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Meet The Branches: Sunderland’s Dublin Supporters Branch - Flying the flag on the Emerald Isle!

We caught up with Michael Dunne - an Irishman who heads up the Dublin Sunderland Supporters branch - to find out more about the new group and to hear all about what it’s been like following the Lads from afar for all these years.

Dublin Mackems

RR: You’re a fairly new branch - how did the branch form and come to life?

MD: Very new. I have been going to matches for years now, on my own, dragging friends or with my father and have always thought it would be great to have a group of Irish fans who could go to games together.

I recently looked up SAFC.com and contacted Chris, the SAFC SLO, about whether the supporters group here in Dublin was still going.

He said it was not and so I am taking it upon myself to get this up and running. The response has been great so far. Hopefully over the next few weeks, we can get a branch meeting set up and we will take it from there.

RR: How many members do you have?

MD: As I said, we are brand new. Lots of lads have contacted to express interest so it is looking good. It would be great to get as many members involved, not just from Dublin but from around Ireland.

Although it is called ‘Dublin Black Cats’, all Irish members are involved.

RR: How regularly do you get to games?

MD: I went to my first game aged 8 in February 2002 (Lost one nil to the mags) and had season tickets from 2009-2014 which meant I was going over 10/11 times each season which I loved.

It was a massive part of my life going over as a young kid and I thank my father for giving me those opportunities because now supporting the club is so important to me. Some of those games were some of my best moments growing up such as Richardson’s free kick, Zenden’s bicycle kick and some of those great escape matches under Big Sam and Poyet.

This year, I have got to three games, two of them being away (Walsall and Coventry) and one at home (Barnsley). I hope to get to maybe three or four before the end of the season and I have my flights booked for London for Checkatrade final!

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

RR: Do you have any funny stories from over the years?

MD: We have had some disasters with regards to Sky and changing TV games! There was one year where I think we were caught out three or four times which was a pain, but it still didn’t stop us from coming over. Another disaster was the Reading game at home under Martin O’Neill where we had made our way over and we were going for a pre-match pint in the Roker Hotel only to find out the game had been postponed!

RR: It’s never been more exciting to be a Sunderland supporter. With the club becoming far more inclusive, how important is it to you to feel a part of what is going on?

MD: It’s essential to build that club-fan relationship. The new owners are a breath of fresh air and they have completely changed the club around. Before this year, the last two years were the most depressing years supporting the club. There was such an obvious detachment between the club and fans. Ellis Short ran this club into the ground without a care for what he was doing, it was heartbreaking as a fan to watch the club slump.

However, as I said it’s the complete opposite now.

There seems to be a connection now between fans, players and club. It’s great seeing the players like Luke O’ Nien and Max Power amongst others communicate so freely with the fans. It’s also great to see how much they enjoy playing for the club. Even through Twitter and the podcasts you guys are doing, you just feel that the club are making you feel apart of everything. The club is back where it belongs, with the fans.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

RR: What are your hopes for your branch in the future?

MD: My main hope is to provide a social outlet for all fans in Ireland to use. I would like to see this branch used for people to meet up, watch and go to games together.

We have more fans over here than some people may believe and it is important that we have sustainable supporters branch for the fans. I hope to organise a branch meeting soon with everyone who is interested just so we can get to know each other. I also hope to organise the first trip to a game with the Dublin Black Cats in April where I have ear marked the game against Portsmouth as a potential weekend away for the branch.

In addition to this, the ambitious part of me would like to emulate some of the work that you guys do by interviewing past Irish players through talk ins (Elliott, Quinny, Kilbane, Breen or any of you guys get in touch!) and take it from there.

Primarily however, a branch where men, women and children can all meet up together weekly/monthly with fellow fans is what I aim to do. I’m excited!

RR: How can fans in your area get involved with your branch?

MD: Yeah, so we are on twitter under the name ‘Black Cats Dublin’. I will set up a Facebook page too. You can also contact me at Michaeldunne605@gmail.com if you want any more information. I am currently getting through the E-mails at the moment and I promise I will get in reply! I have been pleased with the response so far.

I think we are on to something good which is great!

Thanks to all the other branches and fans who helped get the word out last week also! And a special thanks to you guys for doing the interview. Maybe we can organise a few pints at a game soon!