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Please, make it anyone but Kerry for Sam this year. They don’t need another All-Ireland – Lynette Fay

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It felt a little restless, where in previous years there was always an assured calm on the sideline. To my right and behind me, the Galway senior men’s management and support team were animated, running up and down, shouting instructions, waving, pointing.

To my left, something felt out of kilter. So accustomed are the Dubs to playing big matches in Croke Park, they cruise in to the stadium and just click into action. Then I heard it verbalised – “Dessie’s rattled,” someone said. “They have the Dubs on the ropes,” said another.

A very tense 10 minutes later, I was on my feet screaming “Up Galway”. Pádraic Joyce’s men had stormed into an All-Ireland semi-final and I was cheering for them like I was a native of the county. Spending four years at university in Galway will do that to you – all aboard the bandwagon.



For the past few years, as Stadium MC, I have been part of the Croke Park buzz on some of the biggest days in the Irish sporting calendar.

I had to pinch myself the first time I walked through the players’ tunnel, up on to the blessed sod. My job is to welcome everyone to the stadium that day, and then at half-time, I speak to members of the charity partners of the GAA, and hear about the important work they are doing in the community.

On my last day out, I spoke to representatives from the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland which, this year, has been working on a project called Sporting Memories. The idea is to engage dementia patients with the early memories of engagement in sports because, reminiscence is particularly important for people living with dementia. Remembering can instil competence and confidence to empower and connect. It can also tackle isolation, depression and loneliness.

At half-time in the Dublin v Galway match, former Dublin player and multi-All-Ireland winner Michael Darragh MacAuley told me how the services of the Mater Foundation helped his family, but he wished he never had to experience how good they were.

Walking out on to the grass and addressing a crowd of between 50,000 and 80,000 people is electric. It is as close as I will ever get to running out to represent my county at this stage. It can be difficult to hear anything given the noise of the crowd, particularly if the Dubs are on Hill 16, but what an atmosphere, what a machine to be part of

I was struck by MacAuley’s humility and generosity of spirit. Given the huge rivalry between Dublin and Tyrone over the last few years, I wanted to dislike him, but just couldn’t. I told him as much, and he laughed and told me that he hears that all the time. I did ask him if he was going to sign up for the charity abseil in Croke Park on Friday September 13 – he said he would, so we will see about that.

There’s a wee room at the bottom of the tunnel where I meet the day’s interviewees. This happens just before half-time. In those few minutes, county allegiances are worked out, opinions exchanged and memories of favourite Croke Park moments are shared. We make our way to the field as the players are coming off for half-time. Trying to avoid making eye contact with the players in that space is difficult. They are pumped, focused, intense, frustrated. All the emotions.

Walking out on to the grass and addressing a crowd of between 50,000 and 80,000 people is electric. It is as close as I will ever get to running out to represent my county at this stage. It can be difficult to hear anything given the noise of the crowd, particularly if the Dubs are on Hill 16, but what an atmosphere, what a machine to be part of.

The Galway and Armagh teams and fans left the stadium that Saturday thinking that they have a chance of winning this year’s All-Ireland football championship. And they do – with the reigning champions gone, it’s anyone’s guess who will win this year.

The same goes for the hurling, which served up two cracking semi-finals last week. This weekend’s men’s football semi-finals have a lot to live up to.

I will be back in headquarters, on the sideline for Sunday’s semi-final between Galway and Donegal. I can’t wait.

Saturday’s game will be watched at home. It is set to be the biggest test for Armagh in many years, it will also be a trying day for this writer as the Tyrone/Armagh rivalry in my family will be put through its paces.

Any county but Kerry for Sam. They don’t need to win it again.

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