With Kerry starving after an eight-year famine and Galway parched after a 21-year drought, their All-Ireland duel at Croke Park promises a mid-summer banquet with an epic appetite that will captivate the whole country.
You used to sing about London’s streets being paved with gold, but in the real kingdom the streets are paved with All-Ireland medals.
There aren’t too many places in Ireland where you’d come across someone holding seven of these – but when the legendary Sean Walsh strolled past the Grand Hotel in Tralee yesterday lunchtime. He was an important part of Mick O’Dwyer’s all-encompassing golden team of the 1970s and 1980s.
Soft-spoken and a gentleman, he’s known for keeping well away from the circuit each year – but he made a rare exception to say he hopes this young team will return after a long run, Dublin’s was dominated, can celebrate success.
Everyone’s cheering for Kerry – it’s been a long time since I’ve seen that hype
This is psychologically “a very important match” for Kerry. “These guys could use a break,” he said. “I hope it works out for them that day. I would like to see them win.”
“We were lucky,” he said of the achievements of his own generation with spectacular humility, adding: “Hopefully these guys can do it too. I would like to give them a taste.”
At Vincent Murphy’s sports shop in Castleisland, Gerdie Murphy pointed to a glass case displaying a very special purchase he made after winning the All Ireland in 2004.
It’s the boots of another Kerry great, Dara Ó Cinnéide – who has three All-Ireland medals – who is due to be honored at half-time tomorrow as part of the 1997 team that defeated Mayo, bridging an 11-year gap.
Dara bought him the shoes before the game – and then gave them back to him as a souvenir.
“If I die, these will go down with me,” Gerdie explained. “That’s nine and a half – I’ll squeeze into it. And when I get to the Pearly Gates, St. Peter will ask me why I’m wearing them and I’ll tell him, ‘These boots have scored eight points in All-Ireland’ and that will take me to heaven and to them Point bring the Lord’s right hand afterwards.”
He pauses to serve some customers. Mag Teahan McGrath, her husband Rory McGrath and their children Ellie, 17, Luke, 14, and Adam, 9, have come to pay for an All-Ireland ticket. Originally from Castleisland but now based in Dublin, the older children support Kerry while Adam supports Dublin. All enjoy the unique flavor of the All-Ireland setup.
“Everyone is cheering for Kerry and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen this level of hype and excitement with colors flying,” said Mag.
Dublin had hampered the team for many years – but now the monkey has fallen away from us, said Rory. They’re taking Ellie to All-Ireland, but bringing all five would cost the family €450, he revealed.
“We are fortunate to live in Dublin but when you add the cost of petrol, a hotel and food it would be a lot.”
The couple know another family of five who are staying in Dublin for two nights, spending a total of around €1,500 on the tickets.
“That’s the price of a vacation,” said Mag.
This Kerry jersey can’t be robbed…the other one can go
From a sporting goods store perspective, the early All Ireland finals are definitely up and running, said Gerdie Murphy, who sold out kits for most sizes.
At Tralee, Brian Hennebery agreed. He too could have sold more shirts if he had been given more time.
Outside his Ashe Street shop he had dressed two dummies – one with the 1960s Kerry shirt worn by Seanie Burrows and the other with the Galway number 12 worn by Ja Fallon, an important one Part of the panel from 1995 to 2005.
“This one can’t be robbed,” Brian said, carefully taking Kerry’s. “The other one can go,” he joked.
There was an admiring stream of pedestrians for selfies with two Kerry fans. Sharon Cardwell, from Blackrock, Tralee, had dressed up her beloved 13-year-old Bichon Fluffy and his ‘bestie’ Lucy – another Bichon who was just eight months old and belonged to Sharon’s neighbour.
“We are happy to promote happiness,” beamed Sharon.
She was disappointed not to be able to go to the game. “I work from three to nine,” she said. “But they’ll watch,” she said.
Meanwhile, Diane Jeffers, who owns a clothes shop on Ashe Street, revealed she had given away her own tickets.
“I’m dating a guy from Galway,” she said, adding that he was going with his daughter and she would watch it on TV and be happy with it because “you see more that way”.
At the Grand Hotel, guests in Kerry hats sat outside at tables, soaking up the atmosphere of sheer anticipation.
There was great talk and speculation as to whether Kerry might make it. Nobody was stupid enough to write off Galway. The title ‘Underdogs’ is dangerous – and who better to know that than a county steeped in the folklore, myth and legend of all Ireland.
Hotel manager Laura Egan said the town was busy.
“People are very excited and we raised the flags,” she added.
Support for Kerry reached even as far as Abbeyfeale just across the border in Limerick, who by winning the hurling final could afford to be generous, and flags bearing the green and gold of the Kingdom were sold at a local shop.
Not to be overwhelmed by Kerry’s premature plans for the post-game party, Galway made a mark at one of the county’s most iconic landmarks ahead of tomorrow’s final.
You won’t win All-Irelands unless there is unity, determination and hunger there… and Galway has that
On Thursday, a team of marketers from Paddy Power sailed to Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands, and projected a stirring image onto the cliffs below the collapsed fortress of Dún Aonghusa with a cheeky message intended to stoke rivalry between the two camps.
The message read: “Galway: collapsing kingdoms since 1000 BC. Chr.”.
At 60 meters high, the ledge is the equivalent of 33 David Cliffords and looks directly out over the rugged Kerry coastline.
Galway started the year with a 20/1 chance of beating Sam Maguire and remains the underdog at 11/4, with Kerry just 1/4 missing to add to his 37 titles.
Supermac’s founder Pat McDonagh, who is the longest-serving GAA sponsor in sports history with a 32-year investment in Galway GAA, says this team is special.
“You won’t win All-Irelands if there isn’t unity and determination and hunger and desire there,” he says.
“And they have, I’ve always had faith in this team, there are very skillful players and there’s a high level of commitment across the board.
“If there isn’t a burning desire to win, it’s not going to happen. You have every chance and the odds don’t always matter on the day.
“The team that wins is the one that wants it the most. You can see that in this team.
“It’s been a great week for the county because everyone is getting caught up in all the excitement of the build up.
“Now we can only hope for the best on Sunday and let the best team win.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/when-i-die-these-boots-will-go-down-with-me-kingdom-confident-but-tribesmen-are-ready-for-the-battle-41861607.html “If I die, these boots will go down with me” – the kingdom is confident, but the tribesmen are ready for battle