No trains but fans determined to travel to Croke Park this weekend

A threatened rail strike has forced thousands of Kerry and Mayo football fans to make alternative travel arrangements for Sunday’s Croke Park semi-final.

Every available private bus in both counties has been booked, it was claimed yesterday. The first phase of the Irish Rail pay strike is due to take place on Sunday and Monday.

More than 15,000 Mayo fans are expected to travel, while Kerry GAA County Board estimates around 10,000 to 12,000 Kingdom fans will be on the road to the capital.

About 2,500 would normally travel by rail from Kerry, with a similar number from Connacht.

Mayo GAA spokesman Aidan McLoughlin, while acknowledging a large number of Mayo fans would be discommoded by the strike, urged them to get to Dublin to cheer on the team.

“We hope our supporters can make other arrangements to get to Croke Park because we need a big crowd to get behind the team on Sunday,” he said.

Private bus companies in Mayo said they have been getting requests for seats earlier than usual and are doing everything possible to accommodate fans.

Meanwhile, Mike Buckley of Kerry Coaches in Killarney said his company will have a total of 10 coaches on the road, including two for the Kerry senior and minor teams.

“I’d say the demand is double what it would usually be for semi-finals,” he said. “Some clubs have booked buses for their members and if we had more buses available we would certainly fill them. I’ve no doubt it’s the same story with every other coach company in Kerry.”

Mr Buckley’s son, Johnny, is a member of the Kerry senior team.

Martin Leen of Kerry GAA Supporters’ Club said demand for match tickets was high and fans are determined to get to Croke Park. “You have to feel sorry for people who have been going by train for years,” he said. “Many people love to go by train where they can meet people from different clubs and have debates about football. The strike is disappointing for them.”

Meanwhile, there are no signs of a resolution of the Irish Rail dispute which involves unions Siptu and the NBRU.

A Siptu spokesman yesterday said he hoped someone would mediate between the unions and Irish Rail, but conceded that was unlikely at this late stage.

He said the strike would go ahead unless Irish Rail rolled back on its threat to cut pay without prior agreement with the unions.

Further stoppages are scheduled for the days of the All-Ireland hurling and football finals, on September 7 and September 21.

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