Closest Ever NISC Meeting To The South Pole

I had never heard of the Carlyle Hotel, or even the district of Moonah, some kind of northern suburb of Hobart, I believe. It was time to hold the closest ever meeting to the South Pole for any Northern Ireland Supporters Club in history. And thanks to Hobart based, Andy Power, the venue was sorted, and the honour fell to the unknown Carlyle Hotel. Remember, “hotel” in Australia is synonymous with “pub”, there aint no beds there.

I met Andy Power through the Our Wee Country forum, when I wanted to see what the craic was for other NI fans in Tasmania. Chaz from East Belfast and I had already done a wee launch and toast on St. Patrick’s Night at the Molly Malone’s pub in Devonport. It was time to hold the second meeting of the club, and I would drive to Hobart to meet Andy for that.

Having got in touch with Andy in February 2010, it took until June until the meeting actually materialised. Perfect timing, I thought as it coincided with the FIFA World Cup. I had been too busy working for the previous 4 and a half months, and Andy had also went back to Northern Ireland with his fiancee and newborn baby Cooper. So finally the date was set for Saturday 12th June.

I had the weekend off work and so decided to spend the weekend in Hobart, returning to Devonport on the Sunday night ready for work early doors Monday. I planned a day out for myself on the Saturday, to Port Arthur. The special island with a convict past, on the Tasman Peninsula east of Hobart. I had passed by Port Arthur before with Paul, Neil and Daniel on my first week in Tasmania. But this time I went in and done the guided tour.

While walking through Port Arthur I was text rallying with Andy about the forthcoming night’s plan. It was basically pub, football, beer, pizza and Northern Ireland flegs. In Port Arthur I got the text which confirmed the meeting would be in the Carlyle Hotel in Moonah. First I had to drive from Port Arthur back to northern Hobart.

“I live in Moonah, Not Brazil, but Northern Hobart” came a text message from Andy. And so it was set. It would be 4 pm by the time I finally made it to Moonah. It was easy to find, though I did call Andy to confirm. I came off the main highway to Launceston, at the Glenorchy turn off. From there I arrived in Moonah, a wee suburb with its own busy high street and range of typical Australian town amenites (pubs, banks, chippys, RSL, cinema, McDonalds etc.) 

I turned right at Subway on Main Road and within a few hundred metres I spotted first the blue and yellow sign for “Carlyle Hotel”, and secondly Andy standing by the side of the road. I waved my Northern Ireland fleg as I pulled into the car park. Then it was a 3 minute drive with Andy up to his flat so I could park my car there, dander down and have a few drinks.

I parked my car, and met Tanya and Cooper, Andy’s other half and new baby boy. I brought them some potatoes and cauliflower from the farms I’d been working on. It was at least something to say thanks for letting me stay and have such a great time there. Andy and I both cranked open a tin of Cascade (Hobart’s finest beer) and dandered down to the pub.

The Carlyle Hotel is Andy’s local, it’s very close by, though it’s hardly busy and he hardly went in there anyway. It was just the perfect place to raise a wee toast to the TasmaNIan WilderNISC, have a wee yarn and a catch up and get the flegs out for photos. To prove we held the closest meeting to the South Pole, there.

The fact there was only two of us at the NISC meeting makes it even more sublime. TasmaNIa is referred to as “the last wilderness”, so it was always going to be a task to get more people there anyhow. We got our flegs up and spoke to a few of the Aussie locals. 

One of them appears in the photo, left. Though as Andy said “one of them there boys probably thought it was an England fleg.” It didn’t matter. We had held the closest ever NISC meeting to the South Pole. Which is something to write home about.

After that Tanya picked us up complete with a hat-trick of pizzas. Then we called in till the Carryout Drive Through Beer shop, where Andy splashed out on a crate of Sol, 24 to be exact. It was then back to the comfy sofa at their flat for beer, pizza and football.

I got to hold wee Cooper, such a cute wee kid. Andy had decked him out with a “my first Ulster T-Shirt,” and Andy and I had our Northern Ireland taps on, Andy having bought a Sydney NISC t-shirt, which looked pretty good and one I’ll have to buy if I get a chance.

We sat down to eat the pizzas and drink the beers, and realised the South Korea v Greece match wasn’t on until 9.30 pm. The earliest World Cup match here in Australia on any evening is 9.30 pm. The rest of the matches are played at either 12 midnight or 4.30 am. Because of this we had time to spare.

And Andy suggested we watch our own Northern Ireland World Cup Match! A DVD Andy had of the Wales match from 2004 – a World Cup Qualifier in Cardiff where Northern Ireland went 2-0 up and there were 3 players sent half in an explosive first half. By coincidence Andy and I had both been at the match – which Northern Ireland should have won, and David Healy was wrongly sent off for his trademark goal celebration.

We agreed we would both rather watch a World Cup Qualifier repeat from 2004 than the actual World Cup! But still decided to turn South Korea on at 9.30 pm. I predicted South Korea to tank Greece 3-0. I must mention the pizzas were excellent, especially the prawn and pineapple one. Soon World Cup Fever was underway and we watched the Koreans win 2-0, comfortably and with a bit of class.

I watched most of the second match, but due to the time difference fell asleep at parts of it, and also saw some of the England match. The second match saw Argentina beat Nigeria 1-0, with manager Diego Maradona adding personality, and a beard to the World Cup in South Africa. Then woke up to catch some of the England v USA match. Despite England going 1-0 up with a Steven Gerrard goal, they had a struggle and conceded a ridiculous goal in the second half, with goalkeeper Robert Green.

England v USA finished 1-1, both teams ended up progressing from their group. As I write this, the World Cup is still on and I tip Uruguay for the trophy. The TasmaNIan WilderNISC is certainly an endangered species. Neither Chaz or I currently live in Tasmania any more. There’ll be a reunion of some description, at some point, and maybe another TasmaNIan WilderNISC meeting. We’ll keep the book open, but nobody’s reading it…

Who Attended – Jonny Blair, Andy Power (Plus Tanya Clark and Cooper William Power)

Pub – Carlyle Hotel, Moonah, North Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Beer of Choice – Cascade Draught

World Cup Matches We Watched – Wales 2-2 Northern Ireland (DVD from 2004) South Korea 2-0 Greece, Argentina 1-0 Nigeria, England 1-1 USA (all live)

Distance From the South Pole – 5,023 kilmoetres

Distance From Antarctica – 3,300 kilometres

Random Fact – An athlete from Northern Ireland became the first ever blind person to reach the South Pole. Mark Pollock:

Second Nearest NISC Meeting to the South Pole – TasmaNIan WilderNISC in Molly Malone’s Pub, Devonport, Tasmania (17th March 2010)


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