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Monday 22 October 2018

'Blind groundhopper' visits Wexford

Frank Flanagan (left) with John Stancombe at the Wexford FC game
Frank Flanagan (left) with John Stancombe at the Wexford FC game

Pádraig Byrne

While UCD were the visitors in town for a recent showdown with Wexford FC, there was one special visitor in the crowd who had made a considerably longer journey to be there on the night. Known as 'the blind groundhopper' John Stancombe from East Anglia lost his site in 2006. However, he hasn't let that get in the way of his love of football and experiencing different grounds and has travelled to well over 1,600 club grounds around the UK and Ireland, league and non-league, publishing a book of his findings at the end of each season.

An inspiring character, John makes all the arrangements for his trips himself and Terry Cooke was delighted to welcome him to Ferrycarrig Park on behalf of everyone at Wexford FC.

'He's incredibly independent,' Terry said. 'His knowledge of football is unbelievable. He was able to talk to the lads about League of Ireland clubs that don't even exist anymore and everything. His memory for football is absolutely incredible and he's a really inspiring character. He's a real triumph of the human spirit.'

Having made it to the ground well before kick off, John took his seat in the press box where he was joined by Frank Flanagan who was tasked with keeping him up to speed with what was going on out on the pitch. Sadly, he wasn't to experience celebrations on behalf of the home team as they suffered a 0-3 loss to the visitors UCD.

'I think he enjoyed the experience and I greatly enjoyed spending time with him,' Terry said.

'After the game we went into town and had a few pints and a few songs in Mary's bar and the next day he was heading down to Cobh to see them play. He had his whole route planned out and everything.'

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