Rugby Town fan from Ireland arrives late after 400-mile pilgrimage to inspire three-goal comeback - The Rugby Observer

Rugby Town fan from Ireland arrives late after 400-mile pilgrimage to inspire three-goal comeback

Rugby Editorial 17th Jan, 2020   0

THE LUCK of the Irish was with Rugby Town FC when a die-hard supporter arrived late to a match after travelling over 400 miles from his home – and watched his team come back from two goals down to win and go top of the league.

Irishman Jim O’Driscoll has been following Rugby’s football team since the 60s, when he came to the town as a five-year-old.

After spending 32 years in Rugby, he moved back to Tralee in County Kerry – but still makes regular pilgrimages to Butlin Road to see his beloved ‘Valley’ play.

But his journey to watch a top-of-the-table clash against Deeping Rangers on Saturday (January 11) was far from smooth – and would have made most fans question whether it was their lucky day.

Leaving Tralee at 1am, Jim endured a four-hour coach journey to Dublin airport to catch his scheduled 10.40am flight to Birmingham.

But on arrival, he found out the flight was delayed due to high winds.

Surrounded by fans of much bigger teams such as Liverpool, Everton and Wolverhampton, who were making their own pilgrimages, Jim stood out a mile in his Rugby Town shirt.

They were amazed he was travelling such a long distance to see a non-league team play.

So Jim explained he had supported Rugby for over 50 years, and was as passionate about his team as they were about theirs.

After further delays – and a few drinks in the bar courtesy of his new friends – his plane eventually took off at 2.40pm, arriving in Birmingham at 3.10pm – 10 mins after the match had started.

Jim said: “Plenty of the fans I had travelled over with patted me on the back and made room for me to get off.”

He dashed to the train station where, to his relief, he found a Rugby-bound train ready to depart.

One train journey and a taxi ride later, Jim arrived at Butlin Road at around 4.10pm – well into the second half.

“I had arrived so late, the doors were wide open and it was free entry,” said Jim.

He was bought a drink by a couple of fellow fans – who then informed him Rugby were losing 1-3.

“I thought ‘oh well, I’m here now,’ and went out onto the Allotment End terrace to give some much-needed vocal support.

“Lots of people were coming up to me, wishing me a Happy New Year and hoping for me to bring some luck of the Irish. I didn’t know I wouldn’t disappoint them!

“We were pressurising well and I managed to get the support more vocal, getting behind the team and urging them on to get back into the game.

“Within minutes we were back to 2-3! I then felt very confident we could go on to win this.”

After an equaliser from Dylan Parker, the match was on a knife-edge with just five minutes left.

“Unbelievably, five minutes into injury time, a punt into the area from James Hancocks somehow ended up in the back of the net and the final whistle went.

“Wow! 4-3 and top of the league! What a 35 minutes of football I had just witnessed.

“It was worth all the delays and the cost. There were great scenes in the ground and afterwards in the Clifton Inn.

“Thanks to the Valley supporters for always making my trips over so memorable. This one is for you!”

The result sent Rugby Town to the top of the United Counties League Premier Division – and sent Jim home with a huge smile on his face for each of the 400-plus miles of his journey home.

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