’Why are all the buses empty, Dad?’’ Blaise asked me one day last week. Our street connects to a busy thoroughfare on Dublin’s Northside. The buses are usually full of shoppers, workers, students and anyone else you care to name. On a typical Friday night there’d even be a smattering of football scarves as fans made their way to Dalymount, Tolka or wherever. Not now though; they are still running at regular intervals, but there’s nobody on them.
It took me a while to answer Blaise, and when I did it was the same answer that covers everything these days – ‘’COVID-19’’. The reason for my delayed response was that I’d gone into a little bit of a reverie, recalling an occasion a few years back when Blaise’s sister Elizabeth had asked me the same question, albeit in very different circumstances and surroundings.
That time we were sitting in the covered seating in The Carlisle Grounds. It was half time and Elizabeth had noticed the upper saloons of all the buses going by the stadium [the lower saloons were obscured by the front wall of the ground on Quinnsborough Road], turning into the terminus at the train station. The buses all had one thing in common – they were empty, having disgorged the crowds they’d brought out from Dublin.
I didn’t explain all this to Elizabeth at the time. It’s more my style to have a bit of fun, to give a far-fetched answer that will hopefully amuse and entertain. So I said they were ‘ghost buses’, transporting invisible spectres rather than living beings. To embellish the story I pointed out that you could only see the upper saloon of the bus because there was no lower saloon, or driver.
In the time since all of my children have played along with this charade, and at every Bray game we go to we still count the number of ‘ghost’ buses we see; most games we get to double figures.
It’s funny how seeing something in a different setting can cause your favourite League of Ireland club to come to mind. It’s sad when you think that there is no football on at the moment; forget about ghost buses, our stadiums are ghost stadiums at the moment.
The League seems like it has been suspended for a lot longer than the few weeks it has. You could forgive fans for not knowing where their club would have been playing this week. I had to check; this week we would be in Galway and last week we would have been hosting Shamrock Rovers II. That was a game I was really looking forward to seeing, having been an early and consistent advocate of the club coming in to replace Limerick. The arguments my stance caused amongst football friends – how distant they seem now, and how futile!