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Friday, 19 October, 2001, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Ken lords it in Dublin
Ken Maginnis
Ken Maginnis loves international weekends in Dublin

BBC Sport Online's Jim Stokes in Dublin

One person lording it in Dublin this weekend is former Ulster Unionist MP Ken Maginnis.

Although he says he is busier now since settling for a so-called back seat in politics, taking in the Ireland v England Grand Slam decider is a cure for all ills.

You would know from his shape that rugby figured somewhere in his chequered life.

Thick set and square shoulders you can picture him grinding the opposition front row into the mud.

No doubt opposition MPs knew that feeling all too well.

But he admits he gets great enjoyment and a release from stress from the game of rugby.

As current president of Ulster club Dungannon he will tell you his greatest moment in the game is when the Co Tyrone side lifted the All Ireland League title last May.

But international weekends take a special place.


Ireland made such a mess of things at Murrayfield
Ken Maginnis

He travelled all over Ireland in the name of rugby, even during the darkest days of the 'troubles'.

He has friends in every corner of the 32 counties, and thought nothing of jumping in his car and travelling to Limerick 300 miles away to support his team.

"Rugby is a great medicine," said Maginnis.

"For people who are busy and under stress, rugby weekends, not just Dublin, but anywhere, are a great relaxation.

"However, they are a bit of an enigma.

"People at the top of their business who are under big pressure sometimes have to drive themselves out of the office.

"When I was in office, I sometimes found it difficult to get away.

Ken Maginnis
Ken Maginnis is a rugby man through and through

"But once you drag yourself away, it is without doubt the best tonic,'' said Maginnis, a headmaster in his 'former' life.

Now in the mid-60s, Maginnis tries not to miss Ireland's games.

"If for some reason I cannot make, I feel that I have missed something special, something really huge,'' said the former prop forward.

"Mind you I consider myself as a club man. I still hanker for a trip with Dungannon, they are just as special.

"If Dungannon happened to be off somewhere, I would go with them rather than an international.

"This weekend, though, is huge.

'Bit special'

"My only regret is that Ireland made such a mess of things at Murrayfield.

"We started off so well in beating Italy and France before the foot and mouth crisis intervened.

"Now a little bit of the edge has been taken off the game. But not that much.

"No doubt we will make the most of it,'' said Maginnis with the type of smile that means mischief.

"Dublin during these internationals are a bit special. One is inclined to get carried away - not that I would personally admit to that.

"Things happen that do not normally happen in normal daily life.

"You bump into people from all corners of the island.

"Friends that you have not met for years seem to come out of the woodwork.

Forgotten tickets

"A group of us would find a little corner in one of the hotels, and the craic would be mighty.

"I have to say it is uplifting,'' said Maginnis.

"Take a few years ago, when I left my match tickets lying on the kitchen table at home.

"I only found out that I had forgotten them on the day of the match.

"I managed to coax a member of the Garda to help us out.

"We knew the numbers of the tickets, and while we tried to make the best of it, as you do in Dublin, the Garda went down to the ground and queued for a couple of hours.

"He came back with replacement tickets two minutes before the game.

"From that day on my respect for the Irish police soared skywards.

'"But there will be no panic on Saturday, the tickets are in my wallet.''

Links to more Northern Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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