By Mark Jones
As Ireland prepare for Saturday’s vital Five Nations game against England at Lansdowne Road, events off the pitch have been taking center stage. Tickets for the high-profile match have been changing hands on the black market for as much as £600.
Equally, a number of Irish rugby clubs have been selling off their ticket allocation to the corporate black market in an effort to raise funds to pay off their debts.
One Dublin club, Clontarf, admitted to selling its entire allocation for the game to an English ticket agent for £75,000. Normally, the tickets are the preserve of club members who buy them at face value. The stand tickets that are being touted this week at £600 cost £32.
The sale of tickets for anything other than face value contravenes the IRFU’s regulations. "We are certainly not happy with the situation," said IRFU secretary Philip Browne. It appears the IRFU have met with officials of the Clontarf club.
However, the agent who bought the Clontarf allocation claimed Irish clubs had a right to generate extra income. "Clubs have to do something," said Mike Burton. "Money is created by international rugby these days and who’s to say they can’t sell one of their most prized assets?"
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Meanwhile, nearer the action, Girvan Dempsey will return on the left wing in place of Niall Woods for Saturday’s game, while it is likely that Victor Costello will start at No. 8, with Eric Miller on the bench.
The two countries are the only ones in line for the Triple Crown and for the first time since 1993 when Ireland last beat England in Dublin, there is some well-founded optimism.
The Irish victory over Wales at Wembley may have been too close for comfort, but with Keith Wood and David Humphreys now in excellent form, it is just possible that Dublin could be celebrating an historic success over the Auld Enemy next weekend.
Meanwhile, Garryowen look to have secured themselves a place in the All-Ireland League playoffs after their 16-13 victory over Ballymena last Saturday. Buccaneers moved up into second place thanks to a 14-10 success away to Blackrock.
The Dublin challenge sufferend a setback when St. Mary’s were thrashed, 38-0, by Cork Constitution, while Lansdowne lost by 8-3 at Young Munster.