How Tallaght ended up staging Cristiano Ronaldo’s Actual Madrid debut

Ian Bermingham was cool personified when Cristiano Ronaldo last stepped on the boards of a Dublin sports stage in July 2009.

Not a bad performance for Shamrock Rovers, who should mark Real Madrid’s € 94million debut after joining from Manchester United.

Calm and serenity are not words that are exchanged in many conversations in the Aviva Stadium next Thursday evening, when the superstar will play his possibly last game in the capital.

Portugal are in town looking for the victory that would take them to the top of the World Cup qualifying group ahead of the final Group A game when current leaders Serbia visit Lisbon tomorrow week.

That is the business end of the line. For Stephen Kenny and Ireland, the game provides a more believable opportunity to gauge the coach and his players’ progress after last month’s victories against Azerbaijan and Qatar.

Ireland versus Portugal

Two weeks ago Ticketmaster’s computer system saw such a high voltage demand for precious seats that the remaining 51,500 seats sold out in minutes and the FAI coffers swelled from a much-needed payday.

For dedicated Boys In Green fans, Ronaldo is just another player who poses a threat and gets whistled every time the ball is near the ball when he is whistled good-naturedly.

For many other patrons, however, the 36-year-old Manchester United forward’s appearance in Dublin is like the Second Coming. When in doubt, just listen to the decibel level and its youthful composition when it hits the ball.

Prior to the Tallaght Stadium friendly 12 years ago, Ronaldo had previously played in Dublin when Portugal lost their only goal to Brian Kerr’s Ireland in February 2005.

Cristiano Ronaldo leaves Dublin Airport

Andy O’Brien’s 21st-minute performance ended the friendly on Lansdowne Road, which drew 44,000 fans to watch the in-form hosts take on the defeated European Championship finalists last summer.

Then Ronaldo started on the left flank before quickly moving to the other flank, where Damien Duff faced him and his Manchester United teammate John O’Shea operated fully on the left.

The Irish defended impressively that evening when Ronaldo in the 69.

But Real Madrid’s visit was a little distinctly different, taking on the Hoops as the only engagement during their 10-day pre-season training camp at the luxurious Carton House outside Maynooth.

Welcome to Tallaght

Ronaldo was a rising talent in 2005, but four years later he and Lionel Messi battled for the right to be considered the best player in the world and possibly of all time.

Bermingham, preparing to lead St. Patrick’s Athletic against Bohemians in the FAI Cup final on November 28 at Aviva, obviously had nerves of steel in 2009 when then-Michael O’Neill made it to the Rovers Really involved in a game that officially marked the start of their new home.

“Was I nervous?” Bermingham remembers, then 20 years old.

“No, not really, I was just looking forward to the game. I was young and I wasn’t scared.

Pre-season friendly match 07/20/2009 Shamrock Rovers vs. Real Madrid Rovers Ian Bermingham and Cristiano Ronaldo of Madrid Mandatory Credit © INPHO / James Crombie

“It was just the excitement of playing against a team as good as Real Madrid.

“A few years ago I was still playing school soccer.

“So I wasn’t nervous or scared. I couldn’t wait to get on the pitch.

“Because it was a pre-season friendly, you didn’t know who you were going to face.

“When I had only announced the teams an hour or two in advance, I found out that he would be facing me.

“Like all the relegated guys, we were disappointed because it was such an enjoyable game.

“But we had to give the other guys a chance to play. We all played half each,” added the former Irish under-21 defender, who followed Manchester United as a youngster but now has no particular loyalty to any particular English club .


It would take a goal from Karim Benzema three minutes before full-time to take Madrid to a 1-0 win, and Ronaldo got the 17th from Rovers’ other full-back, Pat Flynn.

“Pat rattled it in the first minute, which caused a lot of roar from the crowd.

“Ronaldo cut across the center of the field and it was a 50/50 ball. Flynnie went in and won the ball by grabbing it hard.

“It could have been Ronaldo or someone else from the league! Same result.”

The Hoops – who would win the championship title under O’Neill in 2010 and 2011 – adapted to life in their new Dublin 24 home after 22 years as nomads after their forced exit from Milltown when the opportunity arose to play against Madrid .

Ironically, it was the successful Dublin sports agency Platinum One – founded and run by Fintan Drury – with Barcelona that paved the way for the game.

Pre-season friendly match 07/20/2009 Shamrock Rovers vs. Real Madrid Cristiano Ronaldo of Madrid arrives at Stephen Rice of Rovers Mandatory Credit © INPHO / James Crombie. past

“We brought Barcelona to Scotland in 2007 and 2008, which came from the very good idea of ​​my colleague at the time, Eamonn McLaughlin, that we should try to organize tours and games in the preseason,” explains Drury.

“Barcelona played a sold-out game against Dundee United in Tannadice and then Hearts in Murrayfield, where we had to negotiate very, very hard with the Scottish RFU to get into the stadium.

“Given the amount of money we paid Barcelona, ​​we needed a large turnout for Murrayfield, which we did when 57,500 people came, which is the largest amount ever at a football game in Edinburgh to date.

“Twelve months earlier, we had started talking to Carton House about the vacant land that surrounded the golf course and the hotel.

Cardboard house

“We felt it could be developed into a facility for the big clubs from Spain and Italy who like to travel to Northern Europe to pre-season because of the temperatures.

“So we felt like we could repeat what we did in Scotland in our hometown, so we went to see Real Madrid.

“Madrid took us seriously, even though we were a very small company because we did it with Barcelona two years in a row, so we were a proven unit.

“We were dealing with a team that included Emilio Butragueno, who was Vice President at the time and was an exceptionally professional person.

MADRID, SPAIN – OCTOBER 19: Former Real Madrid player Emilio Butragueno participates as Real Madrid and Exness partnership presentation at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on October 19, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Samuel de Roman / Getty Images)

“One of his sons went to school in Bray and played for Greystones United, where my sons had played a few years earlier and where I had trained, so there were connections.

“Because of my age, he was a hero to me.

“We talked, him with his perfect English, and he joked about the last time he was in Dublin with Spain in 1989.

“He remembered Mick McCarthy hitting him so hard in the first few minutes that he wasn’t kicked for the rest of the game! We laughed a lot about that.”

Real wanted to play a game before returning home, so conversations with the hoops began.

“We built three makeshift stands to increase the capacity from 3,500 to 10,000 and charged € 60 per head, which was outrageous for a test match in the preseason!

Sell ​​out

“I think the game was sold out in five or ten minutes. It was just amazing.

“I remember saying at the time: ‘This is history, this is Real Madrid, the Galacticos’.

“Okay, we were lucky that Ronaldo made his debut because the organization of the game had been going on for months.

“It was a happy event and I remember how helpful everyone was.

“Gardai, South Dublin County Council, and all public and private agencies have stepped in and helped.

“The response to the challenge of directing the game brought out the best in everyone except the FAI and saw it for the wonderful it was.”

Because the game was being played in that country, the FAI had to officially sanction the friendly, even though Drury – whose relationship with then FAI CEO John Delaney was virtually non-existent – knew that the association was far from happy that the game was going to take place was about Platinum One.

Former FAI boss John Delaney

“But they couldn’t stop it, it was just too big. It got too big and although we didn’t have any government funding, we had a certain assertiveness as a company back then because we had done the Ryder Cup.

“The FAI would have received a very clear message from the government not to think for a second not to license the game.”

The FAI’s narrow-minded and repugnant stance towards hosting friendly matches reached its low point 12 months later when Limerick’s ambitious owner Pat O’Sullivan’s efforts to house Barcelona and Celtic at Thomond Park were hampered by the association that established a rooster and Taurus story about not being concocted games may be played on courses with a capacity of more than 20,000.

But Drury almost got Real back to Carton in 2010.

“We were very close to bringing Real Madrid back to Ireland next year and believe it or not, we wanted to bring them to Athlone Town.

“We had talks with the new FAI President Paddy McCaul at the time. They would stay in Carton and play a game in Athlone, which would have been a cool thing.”

“What I loved most about the Rovers’ games was the fact that the whole community took part. Everyone said, let’s do it.”

“It was a happy event. Gardai, South Dublin County Council, and all public and private institutions got involved and helped.

“The response to the challenge of directing the game brought out the best in everyone except the FAI and saw it for the wonderful it was.”

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