Sport, weather no match for Paddy’s power

DESPITE the competing sporting attractions of rugby, GAA and cricket and variable weather conditions, several hundred thousand turned out in Dublin on Saturday to partake in the annual St Patrick’s Day festivities.

An estimated 650,000 people watched the country’s largest parade as the streets of the capital turned into a sea of green to celebrate the national holiday.

However, the weather turned proceedings into something of a damp squib last night when wintry conditions led to the cancellation of the planned Skyfest fireworks display in the city’s docklands area.

Organisers of the St Patrick’s Festival said the decision to cancel the event had been taken with “enormous regret” due to unforeseen and exceptional weather conditions.

Strong gusts of winds up to 60km per hour combined with freezing temperatures meant barges used to rig the fireworks could not be operated safely as one-metre waves were recorded on the River Liffey.

The stormy weather also forced the festival organisers to close the Luminarium human maze at George’s Dock yesterday, although it is expected to reopen to the public again today.

Fortunately, the luck of the Irish held out 24 hours earlier when the rain largely stayed away to allow large numbers of revellers enjoy the festive atmosphere generated by dozens of colourful floats, bands and performers taking part in the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin.

Festival chairman, Donal Shiels said he was thrilled with the size of the attendance which appeared to have surpassed the previous year’s numbers.

“We are delighted that so many turned out to soak up the incredible atmosphere and great spirit of the day. It was a wonderful way to spend the national holiday,” he remarked.

The legendary GAA commentator, Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh, accompanied by his wife, Helena and five of their grandchildren led off the spectacle from its starting point at Parnell Square in his role as Grand Marshal as the parade made its way along past the reviewing stand on O’Connell Street on a 1.5 mile route to the finish at St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Among the dignitaries in attendance were the President, Mary McAleese and Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern as well as Dublin’s Lord Mayor, Vincent Jackson and the speaker of New York City Council, Christine Quinn.

More than 3,500 performers dressed up in a variety of weird and wonderful costumes to reflect the main theme of this year’s parade — myth and legend.

St Patrick may have banished all the snakes from Ireland but that did not stop an attack from the numerous “River Creatures” — the theme for this year’s parade — that climbed out of Waterford’s River Suir.

Royal Showband singer Brendan Bowyer led an army of marchers that wiggled like snakes and waddled like ducks along the city’s Quay on Saturday — enthralling an estimated attendance of around 35,000.

Even grey looming skies could not dampen the spirits of kids old and young, as they cheered on various hurlers, musicians, dancers and martial artists.

Fifty invited guests from France and Italy took part in the St Patrick’s Day parade in Templemore, Co Tipperary on Saturday.

The town is in festival mood, hosting a six-day programme of events.

Visitors from the Italian coastal town of Potenza Picena and the French settlement of Primilhat, areas which both have twinning relationships with Templemore, are being wined and dined and treated to a tour of Tipperary.

Some of the visitors are bracing the expected high winds and cold to climb the famous Devil’s Bit mountain today.

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