'Little Argentina’ | 

Relatives of midfielder Alexis Mac Allister celebrate World Cup win in Dublin

Argentinian attacking midfielder Alexis Mac Allister (23) can trace his roots to Donabate, lending this World Cup final extra meaning to the locals

Noel Mac Allister with family members celebrate Argentina winning the World Cup. Photo: Fergal Phillips© Fergal Phillips

Laura LynottIndependent.ie

A village in north Co Dublin was transformed into ‘Little Argentina’ this evening, as the family of an Argentinian ace celebrated the team’s World Cup final win over France.

“Welcome to Little Argentina” one man shouted, as Noel Mac Allister from Donabate, looked close to tears as he said: “The Mac Allister blood was in this game.”

Argentinian attacking midfielder Alexis Mac Allister (23) can trace his roots to Donabate, lending this World Cup final extra meaning to the locals. And it was surely one of the best finals ever.

“I just want Alexis to come to Donabate now and it would be great if he brought the World Cup with him,” said Noel (79).

The Mac Allister family gathered at Beaverstown Golf Club with friends to watch their cousin battle the French for the title.

Nothing could keep Argentina or the Mac Allisters down, with Lionel Messi achieving the legacy he had dreamed of by scoring two goals and one penalty in a game that ended 3-3 and 4-2 in penalties to Argentina.

In just 36 minutes Angel Di Maria scored with Donabate’s most famous son Mac Allister getting the assist. And Noel’s arms were in the air as he roared for his relative’s success, thousands of kilometres away in Qatar.

The entire golf club bar erupted as Argentina won a truly nail biting game on penalties.

Looking close to tears, Noel, said: “That was some match. Argentina played France into the ground.

“I’ve never seen a match like it in my life and to know Alexis helped Argentina win this World Cup final, is just incredible.

“I’m delighted. To be here for this with my family is really special. He’s a great player and this is a great team.”

If there was anywhere to watch this World Cup final but the Lusail Stadium, it has to be in Donabate. This, was, for the village, the closest thing to watching Ireland in the finals.

“I’m really proud,” Noel said. “I can’t believe Alexis is doing so well. He set up the second goal. It’s just amazing - I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but here today, watching this game.

“Alexis is a real attacking player. He wasn’t on for the game against Saudi Arabia and he’s doing great now for the team.

“We are trying to arrange for Alexis and his father, Carlos, to visit Donabate and that would be some day.

“I’ve been watching him play for Brighton and he’s been improving all the time. I want to go over there to meet him too, as it’s so near.

“This is a proud day for us, it’s almost like watching Ireland play but not quite because at the end of the day, I’m Irish, so that’s extra special.

“But the Argentinians are more Irish than the Irish. They are so close knit.”

The atmosphere at the golf club was electric, with Argentinian blue and white flags hung up and draped over chairs. Men, women and children cheered as though their were cheering for Ireland.

People out socialising and watching the game, approached Noel, who throughout most of the match was perched on the outside of a table he shared with his family, as he set eagle eyes on his young cousin’s progress.

Noel’s nephew Felim, said one family member was missing today. “My father, Christy, died in May. He would have loved to have been here today, he loved all this.

“He was a big sports fan and was delighted about the family connection to Argentina. My mum and dad went out to Argentina with Noel and Catherine. It was great he got to experience that. I knew Christmas would be hard this year without him but this, being here today, has helped a lot.”

Noel said he found out about the connection over 20 years ago. Alexis’ father Carlos had played for Argentina alongside Maradonna. And the Mac Allister family spotted a photo of former foreign affairs minister Dick Spring with Dickie Mac Allister, the president of the Buenos Aires hurling club, in the Irish Times.

The family started to ask if there could be a connection and soon after Noel wrote a letter to the club. A short time later, Dickie sent back detailed information linking the Mac Allister name back to Donabate.

“The Mac Allisters have been in Donabate since 1860,” Noel said. “In 1865, my great-granddad’s brother, Joseph, boarded a boat for Argentina. His two nephews, John and William, who were eight-years-old and 12, went over later.

“A man called Mike Bryan, who’d been evicted from a local farm, accompanied them over.”

During this period Irish families were, Noel said, “looking for a better life” due to the famine.

“I was aware as a young boy my granddad and uncle John went on a world tour to check on our family in Argentina and Australia,” Noel said.

Noel and his wife Catherine and other family members have visited Argentina. For Noel the “sense of pride” was “unreal” when he saw Carlos star, a reminder of his place in Argentinian footballing history, in Buenos Aires.

There will always be a bond between Argentina, it’s famous club and Donabate. And a steady stream of Mac Allisters from Argentina visit Donabate in appreciation of that link. It is hoped the next visitors will be Alexis and Carlos, who is now a politician in Argentina.

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