Joe Donnellan reading Match Day

My name is Joe Donnellan. I’m writing this piece about match day All Ireland this year. It’s written from a neutral point of view even though I’m from Mayo. This is the piece:

Match Day: All Ireland Football Final, 2013

by Joe Donnellan

In a field, set amongst the red terraced houses history will be made today. Set in the heart of the old city of Dublin, men would battle it out in a field of the Croke Park Stadium- the scene of finals for over 100 years. All down them years, people came from different counties to see their heroes on that great day. Today it was the turn of the footballers of Mayo and Dublin to play in front of over 80,000 people in the white heat of the final. All year, many GAA people have been waiting for this clash. On this warm September day, from early morning the supporters are gathering. The blue of Dublin mixes in with the red and green of Mayo. As the time comes closer, crowds move up to the stadium along the familiar arteries of Clonliffe Road and the North Circular Road.

The atmosphere is building up; the Mayo minors are playing the curtain-raiser. As they win and hold the Markham cup aloft the stadium fills with the great new sound of Mayo - The Green and Red of Mayo. The build-up is full of tension and excitement. Dublin supporters dream of recapturing the Sam Maguire - won by Stephen Cluxton’s late point in 2011.

The shadows of the now-deceased Kevin Heffernan hangs over the stadium. The Hill is awash with blue and with some red and green from new ticket allocations. The Mayo supporters dream of breaking the great barrier since the last great victory in 1951. Three heroes from that time:  Carney, Prendergast, and Quinn look down from the Hogan Stand. They are afraid to hope that the best team since that time can do it.  As the referee Joe McQuillan is about to throw the ball in, flags fly in hope from apartment blocks in Dominick Street in Dublin, to houses beside lonely Derrynabrock Bog in South Mayo.

To the game itself; battle commences. A first half, filled with tension, Mayo settle down better. The team are playing well, but the forwards are showing their defects. Mayo lead for a while, then Dublin’s hero Bernard Brogan puts the ball in the back of the net. His Mayo grandfather walked the beat as a Garda in the streets outside, in the times of Lugs Brannigan.

The game moves on in the second half.  Dublin come more into the game. Then Andy Moran, the great-hearted hero of Mayo, puts the ball in the Dublin net.  Mayo’s impossible dream, could still happen.  Later Bernard Brogan strikes again. Dublin hold out in the finish as the game ticks down to the finish.  As Cillian O’Connor takes a close in free Mayo are two points down. Cillian puts the ball over the bar.  Stephen Cluxton kicks the ball out. The referee blows the final whistle. It is over. Joy and jubilation for Dublin; devastation for the Mayo fans.  The Mayo fans moved out of the stadium. The presentation of the Sam Maguire; Stephen Cluxton lifts the great cup into the sky at eleven minutes past five, into the autumn sky.

Scenes of jubilation as the Dublin fans came out after, onto the surrounding streets. Mayo fans make their way home.  An evening filled with loss and emptiness.

Outside in the pubs in the Croke Park area, the joy is unbounded. One point separated the teams. The gap in emotions is a chasm. Dublin are back on top again, with a style of football began in the mid ‘50s and moulded by Kevin Heffernan in the ‘70s. An open attacking style put forward by Jim Gavin’s management team. Long nights into the winter in Mayo asking, “What went wrong?” The best team since 1951 seemed to lack the top forwards up front. The 2013 Championship is decided.


Recorded at Kevin Street Library Creative Writing Group, facilitated by Orla Ní hAonigh.
Sound effects by David McKeever

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