Arranmore on song as 20% of population leaves for Aviva

A tiny Donegal island will be a lot quieter today after one fifth of its population leaves to attend tonight’s World Cup qualifying game between Ireland and Austria at the Aviva Stadium.

Arranmore on song as 20% of population  leaves for Aviva

While the residents on Arranmore island are big soccer fans, the main reason why more than 120 islanders are making the trip to Dublin is because the Arranmore Pipe Band have been invited by the FAI to play the national anthem and a selection of other tunes prior to kick-off.

The special invitation was made by FAI chief John Delaney when he and Irish legend Ray Houghton visited the island last summer to open Arranmore Utd’s new ground.

The band, which has 34 members, left the island, which sits 5km off the mainland, by ferry yesterday along with friends and supporters for the trip.

The band has been rejuvenated after it slipped to just a handful of members four years ago.

Piping instructor Alec Brown, 54, said there is huge excitement about the band’s pending appearance at the stadium and on tv.

Alec, a professional piper from Fife in Scotland, moved to the island in 2009 with his wife Marie Kelly, who is from there.

“It’s going to be a real occasion. It’s such a huge honour for such a small community and we intend to rise to the occasion. Hopefully we’ll also bring a bit of luck to the team and we can get the right result on the night,” he said.

The band will play the presidential salute, the national anthem, and well-known tunes such as the ‘Rose of Arranmore’, ‘Kerry Polka’, ‘Marie’s Wedding’, and the ‘Hills of Gaoth Dobhair’.

“Depending on the time we get we can play a few more pieces, we’re not short of tunes and practice has seen 100% turn out, so we are ready for our kick-off,” said Alec.

The band won’t have to play the Austrian anthem as it is an orchestral piece not suited to pipes.

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