Dublin Hammers - The Play Off Final - Saturday 19th May, 2012

West Ham United 2 (Cole, Vaz Te) vs Blackpool 1 (Ince).

Brannigans, Dublin, Ireland.

Got into town and arrived at Branigans about an hour before kick-off. A few lads were drinking downstairs, while upstairs the flags were being put up, the shutters down and the tellys turned on.

With a quarter of an hour to go before kick-off, Paul the barman was starting to work up a sweat! I had to go downstairs and get those lads up as space was running out fast. The room was packed!

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As the teams came out the atmosphere lifted with cries of COYIs and a chorus of Bubbles… we also had a Blackpool fan in, all decked out in tangerine!

The game started and we were on the back foot… Blackpool missed 2 great chances… the second an absolute peach… here we go we thought, but gradually we came back into the match.

About half way through the first half, it was time for the best wise crack of the day… and yes it came from a certain Mr G. Purdy… there were 2 lads sitting next to the tv wearing Leinster rugby shirts (Leinster were playing in the heineken cup final later in the day)… two navy blue shirts in a sea of claret and blue… "Oi lads, you should have gone to SpecSavers"… they didn't take the roar of laughter too well and disappeared at half time?

Back to the game then… a long ball through, Big Carlton takes one touch to control it, and with his second, hammers the ball past the diving blackpool keeper… que mayhem!

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Half time came and we were 1-0 up! Sandwiches were served, a second barman was called in as the upstairs bar now resembled 'the Queens' on match day! And we looked forward to the second half.

Ince… remember that name, well it came back to haunt us, with just a few minutes of the second half gone, Thomas Ince, son of Paul, scored an equaliser. The lone Blackpool fan jumped for joy, the rest of use looked at each other in disbelief. Blackpool pressed, they had one chance, it was hooked off the line, they had another chance, but the shot was scuffed… off went Demel and O'Niell, on came Georgie Mc and Faubert. With McCartney now looking after Ince, we came back into the game… Cole had a shot saved, Nolan hit the crossbar, and then with just minutes to go… the cross came in, Cole just beat the keeper to it, it rolled to the unmarked Vaz Te who hammered the ball into the top of the net… the place went (excuse my french)... fucking mental!

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The next couple of hours were a blur… the final whistle went… the place exploded again… on the telly the trophy was collected… we celebrated, we shook hands, we hugged, oh and we sang… all the classics… "dublin hammers having a party", "Oh Christian Dailly", I remember Tommy N (normally a quiet lad) standing up on the comfy (dublin hammers season ticket) seats, he was pointing at us, we were pointing at him… "My name is Ludo…" all punctuated every now and then with full blooded versions of bubbles (normal and chitty chitty bang bang versions) and so it went on, Gary was running around with his "We're Back" flag, photos were taken, pints were sunk… the blinds went up… the bar closed upstairs and Paul headed downstairs for a well earned break... we headed down too.

Downstairs the party continued, Leinster won the cup on the telly, but not many took much notice. I staggered out of the pub at around 8pm with the party still going strong.

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An afternoon to remember… it could have been very different had Blackpool taken the chances they made… but they didn't… and we did… happy days! Would we have had as much fun being promoted automatically… don't think so… a wembley day out and then the last minute winner… what a finish to the season!

"From the bottom of my heart I'd like to say a massive thank you to the Dublin Hammers for making this Cockney boy so welcome yesterday and OMG What an amazing atmosphere in Brannigans, it was rockin and apart from being at Wembley there is no where else in the world that I would have rather been yesterday than with The Dublin Hammers and "Bouncin in Brannigans with the Claret & Blue Army", wicked. Once again Thank you all so much".

Reports and photos by Paul Smith.

Wembley Stadium, London, England.

An excited Jim arrived at Dublin airport at 5am on Saturday morning. After enduring a scrum of rugger buggers who seemed indignant that they didn't each have their own individual security check-in facility I met up with Robbie, Mark and Mark's dad who were on the same flight. We arrived at a bleak and wet Birmingham. Hopefully not a portent of things to come I thought quietly to myself.

The others were on a later train so we said our goodbyes with crossed fingers. After a pleasant trip I arrived in Euston and onto Euston Square. The excitement and nerves were ramping up. All of a sudden the rugger buggers were replaced by cockneys and the rain by hazy sunshine.

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Arriving at Wembley for the first time is simply magic if you love football. I waltzed up Wembley way and after the mandatory pilgrimage to Bobby Moore's statue I picked up the tickets. Happy days. And who was in the queue in front of me, the Drogheda Hammers. I also bumped into Trevor from Donegal who occassionally visits us in Brannigan's.

The Drogheda Hammers and yours truely made our way to the Green Man pub and joined the West Ham family in full voice. Albeit some who shall remain unmentioned diced with coronary failure getting there, it had some view on Wembley! Liamo and Dave arrived and we met up with Haley, Steve, Liam, Dawn, Sue and Mandy and had some tea.

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WEMBLEY, WEMBLEY!!!!! Seeing and being with 40,000 plus West Ham in one place singing bubbles is pure goose bump stuff. An unforgettable experience and worth all the waiting.

Everyone knows the story of the game, but lets just say that it seemed to take 10 minutes for Vaz Te to stick the ball in the back of the net and I probably could have been arrested for some of the things I did with perfect strangers immediately afterwards. Then final whistle and sheer bliss. Planes, trains and 10 months of home draws all forgotten!

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After the celebrations Liamo and Dave went to watch egg ball (it's true) and I decided to have the tube calcutta express experience. Absolute mayhem and fun. An hour of songs, every one we know and a few besides.. I met up with the lads in the Aldgate Exchange later for to watch Spurs fail to qualify for the Champions League and eventually we got the Stanstead Express (where's my ticket Conway) to the airport for a comfy sleep on chairs. Who cared, we're back. A PERFECT DAY.

Report and photos by Jim Conway.

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