The thrills and exitement of Croke Park
I’LL be back in Croke Park on Saturday. Is it possible to relive the thrills and excitement of the drawn game? We’ll see.
Really, I had no right whatsoever to be at the drawn game. I’d be considered a fair-weather spectator, even if that. Late on the previous Saturday evening a friend phoned to tell me he had a ticket for me. He’s an expert on the game and would hold his own with any sports’ media analyst. All during the game he had his programme out, copiously taking notes on everything that was happening, every score, every free, noting every substitute who came on.
I can’t believe the amount of fun, thrills and excitement I got from the day. From the moment I left home until I turned the hall door key on my return I was consumed in the action. The crowds streaming towards the stadium, the flags, the streamers, the hats, the jokes, two mounted gardaí keeping an eye on all of us. Everyone in the best of humour. And the game had not even begun. Among the mass of people, I hear a ‘fella’ shout ‘A Mhíchíl’. In that swarming crowd I bump into someone from West Kerry. He was upbeat about a strong performance from the Kerry team and assured me they were going to show the Dubs a thing or two.
It’s something of a mystery to me how 82,000 people can get to their places with such ease.
We’re there about 30 minutes before kick-off. I’m thinking of the days fadó fadó when the Archbishop of Cashel and Emily would throw in the ball. How many in Croke Park would even be aware that that was the custom? As patron of the GAA it was his role to start the game. Actually the archbishop is still patron of the Association and he presented the Cork team, the winners of the minor game, with the cup.
I find myself thinking of the ban. That infamous GAA rule that prohibited players from playing or attending ‘foreign games’. Imagine, had they not got rid of that, where would the GAA be today?
Rule 27 was abolished at the GAA annual congress held in Belfast on Easter Sunday 1971. It was the first annual congress to be held
in Northern Ireland.
The first episode of this year’s All-Ireland final was one of the best entertainments I have had in a long time. I watched every kick of the ball.
There are so many angles, twists and turns to it all. The father of one of the players on the Kerry team was my principal when I was teaching German and English in his school. I can still recall how he would be talking about going to games back in West Kerry to watch his young son play. And now here he is in Croke Park playing for Kerry.
My mind wanders again and I’m thinking of the late Anton O’Toole, who died in May. He was known as the Gentle Giant when he was playing for Dublin in the ’70s. I had the great good fortune to get to know Anton before he died. What a gentleman.
On RTE’s ‘Up for The Match’ the previous evening the legendary Dublin goalkeeper Paddy Cullen, spoke so warmly about his teammate Anton. I know exactly what he was saying. It’s remarkable how goodness can spread its wings. And people always recognise it.
All set now for Saturday. I have my ticket and rearing to go.