A 40th birthday surprise turned into a cash-sapping nightmare for one family when the plug was pulled on Garth Brooks’ five nights at Croke Park.
Mary Jo Bunting had bought the tickets for her husband Martin for his milestone birthday and booked flights for the former Lurgan pair to make the trip to Ireland from their home in England.
Mary Jo and Martin, who grew up in Kilmore Road and Taghnevan respectively, have been living in Durham for the past 14 with their three sons aged 11, three and 11 months.
She said: “It is my hubby Martin’s 40th this August and I wanted to do something nice for him.
“He couldn’t get tickets in 1997 and was devastated.
“He’s been a fan of Garth Brooks right from the very start.
“I couldn’t believe it when the dates for Croke Park were announced. We’re over in England so I asked my brother to try and get tickets. Ironically he’s called Garth.
“He queued for 22 hours in the rain and got four tickets.”
She added: “I kept it a surprise from Martin for as long as possible but I had to tell him when I started organising flights for the kids.
“We’ve no family over here so we need to bring them with us to get babysitters for them.
“When he found out he was overjoyed to say the least.
“You can then imagine the heartbreak when we found out he was only doing three shows and then all the shows were cancelled.”
Along with her brother Garth and his wife, Mary Jo and Martin had tickets for the Friday night show at Croke Park.
Mary Jo said: “I blame the promoter for selling tickets without a licence.
“I’m annoyed with Garth Brooks as well - he said he didn’t want to let down 160,000 fans but he’s happy to let down all 400,000.”
Mary Jo and Martin are childhood sweethearts from their days together at St Michael’s Grammar School.
Mary Jo said: “We’re going to come over anyway. It’ll be nice to come home to visit family but this was supposed to be a big 40th birthday celebration and it’s left a bad taste.”
She added: “I don’t think Garth Brooks will be back. Would you come back after this shambles if you were a big American star?
“I can understand the residents, which is why I blame the promoters for selling for five shows they hadn’t got a licence for.
“It’s a shame and embarrassment for the country.
“It’s bad enough if you’ve lost your tickets but for people who’ve spent money on hotels, time off work and flights, it’s an awful lot of money in these hard times.”