On the ball fan pays 8,500 for Slam tickets

A DUBLIN woman yesterday paid 8,500 for two tickets for Ireland’s Grand Slam showdown with England.

With interest in the game at fever pitch, Ann Higgins secured her seats for one of the biggest games of the year during a charity auction on the Marian Finucane Show. Sports presenter Des Cahill, who was standing in for Marian yesterday, auctioned the tickets to raise money for the Special Olympics, which will be held in Ireland this summer.

Thousands of messages of goodwill have been flowing into the Irish team's HQ to encourage Brian O'Driscoll and his team to record their place in history.

Tension levels, not experienced since the last five minutes in Cardiff last week, have risen noticeably in Dublin over the past 24 hours as thousands of English fans arrive in the capital to participate in the traditional pre-match festivities. Having narrowly missed out on the Grand Slam for the past four consecutive years, Clive Woodward's team knows that a nation expects them to deliver on their promise this time round.

Many English fans have travelled across the Irish Sea without a ticket content to experience what promises to be a historic weekend regardless of which team emerges triumphant. The city's pubs were reporting a busy trade from early yesterday as large groups of supporters were determined to enjoy the craic.

"The result can only really go one way," said English fan, Ros Lennon from Bishop Stortford.

Not surprisingly, tickets for the game have assumed values way above stock market prices for gold, with one British-based website still offering stand tickets with a face value of 57 for 960 last night.

English fan Gordon Mackey, from Nottingham, secured his seat at Lansdowne by cleverly exchanging his ticket for Munster's upcoming European Cup quarter-final against Leicester for tomorrow's match.

"I think it's a fair swap and it'll be an even better deal if England win," Gordon said.

Given the war in Iraq, sports commentators have been anxious to avoid using too many military metaphors to describe the eagerly awaited clash between two old rivals.

However, it's fair to suggest that in celebration of Mother's Day tomorrow's encounter promises to be the mother of all rugby matches.

The prospect of sweet chariots being swung low around the Fields of Athenry is one that all sports fans should be able to enjoy.

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