Back to radio days!

So today marked the first match of the new Airtricity League football season at home and St Patrick’s Athletic played Galway United in Richmond Park, Inchicore. The new season always starts slow, with some apprehension but mainly hope and dreams. My mission today was to figure out how to get coverage of a match taking place 5000 miles away in Dublin.

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Richmond Park, Inchicore

Luckily the Internet allows for certain luxuries and a few of the lads back in Dublin do match commentary live so I was able to tune in and listen. It brought back memories of listening to the radio coverage years ago when it was the only coverage on match evenings, in a time before the Internet. The lads do a great job, completely biased but calling it as it is. Being able to interact via messages as the match progressed was great, one fan in Spain, few in Ireland, lads in the ground and me here in Atlanta.

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Match Day Poster

The President of Ireland is a Galway man and the presidential house is in the Phoenix Park which is fairly close to Richmond park so it was no real surprise that the President attended tonight’s match, I just can’t imagine anything like that happening here without half the city getting shut down. I used to take photos at the matches for Extratime.ie, a website devoted to Irish soccer and I followed all the other matches going on tonight on their update pages as well as watching another match taking place in Cork on the TV via a mobile app. I now have a plan for each time there is a game on at home, be it TV, Internet updates or commentary.

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My View from the Touch line last season

The result tonight wasn’t the best, St Pats got beaten 3-1 by a team they would have expected to beat. The hope of the first day of the season is evaporated already and it makes the next game even more important and getting the first points of the season on the board.

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St Patrick's Athletic Crest

From now until the season ends it will be a Rollercoaster of emotions as St Patrick’s Athletic go in search of vital victories every week. Will there be a trophy at the end of the season? Will it end in absolute heartache? Will the European adventure add to the legends of years past, or will it too just fail before it gets going? Either way, I will be shouting for St Pats from Atlanta, wearing my hat and jersey and screaming at phone, tablet, or TV hoping to see Pats win.

A few photos from home (Ireland)

A few photos from home (Ireland)

Today’s post is just a few photos from Ireland, in particular Dublin and Inchicore for today, that I have taken over the years. I will do this every couple of weeks to help give a favour of Dublin and Inchicore and eventually Atlanta. I start with some photos that I have posted to Instagram or Twitter over the years.

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Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge 

The Irish National War Memorial Gardens was just across the road from where I lived in Kilmainham and it was where I spent so many hours walking my dog and relaxing. Whether it rained, snowed or the sun shines, it was always beautiful.

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Oliver St John Gogartys Pub in Temple Bar 

Gogartys Pub in Temple Bar is one of the most popular tourist pubs in Dublin and one where I have met friends from around the globe and shared a drink or two.

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Views of the Botanical Gardens in Dublin 

Another little gem for walking around is the National Botanical Gardens in Dublin. Plants and flowers decorate the pathways and it’s beautiful year round.

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Inchicore Village 

Inchicore Village is where I grew up and spent most of my adult life until my move to the states in November 2015. The pub on the corner was my favourite place to have Sunday roast dinner and a pint or two.

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GPO, Dublin 

The GPO is one of the most iconic buildings in Dublin and it’s place in Irish history is insured by what happened over Easter 1916. It has been the focal point of commemorations most Easters and will be again this year for the Centenary.

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Houses in Inchicore 

This is a typical row of houses around Inchicore Railway works and is nearly the same as the road I lived on for 13 years.

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Entrance to Kilmainham Gaol 

Another very historic landmark in Dublin and I was lucky enough to live beside it, Kilmainham Gaol was where the 1916 leaders were executed by the British and public opinion about the rising started to change because of these executions.

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St. James’s Gate, Home to Guinness 

Ah the home of the Black Stuff, Guinness. St. James’s Gate has been the home to Guinness since 1759 and as a child I can remember the smell of the hops being used in the brewing process coming across Inchicore.

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Richmond Park, St. Patrick’s Athletic 

The wall outside Richmond Park, home of St. Patrick’s Athletic, my football team. I have supported them all my life and now instead of attending and photographing matches every Fri from March till November, I will be relying on Twitter updates and hopefully the odd TV coverage.

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Ha’penny Bridge 

Another icon of Dublin. The Ha’penny Bridge over the River Liffey. The bridge is a pedestrian crossing over the river and is 200 years old.

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US Ambassadors Residence 

The ambassador to Ireland from the USA has a residence in the a Phoenix Park, again a stones throw from where I lived. The house is the former residence to the Chief Secretary to Ireland from Britain. The embassy itself is in Ballsbridge. The ambassadors residence is only a few hundred yards from the entrance to Áras an Uachtharn in, home to the Irish President.

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National Convention Center and Samuel Beckett Bridge 

The National Convention Center and the Samuel Beckett Bridge are two recent additions to the Dublin skyline and are great additions. Located down river near where the Liffey leaves Dublin to go into the Irish Sea since it’s erection the Samuel Beckett Bridge is becoming an icon of modern Dublin already.

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Night Images of Dublin 

A few photos of Inchicore and a restaurant in Temple Bar at night. My local bar where many a goodbye were said before I left Ireland last November start my new life here in Atlanta and pathways I have walked my whole life.

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GPO and Dublin Spire on O’Connell Street 

Dublin’s main street is O Connell Street and it’s here the GPO is located and just outside it is the Millennium Spire. Opened in 2003 and nearly 400ft tall it is visible from nearly all over the city center and is a handy landmark for tourists to help them find the center of Dublin.

I hope these photos help to give a small flavour of where I lived. I will add more over the coming weeks and months.

Irish bars or Not!

One of the things I particularly don’t like is the ‘fake’ Irish bar, its annoying, commercial and mainly either English or just plastic. Old wood and Guinness doesn’t make your bar Irish, no matter how many road signs from Ireland you stick on the wall. As a marketing tool and a way of getting customers in the door I have no problem with it, everyone wants to make a few dollars here and there.

I am lucky here to have a found a few good Irish bars, one not so great but passable due to its fantastic breakfast and another I still have to try. My favourite has to be Mac Magees on the Square in Decatur. Since I walked in randomly last February it has kind of become my local, and yes its a bit like Cheers theme tune, it is nice when you walk in for the barman to say Hi to you by name, or maybe that means I am there to often. The Guinness is nice and the bar is cosy but not to small. the food is Irish(ish)and tasty. If you like Whiskey, well then it is certainly the place to go to. With the added bonus of actual Irish staff I always feel at home and welcome.

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Pint of Guinness on the counter in Mac McGee, Decatur

Mac Mcgees has become our ‘go to’ place at times and it was here last Feb that we had a very memorable evening so it holds a special place in our hearts. After our rehearsal dinner we even went to the bar for a few beers and after our wedding Leanne got to pull me my first pint of Guinness as a married couple. I have ventured into Fados in Buckhead a few times and I am not overly impressed but on a Saturday morning it does open early for sports and serves a wonderful breakfast. It is possibly one of the more popular Irish bars in Atlanta and I wouldn’t be totally against going there, but it falls into the bracket of wood and Irish signs and expensive beers. Oh and it charges $20 when the Six Nations Rugby is on TV so I don’t bother and I reckon on St Patrick’s Day it is one of the most popular spots to go for a beer in Atlanta.

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Pint of Guinness on the counter in Mac McGee, Decatur

Last night I had a pleasure of going to the Olde Blind Dog pub in Brookhaven. As soon as we walked in we were met by a friendly kilt wearing barman who pulled 2 lovely pints of Guinness and they tasted just like home. That was me sold on the place but then we ordered food, again it was excellent and plentiful. |So far so good, it had music playing and he wasn’t just playing Irish stuff but mixing it up a bit, there were only 2 TV’s that I could see, so it was a good spot. The decor was OK, all dark wood and glass with walls decorated to look look like streets in Dublin, no plastic road signs to make the place look Irish here, paint a whole wall like Dublin, good move.

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Cheers and drink responsibly! 

There are still a few other Irish bars i have to try, Rí Rá in Atlanta is one of my places to visit, even though they do have an English soccer jersey in the window, the place comes recommended by a fellow Irishman. We have been in the Marlay in Decatur just once so it would be a bit unfair to comment but it was nice and had a few GAA flags flying. But overall though the Irish bars aren’t bad and over the next few months I hope to visit a few more and see what they are like

 

Wasn’t going to write a post today

I really wasn’t going to write a post today or over the weekend and just let blog settle. But it’s Valentine’s weekend and also Presidents’ day weekend here in the States.

Leaving Presidents’ Day out of the equation for now, I will come back to it on Monday, what are people’s thoughts on Valentine’s Day. I myself being a hopeless romantic and recently married have my own plans and I won’t be divulging them here, at least not yet.

I was single for a long time, but always sent good wishes and thoughts to my female friends on Valentine’s Day. You don’t have to be in a relationship to be nice to someone. If sending a little Valentine’s wish to a friend gives them a smile, well that’s a good thing.

As I am now married my wife will be receiving all my Valentine’s love and wishes. But to anyone single, don’t wait for the good wishes to arrive at your door, take a leap and send some out to the world, you never know, love may send a message back.

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St Valentine's Statue in Dublin Church

A little history though now, In 1835 an Irish Carmelite by the name of John Spratt was visiting Rome. He was well known in Ireland for his skills as a preacher and also for his work among the poor and destitute in Dublin’s Liberties area. He was also responsible for the building of the new church to Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Whitefriar Street. Apparently his fame as a preacher had gone before him, no doubt brought by some Jesuits who had been in Dublin. The elite of Rome flocked to hear him and he received many tokens of esteem from the doyens of the Church. One such token came from Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846) and were the remains of Saint Valentine.

So maybe us Irish have a bit of romantic blood in us all.

See if what we think is there is really there

One year ago, Feb 11th 2015, I was on a plane from Dublin to Atlanta via Chicago to see Leanne. Today I will give a brief over view of our story and how we got together and how our journey has reached today. We met on St Patrick’s Day (March 17th) 2001 in Savannah, GA while Leanne was there with friends for the celebrations and I was there with the Irish Air Corps Pipe Band to take part in the parade and other celebrations. We had an instant connection and had great fun together.

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Savannah Parade Logo

We kept in touch via email, remember this was before smartphones, Facebook etc so email was really our only option besides cards at Christmas and birthdays. Our friendship blossomed even with the Atlantic in the way and in 2002 I returned to Atlanta to visit Leanne for 4/5 days before a trip to Boston with the band. Over the years we remained good friends and our lives took differing paths. In Feb 2014, notice a trend here with February, My phone made a funny notification sound I didn’t recognise, it was this thing called Google Hangouts, and it was Leanne asking did it work. We had a cheap and easy way to keep in contact.

We messaged daily, we chatted via video a lot of the time too and generally just kept in touch. But we had a few serious conversations and one of them was the ‘Us’ conversation. We both knew what we wanted, we were both on the same page but we knew there was complications, namely a visa and an ocean! We decided that I would travel over to visit in February 2015 and that brings me to the title of today’s post. It really was to see if what we thought was there was really there.

As I flew across the Atlantic my mind was racing, this could be a life changing trip, what if we were wrong and more importantly, what if we were correct? What would be next? How would we get on? How much had we changed in the 13 years we hadn’t seen each other? These questions and probably a few hundred more flew around my mind.

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Crossing the Atlantic with Aer Lingus

So at approx 9 pm on February 11th 2015 I landed in Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport after a long day travelling from Dublin. I was still a bit nervous and on the way over I had met an Irish woman who had lived in Decatur for 30 years and she gave me the correction pronunciation of Decatur, I was saying it wrong all this time! As I waited on my bag to arrive I seen Leanne, she had changed and was looking stunning…as always. When we met we did have an awkward moment, hug, kiss…we didn’t know what to do but our instant chemistry that we thought was there was definitely there.

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Our very first bad selfie

We spent a wonderful 18 days together, made our plans for the future and it was soon time to depart for Ireland. That was the hardest goodbye I have ever done, even now after leaving Ireland and coming to live here, that goodbye to Leanne last Feb 28th was the hardest. We parted as a couple who had decided to get married and live our lives together. Now it was a matter of filling in the required paperwork, getting Leanne’s Dads permission to officially ask Leanne to be my wife and wrapping up 47 years of my life in Ireland. On April 20th I made my first ever phone call to Leanne’s parents to ask their permission to marry their eldest daughter. It was my first time to talk to them and I had to be very conscious to not talk as fast as I normally do, this was an important call. Thankfully Bob and Terri were delighted and gave us their blessing to get married and continue our journey through life together.

With our paperwork for our Visa with USCIS we awaited their decision and on June 29th 2015 we got approval for our application for a K1 fiancee visa. With Leanne about to come visit Ireland in July it was perfect timing. Leanne arrived on July 22nd and the following day while visiting the Long Room Library in Trinity College I officially proposed and put an engagement ring on Leanne’s finger. A journey that had started 14 years previous as friends had taken a huge step forward.

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Just after the Proposal

Our wedding plans were already in motion but now we could make them certain and it was nearly time for me to pick a date to leave Ireland and move to Atlanta. November 5th was the date chosen and I had lots to do. Move out of my rented house that had been my home for 12 years, sell my car, spend as much time as I could with my son, wrap up work, say goodbye to friends and family and figure out how much stuff i could actually transport trans Atlantic. I will end this post here but i will come back to our story soon.

First Down and ten – Superbowl Sunday

So today is probably the biggest sporting event of the year in the USA or as many would lead you to believe, the World. I doubt that but you can’t deny the Superbowl 50 is massive and will have a worldwide audience in the hundreds of millions.

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I have seen many superbowls on tv back home in Ireland, especially in its heyday on Channel 4. For me though it doesn’t compete with the All Ireland finals between Dublin and Kerry or St Pats winning a cup or League but seeing as I now live here it’s to embrace NFL and their big occasion.

So who to shout for tonight at my first Stateside Superbowl Party, well my sister in law is living in Denver so maybe I should shout for them, we live close to Carolina so maybe I should shout for them. I know little or nothing about both sides so I will come down on side of family, Denver it is.
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It won’t be the same as cheering for St Patrick’s Athletic in the soccer, or Dublin in the Gaelic games, or Ireland in any sport but will allow me to have a vested interest. I am an Irishman first, a Dubliner and Inchicore man second, so they have to be my first choice always.

Sport in the USA is completely different to what I am used to, 1500 at a game of lucky, even though I have seen Richmond Park packed to the rafters for some classical games and the atmosphere there would make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, can football or soccer here do that, unlikely.
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The emotion felt as Christy Fagan scored that second goal for St Pats as the finally won the cup after 53 years will live with me forever, and nothing will ever beat that.

Welcome to St Pats to Spartans

Welcome to St Pats to Spartans

This site will become my journal. But before I begin I must fill in some back ground. Why the title?…..well I am 48 and from Inchicore in Dublin, Ireland and St Patrick’s Athletic FC were and still are my team. In November 2015 I moved to Decatur, GA to move in with and marry my sweetheart, Leanne, who hails from Michigan. She attended Michigan State, hence the Spartans are now my team here in the USA. St Pats to Spartans.

This blog will chart our journey from when we met in 2001 to the present day as well as our future together as we enjoy our lives and any challenges it brings from my perspective.

Photo courtesy of http://www.zedzay.com  Gretchen Dzedzej10So who are we? Well I am Billy and I will be your writer and guide throughout this blog. As I have said, I am 48 and born and bred in Dublin, Ireland and have recently moved to the USA to be with Leanne. She is a Michigan born girl who moved to Atlanta a number of years ago. The blog will go through how we met, kept in touch and will bring you on our journey to our wedding and onward as we embark on our life together.

But the blog will also chart my new life in America as I embark on a whole new chapter, from learning to navigate my way through supermarkets, paperwork, re learning to drive, getting set up with a job and learning a whole new culture and way of doing things.

So please join me and us on this, Our Journey Together and America though the eyes of an Irishman

Follow on Twitter @PatstoSpartans