Blow The Budget
Go Watch Messi
Watching Lionel Messi in the flesh, what an amazing gift that would be for any lover of sport. Messi is currently on the books of PSG, though rumours abound about a possible return to Barcelona. Still, for now he is in Paris playing alongside Kylian Mbappé and Neymar. A trip to the French capital is quite the present in its own right, but throw in a PSG game featuring some of the best players on the planet and now you have a Christmas present with all the tinsel on top. DIY trips can be organised, there are regular flights from Dublin to Paris while tickets for PSG home matches can be purchased via the club’s website, https://en.psg.fr. Alternatively, www.abbeytravel.ie and www.cassidytravel.ie both do packages, prices on request. A similar idea is to book a trip to Amsterdam for Ireland’s Euro 2024 Qualifier against the Netherlands, which has been confirmed for November 18th. Or take out a loan (are they still doing loans?) and follow the women’s team Down Under!
League Of Ireland Club Season Ticket
League of Ireland clubs offer a variety of packages and the gift of a season ticket lasts a lot longer than a crate of beer. Some clubs, including Bohemians, are currently oversubscribed but for most others season tickets are available from their website. Prices vary, but all offer adult, juvenile, student and OAP options. An adult Cork City season ticket will cost you €270 and €75 for under-13s. Shelbourne charge €275 for an adult ticket and €80 for under-12s. Sligo Rovers are €260 for an adult and €70 for juveniles, while Drogheda United are €250 for an adult and €100 for a juvenile ticket. Check out official club websites for more details.
Anybody For Table Football
There are no shortage of table football options available, including a sleek Rival 5ft table at www.www.elverys.ie for €399. But for a free-standing option that is a lot more affordable and will provide hours of fun, the Taylor & Brown Deluxe table football product is decent value at €43.15 on www.amazon.co.uk. It measures 69x62x37cm so it’s not the biggest product out there, but it means it is suitable for adults and kids to play.
Support The Boys and Girls In Green
You Boys in Green have a good range of Ireland fanwear products including jumpers and zip-up tops between €69-€60, original adidas jerseys for €59, polo shirts €29, T-shirts €22-€19, scarves €18, mugs €11 (their Euro 88 Stuttgart offering is a belter). For more information, visit www.ybigstore.com.
Going In Two-Footed
Galway company Socker Club have a collection of socks inspired by classic football strips. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it does. The Ireland and Germany 1990 World Cup efforts are particularly wonderful while Arsenal’s yellow bruised banana creation is eye-catching. They retail at €9.95 a pair but there are also bundle deals. For more info visit www.sockerclub.com.
Have a Ball
A battered old yellow derby football occupied a place in our back yard for years and for those of a certain generation it will have held a sentimental place in their hearts for even longer. Forget all the above, just buy a football – easily the greatest soccer-themed gift of them all. There are countless options available at sports shops nationwide and online. – Gordon Manning
Blow The Budget
With the prospect of three Irish players – Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Séamus Power – making Europe’s Ryder Cup for the match against the United States at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome, there is likely to be a strong green contingent in the expected sell-out support for the match’s first ever staging in Italy on September 29th-October 1st.
Apart from the delights of Rome’s cuisine and culture to experience, the Ryder Cup has grown into something of a beast in terms of its scale but also is one of the very few golfing occasions where the pressure and joys of team golf rather than individual egos come into play.
If you want to go all out, there are a number of packages available through www.rydercup.com that include tickets from practice days through to the final day of competition, with shuttle bus access from the designated hotels to the course included.
For example, the Hotel Savoy has double occupancy for five nights with a price tag from €3,714 (bed and breakfast), while upgraded entry to places like the Champions Pavilion, the Founders Lounge and the Captains Club come with additional costs per person (ranging from €495 to €1,295).
Daily flights to Rome are operated from Ireland by Ryanair and Aer Lingus. Departure from Dublin on September 27th are currently available from €73 but the return fares are more than triple that price.
Put your stamp on it
Whether your bucket list of golf courses to play is in Ireland or Scotland or the United States, the innovative art design concept of Bhíos – www.bhiosprints.com – will not only enable you to tick the box but literally to stamp the proof that you have played.
Heed the pain
For those inevitable aches and pains, massagegunsireland.ie – based in Newport, Co Mayo – have a wide selection of percussive therapy guns. The mini gun is no bigger than the typical mobile phone but beats at a rate of 3,200 per minute (€175) while the premium Massage Gun 2.0 for the more serious among us has a similar beat rate but comes with six changeable heads and is sweat-proof, among other things (€285).
Snowing? Raining? Just plain miserable out? Don’t worry, no better place to get your golfing fix even when it’s raining cats and dogs than the innovative K Golf World facility at The K Club in Straffan, Co Kildare.
The family-friendly, indoor state-of-the-art golf simulators (there are eight bays) offer golfers the opportunity to select from some of the world’s greatest courses. How about taking on the Par 3 17th at TPC Sawgrass? Or the 12th at Augusta National? Or pretty much any leading course that takes your fancy.
Cost of hiring a bay is €50 per hour. A family special is available for €160 – visit kclub.ie for bookings –, covering two hours of simulator golf and a meal afterwards in the South clubhouse.
Quite possibly the worst piece of advice offered to players (new and old) from those who seem to know best is: “Keep your head down!” Forget such nuggets of supposed wisdom. You’d be far better off booking a lesson with your PGA club professional who’ll keep you on the straight and narrow with proper coaching.
A load of balls
No better stocking filler than the one thing that every golfer needs ... McGuirks Golf has a special Christmas offer on a two dozen gift box of Titleist ProV1x (€99) or a dozen TaylorMade RocketBallz (€19.95) ... Halpenny Golf has an offer on a dozen Callaway Chrome Soft X Triple Track (€54.95) ... while Carlow-based Seed Golf has a special offer of €25 for a first delivery of its SD-02 Pro Tour golf balls. – Philip Reid
Blow The Budget
GAA season ticket
The 2023 GAA season ticket covers your nominated county’s Allianz League fixtures and, depending on the code selected, either the opening game in the senior football championship or the first two matches in the senior hurling championship. Holders can purchase tickets for fixtures thereafter. For more info visit www.gaa.ie. Price: €100-150, depending on county.
Retro jerseys and classic tracksuit tops are in vogue and there are several options for those looking to buy old-school GAA gear.
www.oneills.com have joined the retro bandwagon with an extensive collection of jerseys, retailing at €50. The Armagh pinstripe design is a knockout.
www.orgaretro.com also have a decent collection of intercounty retro-style jerseys ranging from €30-€39.99. They have tracksuit tops at €49.99, with the Dublin 80s zip-up a beauty.
www.kcsports.ie offer old-style jerseys and tracksuit tops, including an eye-catching Trevor Giles Meath throwback sleeveless number for €48.95.
www.masita.ie do a range of nostalgic club tops and their Kingscourt Stars jersey is a stunner. Masita’s retro collection ranges between €43-€54.50.
www.vintagegaa.ie sell only authentic gear, they don’t do remakes. Prices vary.
Bainisteoir Board Game
Board games remain a family favourite for many at Christmas, and Bainisteoir is a GAA=themed offering that can be played by 2-4 players. Players test their managerial skills to try lead a team to All-Ireland glory while also balancing the finances. For children 7+. Available in all major toy stores. Price: €34.99
Croke Park 3D Stadium Replica
This 135-piece 3D puzzle requires no scissors, tools or glue. When assembled it measures: Width – 377mm, Depth – 340mm; Height – 93mm. For ages 7+. At the time of print it was out of stock in some stores but was still available at Toymaster and Smyths. Price: €30.00
Hurlóg is a starter hurl/hurley (let’s not go there) made from a foam-like material and weighs less than its equivalent ash product. The set has a soft foam ball and can be used indoors. The Hurlóg comes in three sizes to suit children up to the age of six. Hurlóg, which is made by Kite Sports, can be purchased at www.kitesports.ie and all major toy and sports stores. Price: €29.99
Babygro and hat set
GagaBaby sell county coloured Babygro and hat sets. At the time of print the Carlow combo was out of stock – so keep an eye on the Barrowsiders in about 20 years to see if this apparent baby boom has translated to success on the field. Visit www.gagababy.ie. Price: €24.99 (personalised text can be added for €3 extra)
Croke Park freshly cut grass natural wax candle
The GAA missed a trick not getting Alan Partridge to do the marketing for this product – we challenge you not to smile at the thoughts of unwrapping a Croke Park freshly cut grass scented candle! The 100% natural wax candle has 50 hours of burning time and is sure to keep the aroma of summer alive this winter. It can be bought at the Croke Park Museum Shop or online at www.gaa-museum-shop.myshopify.com Price: €12.00 *A Croke Park freshly cut grass fragrance diffuser is also available for €14.00.
Official GAA 2023 Calendar
Who wouldn’t want Ciarán Kilkenny looking down upon them for the month of June? The official GAA 2023 calendar will allow the GAA-obsessed in your house to mark out all the dates they are busy with club/county matches for the year ahead – which probably means every Saturday and Sunday. Available online and in Eason and Elverys stores nationwide. Price: €10.00 – Gordon Manning
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The world awaits
It may well end in tears with another quarter-final exit given the draw (New Zealand or France await in all likelihood), but why not hop over to France next year to watch Ireland at the 2023 World Cup?
Unfortunately, individual tickets are sold out but you can still buy package holidays that include entry to matches from www.clubtravel.ie.
Prices vary depending on who Ireland are playing and the venue, but the cheapest option advertised is a two-night stay in Nantes to see Ireland play Tonga. That will set you back €869 per person – travel is included.
The most expensive package? Two nights in Paris to watch Ireland vs South Africa; just the €1,159 each.
My lovely, lovely jersey
Everyone loves a retro jersey, but often the biggest problem can be finding one in decent nick. If you do struggle, lovelyjerseys.ie can help you out with the next best thing.
This Irish company is selling wall prints that feature collections of the most iconic jerseys of your chosen sports team, and their rugby selection is beyond extensive. They have the old Permanent TSB sponsored jerseys of the Eddie O’Sullivan years coupled with the 2009 Grand Slam-winning O2 shirt, not to mention the plain, classic green jersey of the 90s.
They have offerings for all four provinces as well as a host of AIL clubs and schools – even the Blackrock and Michael’s lads can get themselves sorted. Prices start at €20 per print but you’ll have to source your own frame.
Perfect for the at-home office.
When it’s gone, it’s gone
By all accounts, this year’s Leinster clothing selection provided by Adidas has been a hit with supporters. The training kit featuring the brand’s famous three stripes in light blue has been particularly popular, according to the province – but it might not be available for long.
This year is the last season of Adidas and Leinster’s deal, and rumours are there will not be a renewal. If you are particularly enamoured of the Leinster-Adidas combo, some of the better offerings available to fans include a half-zip top and a sweatshirt, both coming in at €65.
A replica jersey, home or away, will set you back €90 at Lifestyle sports.
Inner Ross O’Carroll Kelly
Anyone who has played the game or even cursed their favoured outhalf when after missing a kick reckons they could do a grand job at launching a ball at the uprights. How hard could it be? Time to find out. www.mckeeversports.ie has Gilbert kicking tees available for as low as €10. Perfect both for the youngster in your life who wants to be the next Johnny Sexton and the old-timer who won’t let the glory days go. Worst case scenario, you’ll get a few days of excitement out of it in the back garden or down in your local club to cure any post-Christmas boredom.
And the Rest
Blow The Budget
Start your Engines
It may well be baffling to the rest of us that Formula One has managed find its way back into affections of the general sports fan after a couple of decades in the doldrums, but there’s no denying its popularity. As such, the Formula Race Thrill package at Mondello Park in Kildare is bound to be popular for anyone looking to push the boat out.
Ranging in price from €229 for the basic midweek package to €379 for the XL weekend package, it offers safety training, practice laps in a saloon car, timed laps in a single seater Formula Sheane car and a debrief afterwards with a presentation of lap times. It also comes with a one-year membership of Mondello Park.
On your Bike
For those in a more at-home state of mind, Elvery’s have a range of offers on exercise bikes and ellipticals at the moment that take the prices down from are-you-f**king-kidding-me to merely eye-watering. The NordicTrack GX 2.7 U Bike is around €400 at the minute, down 40% from its usual €600. Comes with all the gizmos and Bluetooths and training plans and whatnot. Makes you look like you really went to town altogether.
Bell of the Ball
To mangle dear old HL Mencken, nobody ever went broke underestimating the Irish public’s desire for bright lights and splattering body fluids. With big-time boxing still a no-no – still no sign of Katie Taylor in Croke Park, regardless of what kites the promoters might try to fly – it falls to MMA and wrestling to pack out the big arenas.
And so. Bellator MMA returns to the 3Arena in Dublin in February, where it packed the place to the rafters last time out. there are still ringside tickets available for €155 but you can get them in ever-increasing circles out from the ring for €85 and €55 too.
The popularity of the WWE shows no sign of waning, particularly in the US. It’s coming to these shores in April, with the SSE Arena in Belfast hosting. Ticket prices start at €30 and go up to €90.
A word in your ear
A good set of running earbuds can be the difference between a middle-aged runner getting up and getting out and only thinking about it. Yes, that’s experience talking. The JLab Go Air Sport Wireless earbuds have tumbled in price over the past couple of years and you’ll get them now in places like Harvey Norman for around €40. They go over the ear, are impervious to sweat and rain and only need to be charged every couple of weeks on regular use. Also, JLab operate a two-year warranty and are incredibly efficient about honouring it. That’s experience talking, too.