It’s one of the shortest days of the year, with a hesitant dawn only now starting to break up here in the capital shortly before 8.30. It’s nearly Christmas, it’s nearly All-Ireland football final day.
In a year of unprecedented upheaval of people all over the world, the lead-in to this year’s All-Ireland final – to say nothing of when it’s being played – has been different from all the others we’ve been in over the last few years. But, in its own way, it’s still been fun and it has certainly been unique.
As tomorrow will be too, of course, with the game played out without all the usual fanfare and, frankly, a lot of the nonsense that surrounds All-Ireland final day. The great cathedral of Gaelic games will be empty aside from the players, their backrooms teams and a few other essential people. An All-Ireland behind closed doors at Jones’ Road.
But, you know, that’s okay. I know I’ve certainly got into the rhythm of watching matches at home on TV and it feels like the right place to be for this one too. There is, I know, an eerily empty atmosphere at the games so, on that metric, I’m confident our living room will be well ahead – we can be rather shouty here when a match is in progress.
As I’m sure the rest of you can be too. I’d imagine there’ll be plenty of roaring at TV screens tomorrow evening, not just within the county but across the world as well.
As I noted in the piece I did for the All-Ireland supplement in the Mayo News this week, this decider provides those of us who’ve been lucky to go to finals as a matter of course to experience what watching one at home feels like. Of course, many Mayo fans based in Ireland often find themselves in the same boat too on final day – Croke Park only fits 82,500 punters after all – so we’re all getting their experience as well tomorrow evening.
It’s hard to know how the two teams will react to this unique atmosphere. Have our lads a better chance – not least given the major injection of youth this year – because the build-up has been so quiet? Is it possible that, despite all the wonderful support we’ve given the team over the last rollercoaster decade, they’re better off without us?
As ever, with the match now just up ahead, there are so many unanswerable questions to ponder on. But, as is invariably the case too, we’ll get our answers to them out on the pitch tomorrow evening.
So, just another day to get through first before, on the last Saturday shopping day before Christmas, it’s the day itself. Yes, that’s the kind of year it is.
We should have a team announcement at some point today and there’s also the final episode in our All-Ireland final podcast preview series ‘The Final Countdown’ to come later on too. Stay tuned for all that and do what you can to keep those jangling nerves at bay. Up Mayo.