Anyone wondering whether there were enough country fans to fill the estimated 410,000 seats was left in no doubt. In the event, organisers labelled it “probably the biggest cultural event in Ireland in the history of music”.
And last night, Dublin, Ireland, population 1.2 million, could have been Dublin, Texas, population 3,550, for all the stetsons, cowboy boots and checked shirts on the streets.
From early afternoon, the transformation was under way: the train from Belfast that pulled into Connolly Station shortly before 3pm, discharged a glut of concert-goers in the ubiquitous hats, towing wheely cases.
Lindsey and Laura Peters and Paula Reid from Fermanagh, Tyrone and Armagh respectively were looking forward to the gig of their lives. “We’re massive fans – I did the tour in Nashville,” said Lindsey.
Sisters Shakira (20) and Annamaria Berry (25) from New Ross, Co Wexford, grew up listening to Brooks because their “aunts, and uncles and everybody in the family are fans”.
“We love him, we just love him,” said Shakira. “He’s so good-looking, too – he’s country and western, he’s happy – he’s just what we are.”
Brendan Geavey and Paddy Maughan came up from Ballina, Co Mayo, with Kellie Maughan and Chloe Keary. Asked what she was expecting, Chloe said: “I’m expecting to get engaged,” before laughing: “I’m only messing.”
She bought the tickets for Brendan as a gift, she added.
Mary Casey and Andy Melville had travelled from London. The hotels were expensive, and they paid €570 for two nights. “It’s worth it though,” says Mary.
“He won’t come to England because he reckons they’re too dry,” said Andy.
“And he’s right,” added Mary.
Elizabeth Connors and Alannah Moorhouse from Leopardstown – who have been listening to Garth since their teenage years – were expecting a brilliant night.
“My brother bought the tickets months ago – we’re just really excited that it’s finally happening,” said Elizabeth.
Meanwhile, given the controversy eight years ago over what became abandoned plans to hold Garth Brooks concerts in Croke Park, what did the residents think now?
Colm Stephens, PRO of the Croke Park Residents Association, said they have not changed their minds about the unsuitability of holding more than two concerts a year in the venue.
“It is as before – it is as if someone opened a nightclub in your area with 80,000 people attending,” he said.
He claimed concert-goers were urinating on the streets and in front gardens.
“The gardaí can’t be everywhere,” he said.
A neighbour with a disabled child had been denied entrance to her street at 9pm while the concert was on, he said, adding that the garda hadn’t understood that traffic was only to be stopped after 10pm when the concert was coming to an end.
“She went to the next entrance and it was sorted out but it is all part of the myriad of small, annoying things that happened,” he said.
Personally, he said, with work being done on his house, he “got out of town” during the concerts.