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Getting off the Isle Man during an air traffic control crisis

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There is, possibly, a Hollywood road trip script somewhere in this story.

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Sitting in Ronaldsway International Airport on the Isle of Man last Monday afternoon, five people sat and chatted about all the happenings at the Manx Grand Prix that was about to draw to another spectacular close.

Monday was a Bank Holiday on the island and while racing was still underway, the Emerald Airlines timetable dictated that these five people had to leave trackside and get airside for the only (over booked) flight back to Belfast City Airport that afternoon.

This disparate group, unknown to one another, but united by a love of motorcycle road racing were about to become very good friends, very fast.

The group included, myself, my friend Mark, Philip, an 11-time TT race winner who was vaguely known Mark, Alan , who I did not know but had seen him around motorcycle races in Mondello in the past and Stephanie, an events manager who was on the said to watch the races and shared a taxi with Alan to get to the airport from the track.

All five were tuned to live updates from the TT Grandstand, racing was delayed for a few hours, due to a wet track and there was a possibility that we would get the results of a least one race before boarding commenced.

Then news started filtering through that there was a major air traffic control system failure across the whole of the UK.
Flights in an out of the Isle of Man were severely disrupted, some were cancelled.

Our flight was delayed by one hour, then two and as the afternoon pressed on it was becoming very obvious that we would be very lucky to get in the air at all.

CANCELLED

The call came at around 4pm , no more flights on and off the island.

Now, the Isle of Man is one of the most notoriously difficult places to get off at the best of times. We already knew, from speaking to some of the Irish riders that the next available ferry to Belfast did not set sail until Thursday afternoon.

The helpful people at the Emerald Airlines desk in departures said that there was a ferry to Liverpool on Monday night with the option of picking up a Ryanair or EasyJet flight to Belfast from there on Tuesday morning.

However, it was plain to see that air transport was in chaos and the chances of getting out of Liverpool were slim to zero on Tuesday morning.

And of course if we took that option, then we were no longer under any obligation to be bailed out by Emerald Airlines.

However, the news was not much better from them. Due to the large number of Irish fans on the island for the Grand Prix, all flights to Belfast were sold until Friday morning. Dublin was, just about, the best option, a flight on Thursday, followed by a bus to Belfast was offered but equally a non-runner.

The airline did offer us a hotel stay in Douglas until such time as we made our own arrangements.

We accepted this, Mark has a borrowed car still sitting in the airport car park, and all five of us piled into it.

At this point it became very obvious that all of us were very well connected in the motorsport world and our contacts’ book was about to get us off the island.

But not before we realised that we had time to make it back to the TT course and watch the Centenary edition of the Manx Grand Prix.
Phillip was able to blag all five of us, firstly, on to the start line, then up on to the famous grandstand itself and then to winners’ enclosure – the first example of our motorsport contacts helping make the best of a bad situation.

In the meantime Alan contacted friends of friends in an effort to get some sort of vessel to sail us from the Isle of Man to somewhere in Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

There was all sorts of talks of yachts, RIBs and fishing boats available for the task.

Just around the same time that Michael Dunlop crossed the finish line to take another famous Isle of Man victory Alan got word that there was small fishing boat departing Peel Harbour at 8am on Tuesday morning.

This boat was heading for Strangford in County Down, just across the lock from Portaferry. I have a rally friend in Portaferry and one phone call later, he confirmed he would meet us off the boat and take us to Belfast City Airport.

Turns out the boat’s owner was involved in motorsport too, Terry raced an ex-Keke Rosberg Formula 2 car in Mondello Park and Kirkistown back in the day.
That evening all five of dined together at the Regency Hotel at the upper end of Douglas’ promenade.

As the wine and beer flowed, it reminded me of a the cult movie. ‘The Breakfast Club’ as complete strangers opened up on some of their deepest personal stories.

Afterwards some of us, not all, crashed the post-Grand Prix party at Club 1886.

PEEL HARBOUR

Mark, meanwhile, managed to to get an extension on the borrowed car, that was due to be abandoned in Peel and not the airport on Tuesday morning.

We arrived at Peel Harbour just after 8am, for our appointed departure at 830am.

It was a rough crossing, high waves and strong currents never a good idea on a small boat, but skipper Terry steamed on and we were soon in the middle of the Irish Sea.

Ironically, those that had sense and avoided the previous night’s party were the one to suffer the least from the dreaded sea sickness.

We docked in Portaferry around midday, where my rally friend Cathal invited us to his pub for a quick lunch and a drink – if you ever find yourself in this part of the world make sure and visit Dumigan’s Bar - a quaint tiny bar with small lounge at back like someone’s sitting room and small beer garden out the very back. Cathal also runs a chippy in the town – get to the pub first and he will tell you all about his famous fish and chips.

Just under 24 hours later than advertised Cathal had us all dropped at Belfast, the found bunch of friends saying their goodbyes.

And spare a thought for our fellow passengers, they were, most likely, still on the island days after our voyage across the Irish Sea.
Sometimes you have to bn willing to do the things other people won’t do!

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Kerry v Cork match day parking

  Kerry take on Cork in the first round of the Munster Championship at Fitzgerald Stadium on Saturday. This glamour tie always attracts a huge crowd and Cork fans will […]

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Kerry take on Cork in the first round of the Munster Championship at Fitzgerald Stadium on Saturday.

This glamour tie always attracts a huge crowd and Cork fans will travel in their droves from the Rebel County.

As a result there will be parking restrictions and traffic disruptions in the town on Saturday afternoon.

“Please be aware that the town will be bustling with activity, and traffic congestion is expected. Some parking areas may reach capacity, so we recommend allowing extra time for your journey,” said a Garda spokesperson.

Parking will be available in the following areas near the stadium: New Street, The Glebe car park, Fair Hill car park, High Street, Rock Road car park and the Lewis Road car park.

Parking in the vicinity of Fitzgerald Stadium is reserved for residents with parking passes only.

For a full preview of the match turn to our Sports section on page 54

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Win tickets for Taylor Swift and support Palestine

Killarney For Palestine is raffling two tickets to a Taylor Swift concert in Edinburgh. The group is raising funds for the Halaq family who are known to Kerry Friends of […]

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Killarney For Palestine is raffling two tickets to a Taylor Swift concert in Edinburgh.

The group is raising funds for the Halaq family who are known to Kerry Friends of Palestine and who are currently displaced in tents in the Gaza Strip.

Their homes were destroyed in the city of Khan Younis by Israeli airstrikes.

“It currently costs between €5,000 and €6,000 per person to be evacuated from Gaza,” said Susan Larkin of Killarney For Palestine.

To be in with a chance of winning the tickets for the June 8 concert all you have to do is make a donation via the gofundme link below.

A minimum €5.00 donation ensures entry to the draw which will be made on April 24.

Link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/hx5ahx-help-my-children

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