The Covid-era Christmas All-Ireland final was weird – as so much of life in those lockdown times was – but so too is today’s late-July Sam Maguire decider. This year’s Championship has gone by at dizzying speed, with the shutters coming clanging down on the 2022 inter-county season once today’s final is over.
As it does, either Galway or Kerry will be crowned All-Ireland champions. From our perspective, having lost to both of them in this campaign, we can have no complaints. Regrets, for sure, but we had our chances against both of them and weren’t able to capitalise on these opportunities.
So instead we find ourselves looking on as two counties many of us would prefer not to win the All-Ireland battle it out for glory. There’s been a good discussion here on the blog all week about which of the two people would like to see win (or lose). Like much in life, it’s a personal choice.
I get the point made by those living in Galway or close to the border about what’s heading their way should the Tribesmen prevail. I can associate with that, having lived up here in Dublin right through the blue wave, when we lost five times to the Dubs at the business end of the Championship, three times in the final itself. That stung but, you know, you get over it.
It’s important to note in this respect the often stark difference between what one encounters in the real world and on social media. Sure, there are plenty of eejits in the former (and we have our own too) but GAA Twitter can often be a deranged and toxic place – more than most, where it comes to Mayo – and the worst of it should simply be avoided.
There’s a fair bit of angst among our supporters this week that the thing we’ve long dreaded – that they’d win the bloody thing before we would – may be about to come true. But, you know, it’s not as if we haven’t had our chances to make sure that didn’t happen, having contested eight finals since they were last in it. And we lost the bloody lost of them.
There’ll be Mayo supporters shouting for Kerry today and plenty more shouting for Galway. Plenty too doing no shouting at all.
For my own part, I hope Galway do it. As has also been pointed out on the blog this week, Connacht teams have only rarely won the All-Ireland – this has only happened a grand total of 14 times. Given the prominent place Gaelic football holds for all Connacht counties, that’s a damning statistic.
A win for Galway today would raise the province’s profile and it would also, for sure, make ourselves and the Rossies sharpen our focus still further for next year. Plus, whichever of us draws Galway in Connacht next year will get the chance to sock it the All-Ireland champions then.
Aside from all that, though, I think Galway’s story this year is a compelling one. Damien Comer a reborn wrecking ball, Paul Conroy still doing his stuff in the engine room in his fifteenth year as an inter-county player, unshowy but hugely talented lads like Seán Kelly, John Daly, Cillian McDaid and Matthew Tierney going about their stuff match after match. And the prospect of Shane Walsh catching fire on the biggest day of all.
Set against this, do we really need to see Kerry win another All-Ireland? Personally, I was done with them after the four-in-a-row and I’ve no desire to see them win what would be their first title in eight years.
If they do it – as they’re favoured to – then the concern for everyone looking in is that this could be the start of another dynasty. And, you know, it could.
If they lose it, though, it could set them back years. This would also mean opportunities for others to snatch titles over the next few years at a time when standards aren’t as high as when Dublin were in their prime.
As I said, it’s up to each of us to shout for whoever we want later on today. For me, though, it’s a no-brainer – it has to be Galway.
It breaks my heart that we never did it when we had all those chances – especially last year, the one that broke so many of us – but it’s the neighbours who have that opportunity today and I hope they do it. The very best of luck to them.