Well, where do I start? At the beginning I suppose! Last weekend myself and G went on the trip of a lifetime, well to us anyway, I'm sure people who don't support Manchester United wouldn't feel the same as we do!
Just to backtrack a bit, Lifestyle Sports ran a competition on Facebook during the summer looking for the Ultimate Man United fan and as I had gotten married over there last year I obviously thought I was the ideal candidate! So my family and friends voted for me although the competition crashed several times, I was in the lead by over 100 votes so they decided to award me one of the prizes and to give the other one away by just answering a question. When I got the phone call a few months ago to say that I had won I really didn't want to get too excited because when I do something normally goes wrong! I kept saying to G that I would believe it when we were over there! Fast forward to September and I received the email I had been waiting for, we would be going to see Manchester United vs Newcastle United on Saturday November 26th.
As part of our prize we were going to get to watch the United team training in Carrington which is not something that a lot of people get to do so that was going to be an amazing thing to be able to do! Sue and Alan Kirwan, who are from Dublin, were the couple that won the other prize so I had been in contact with Alan a lot over the last couple of days just getting things organised with taxi's etc.
Our flight was at 6.30am on Friday morning so we got up at 2am and left for the airport about 3.30am. It took just over an hour to get there and park the car so by 5am we were in Burger King having breakfast! We met Sue and Alan at the departure gates and had a quick chat even though we were all half asleep! The excitement was really starting to build at this stage and I kept nudging G and saying "It won't be long now!" Our flight over was fine (I don't mind flying, just hate the take off and landing!) and myself and G were out before Sue and Alan so I went on outside to organise a taxi to drop our bags off at the Malmaison hotel and then onto Carrington! Our taxi driver was a United fan and we were chatting away for the whole journey! We left our bags into the hotel reception and it actually brought back a lot of memories for me as myself and G were surprised by all our wedding guests on our wedding day, they had all chipped in and got us the honeymoon or the "Romeo and Juliet" suite last year! I remembered the chequered floor in the reception and the unusual chairs! Once we had dropped off the bags we went on to Carrington and the taxi driver was there for about 5 minutes trying to get things sorted for us to go in. Security is VERY tight there, its a couple of miles in off the road and there's several barriers on the way in too so no ordinary Joe-soap can just walk in! We eventually got in and sat in reception where Richard (who works for Man United) came over to us and got us tea and coffee and said that he would be looking after us. We had been there about 10 or 15 minutes when a big car pulled up outside and who got out only Sir Alex Ferguson! I just went "oh, oh"! And on in he walked, just as if he was a real person! It was actually hard to believe that this was real life to us! Then Paul Scholes came in and a few others, Richard explained that most of the first team players come in the back and it was mainly the youth squad that used the front door. A few more came in too, the twins, Fabio and Raphael came in and one of them waved to me but I'm not sure which one as they're fairly similiar! Pogba came in, Kiko Macheida, Reece Brown, Djiouf and then Michael Owen came in and I nearly lost my life!! Patrice Evra came into the reception area from another door and I swear to god I thought I was going to wake up in my bed any second, it just didn't seem real! Niall from Nike also came in then and he gave us our match tickets and he was chatting away to us as well. There was about 12 of us altogether to watch training and Richard said that they only do this about once a month and that we couldn't take any photos inside while they were training. We walked into the gym where there were any amount of weights, gym equipment and exercise bikes and next thing the door opened and the whole squad walked in!! Myself and G were the first ones to get our photo taken with the squad and G asked Rooney if he was fit for the game and Rooney said that he was! Rio Ferdinand was standing behind me and I got onto him for never replying to my tweets! And just like that our moment in the spotlight was over and we stepped out for Sue and Alan to get their photo taken by the club photographer. When the last picture was taken most of the players walked off to warm up but Rooney and Giggs came over to sign autographs so we got the boys jerseys signed and I had also brought one with me to be signed to raise money for my Cancer Support Group here in Arklow. I told Giggs that my mammy loved him and I told Rooney that Aaron had named his dog after him and he laughed!
I gave Niall the jersey for charity and he said that he would get it signed by the rest of the squad and have it sent onto me. We then went upstairs and watched them from the balcony doing their warmup on the bike and then their stretches. There was a lot of laughing and joking going on, mainly from Rio and Rooney! We moved outside then and watched them on the training field playing "piggy in the middle" in 2 separate groups and there seemed to be a lot of messing going on in the group that had Rio, Rooney and Giggs in it!! Sir Alex came out then and they started to do some drills! It was time for us to leave then and go to Old Trafford for our Stadium and Museum tour! Richard had organised a taxi for us so we all hopped in and met him at OT 20 minutes later. In all the time I've been going to matches I've never actually done a tour so it was great to see the inner workings of OT like the dressing rooms and stuff! The tour lasted an hour and when it was finished we went back in to the museum and spent nearly another hour looking around there! We went into the Megastore to have a look around but if I'm being honest I think its gone very expensive and we just picked up a couple of bits before heading to the tram to check into the hotel. We had lost Sue and Alan by this stage but I had Alan's number so it was grand! We got a tray of chips in a chipper up the road and ate them walking up to the Old Trafford tram station which is right beside OT Cricket ground. About twenty minutes later (I think it was about 2.30 or 3pm by this stage) we were at the hotel and we checked in and went up to our room - which must have been the smallest room in the hotel, there was about 1mm of a gap to close the door because the toilet was right at the bathroom door! The bathroom in the honeymoon suite was as big as our entire room was! But we didn't really care because we were here for the match and as long as we had somewhere to sleep it was ok! G conked out and I took the clothes out to iron for the match (we had tickets for the 1999 Suite so we couldn't wear jerseys, jeans or runners!). I was texting my cousin Caroline then as she lives in Manchester (I'm lying, she actually lives in Oldham but her parents live in Manchester so same difference really!) and we were supposed to be meeting up but we were both so shattered from our 2 hours sleep that we didn't know if we'd be able to stay awake! We arranged to meet Caroline and Kathleen (her mam) in the hotel at 8 for a drink and then myself and G went up the street to have a look around and do some shopping before meeting them! We didn't buy much, I actually think the UK is gone more expensive than it was last time we were there! I was very well behaved in Superdrug and in Boots and I only bought 3 Barry M Nail polishes and a Beauty UK blusher!
Then Caroline text me to say that she and her mam were in town and did we want to meet up then. I had been walking round in circles looking for the Disney shop so we met at the Ferris wheel and then Caroline couldn't find the Disney shop either! We got a taxi back to Kathleen's then and were met by my great uncle Peter, Caroline's husband Simon and their son Thomas who is the same age as Aaron! We had pizza and beer and had a great old catch up as we haven't seen each other since the wedding last year! Before we realised it was after midnight and we had been up for almost 24 hours!! We got a taxi back to the hotel and passed out the minute our heads hit the pillow! That was unusual for me because I hate feather pillows but I was so tired -the drink helped of course!- that I didn't care!
We got up about 9am Saturday morning and I went up to Costa to get G a latte and then into Subway to get breakfast because it was £13 a head in the hotel!!! We met Sue and Alan in reception at 12 then got the tram from Picadilly to Old Trafford. We knew we would be pushing for time on the way back to get to the airport on time so we bought our train tickets for the train to the airport at the same time as our tickets for the tram to the match. I had been really worried about what was the best way to get from OT after the match to the airport. We had less than 2 hours to get to the airport and I know from experience that traffic is mayhem after a match. We weren't sure whether to get a taxi to pick us up and get our bags at the hotel and then onto the airport, bring our bags with us to the match or to get the tram, pick up the bags then get the train and after I rang a taxi company that morning the man on the phone actually advised me against getting a taxi! If we didn't have the kids at home I wouldn't have been worried about missing a flight but when you have to get home to them its a different story!
It was about 12.30pm when we got to OT so we had a look around the stalls and picked up some hats and scarves for the kids. The hospitality started at 1pm so we went upstairs and were greeted by 4 others from Nike and they were all really nice and we were all chatting away! Then I looked at the menu and nearly had a heart attack! Those of you who know me know that I'm a REALLY fussy eater so when I was faced with a menu that had salmon, cheese souffle and other stuff I knew I was in trouble! I ordered the salmon even though I knew I would never eat it and for my main course I ordered some chinese noodles! I ate the tiniest bit of the salmon but I couldn't stomach any more of it!! The noodles were fine and I had chocolate cake for dessert. There was a free bar but we only had minerals as we had a long journey to get home!
The world of hospitality is a completely different one to the one we were used to on match day! Our coats were taken off us on the way in and when we were brought to our table there was a goodie bag on our chair with a match programme and a beautiful glass keepsake with Patrice Evra's face etched onto it! Norman Whiteside came in for a quick chat before the match too which was great to listen to! We only went out to our seats a couple of minutes before kick-off whereas myself and G normally come in about an hour before kick-off to watch the stadium filling up! We couldn't really shout or yell from the area we were sitting in as nobody else seemed to be and we were half afraid that we'd be kicked out or something! The seats were padded and even had arm rests which was nice though! The first half was fairly quiet, we had a few chances but didn't put any of them away. At half time we went back down to the suite where there was tea and coffee waiting and myself and G went back up before the rest of them to soak up a bit of the atmosphere before the 2nd half started! Chicharito scored a couple of minutes after the 2nd half started and the stadium erupted! It didn't last long though as Newcastle equalised a few minutes later with a penalty that was never a penalty and although we had SEVERAL chances they didn't reach the back of the net. Well, one did but it was disallowed! Newcastle also had a man sent off in the 2nd half. The final score was 1-1 and we were all disappointed by the result! We gathered up our bags and started shuffling towards the OT tram stop along with thousands of others! We didn't have to wait too long and when we were sitting on the tram we looked out and the crowd was backed up all the way down the road so we were kinda lucky! We got back to the hotel at about 5.30pm and picked up our bags before bombing it back to the train station (which was only a couple of mins walk luckily) to get the train at 5.54pm. It was just after 6 when it pulled in and who did myself and Sue spot getting ready to get off only David Gest!!! We both said hi to him and he said hello back!! The train only took about 20 minutes and we were at the security desk by about half 6. I don't know what it is about Manchester Airport but we always seem to get caught up with something! Like the time I had a dangerous weapon (aka a childs fork!) in my bag and coming back from the wedding G had to drink Ryan's bottle to prove it wasn't something that could explode! Sue and Alan went on through and had the same glass thingys in their bag as we did but they didn't get stopped. Oh yes, we did!!!!! Your man pointed to a screen and asked me what these items were so I explained that we had got them at the match and he took a tongs and swabbed them!! G reckons he was a City fan!!
We went on out to our gate (I met Valerie Harper who was on our plane on her way back from Oz) and were sitting on our plane by 7.15pm. Bertie Ahern then walked past me and he was sitting 2 rows in front of us and I was talking to him about the match and we shook hands! We took off at 7.30 bang on and the flight was grand. Til we got in near Dublin and it started swaying really badly from side to side and the closer we got to the ground the more it was swaying and even as we landed it was still going from side to side! I was absolutely terrified and was so glad when the plane finally slowed down and was under control! The man beside us said that he's been flying 50 years and that was the worst landing he has had!! I was so glad to get off that plane let me tell you!!!
We said goodbye to Sue and Alan and thanked them for a lovely weekend and set off for the shuttle bus back to the car. We got back to Arklow just after 10pm and got a couple of bags of chips in Burger Hill cos I was starving and hadn't eaten much since breakfast! Aaron was still down with his auntie Edel but Ryan was delighted to see us and was running around like a mad thing!!
So thats my story! I know its a long one so if you didn't read it all and just scrolled down to the pics I understand!!