the same hotels.

They hear how New Zealand was on its feet screaming for the Irish in the game against the Aussies.

The Kiwis have given them a hearty welcome, especially since that game.

”Our boys have done well. We’re proud of them,” says Marguerite.

Jim says part of being an Irish fan is thinking of yourself as the sixteenth man.

”If you don’t yell your head off, you’re not doing your bit for the team!” […]

Invercargill-based Irish immigrants Grace Campbell and Paul McKay are meeting up in Dunedin with a bunch of Irish mates from all over, including Ireland, for the match.

”The victory over Australia has really been a turn up for the books and made the competition exciting,” Grace says.[…]

People in Dunedin are rallying to a Dunedin City Council call to adopt visiting teams playing in the city, because the All Blacks don’t have a game there.

”We just really wanted people in the city to connect with the teams, and our visitors,” the council’s Rugby World Cup 2011 coordinator Kim Newman says.

A sea of excited green-clad children at the St Clair Primary School certainly took up the call when a handful of players visited there Friday.

The children performed a special Maori welcome and a few short items in the hall. The players stayed on for about an hour signing just about everything in sight.

Six-year-old Erica Wilden, waiting in line for autographs, was all done up to the nines in an emerald costume her Mum, Rosalie, whipped up especially for the occasion.

”Some of my ancestors came from Ireland,” she says. Her late great-great grandparents left Donegal for New Zealand 85 years ago.

Ireland team communications man Karl Richardson said the warm greeting mirrored what the side was experiencing around the country.

”We’ve just had this fabulous support. The guys have just been a bit taken aback by it actually.”

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