OK let me set the scene. It’s a few days before your 18th birthday, lets just say its 4 days before for argument’s sake. So 4 days before your birthday, and you are given the ultimate birthday present, match tickets to go see Liverpool, the mighty reds, take on West Ham. But it gets better than that, the game is on at Anfield, and your tickets don’t say general admission. No they are for The Kop. Block 306, the equivalent of going to a Baptist church and sitting in the middle of the gospel choir. Well if the choir happened to be made up of die-hard scousers. Now imagine the excitement, counting down those days until your dreams would be fulfilled. Your first visit to Anfield, the first time seeing your team play and the game just so happens to fall on the day of your 18th birthday. Your on top of the world, nothing could go wrong. Nothing was going to stop me from going on the trip of a lifetime. Not injury nor illness, not even an erupting volcano was going to stop me. And that just what happened.
On the 14th of April the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in Iceland. Little did we know at the time but within a few days the majority of Europe would be covered by a menacing ash cloud and the skies would be closed. So with planes grounded our flight tickets rendered useless and we were left with two options.Stay home and watch the game on TV or brave the Irish Sea. So obviously we stayed home sprawled out on the couch and wad watched the game on telly. But wait a minute, that’s not much of a journey. Instead of missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime, my father and I, opted for option B. But of course it wasn’t as easy as just hopping on a ferry. Being from Kerry, there was the small matter of getting to Dublin first before we could board any ferry. And so on friday, the day before we were due to head off, we booked a bus trip from Killarney to Liverpool. With time ticking by and seats quickly running out quickly we panicked and snatched up the last two tickets available.
On Saturday morning we arrived at the station, bags packed, tickets in hand and great big smiles on our faces. The excitement in our hearts trumping the daunting 16 hour journey that lay ahead of us. The first leg of the journey was grand, Killarney to Limerick. But after we changed bus and were on our way towards the capital we realised the true stature of the journey ahead. The long bus trip to Dublin was made longer as we stopped at every town and village on the way. With the motorway to the left of us and the train tracks on the right it wasn’t long before we realised that this was going to be a long trip, made even longer by every train that speeded past us. After 8 hours of sitting in the same cramped bus seat we reached the capital. Half way there. Only 8 more to go. But at least the next few hours would be spent on a ferry.
Ferry travel was also a new experience for us. Thankfully the sea was calm as we made our way across to Holyhead in our floating hotel. Too tired to sleep and too excited to sit down I decided to explore the boat. Within half an hour almost every inch of the ferry had been investigated and then there really was nothing to do but watch the clock tick away as we inched closer and closer to Wales.
Upon arriving in Holyhead we were ushered into a bright orange bus where me and my father took it in turns to doze off. Only to be woken at regular intervals by the driver erratically speaking Welsh into his bluetooth headset. But finally we were on the home stretch. We were now literally on the Road to Liverpool. Just another few hours and we would be there. We pulled into the Liverpool bus station in the small hours of the morning, easily 3 or 4 a.m. Our next task was to navigate the dark streets of a strange city. But thankfully we found the hotel with ease and settled in for a well deserved sleep.
We woke early on sunday, strangely enough. Fuelled by excitement and interest we set off to explore the city. We were the perfect tourists, making sure to visit all the sights. The cavern club, where The Beatles famously played, The Albert Docks and The Liver Building, The Liverpool Radio Tower and even the Chinese arch. Unfortunately ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’ escaped us as our feet grew tired of walking. At this point I should explain that Paddy’s Wigwam is an Iconic Church in Liverpool. Round in shape and sort of resembles a Wigwam (Indian dwelling) hence the name. We finished off our day by having a pint with Liverpool’s oldest Barmaid, she even had the certificate to prove it. We also met some friendly people, both reds and blues, who extended warm welcomes and added to the cities friendly reputation.
Monday was match day and we made sure to arrive good and early. Kick off was 8 p.m. and we must have been in the stadium easily 2 hours before. To this day I will never forget that feeling when I walked up the steps of The Kop and the stadium opened up before me. People often mention how their heart skipped a beat in emotional times, well I’m certain that my heart skipped more than just one beat that day. We took our seats and slowly watched the stadium fill up. And then it was time. The players took to the field to a standing ovation. We were engulfed in the giant iconic flag that always ventures across The Kop before the game starts. We then stood with our scarves proudly hoisted above our heads as we joined the Scouser choir in our beloved anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. And then It was kick off. It was a great game, West Ham never stood a chance. We had to wait just 19 minutes before the deadlock was broken with an excellent goal from Yosi Benayoun. David Ngog followed suit before half time with a well taken goal. Finally in the second half Liverpool were attacking our end of the pitch. We were ecstatic when Steven Gerrard’s free kick from outside the box somehow made it into the back of the net thanks to Robert Green, the West Ham keeper. The game finished up 3-o to Liverpool and it is a day that I will never forget. But as my father and I made our way back to the hotel our joy was slightly subdued by the thought of the 16 hour journey home tomorrow.
This true story of the epic adventure has been made into a motion picture: