Photo: Tomas Groden via Twitter (@tomasgroden)
Saturday – the eve of this year’s All-Ireland final, where, as we head towards the end of September with the evenings now closing in rapidly, the leaves falling in ever greater numbers and nighttime temperatures already exhibiting the first hints of winter, we find ourselves still absorbed by championship football and our lads’ central position in this drama. A drama that – barring another draw – will reach its apotheosis at around 5pm tomorrow afternoon.
With the week-long build-up and the mounting volume of stuff that has already been written about tomorrow’s final, there’s little point in scrabbling round the usual haunts to see what the latest delivery looks like this morning. Apart from anything else, it’s a Saturday morning up here in the capital and – green and red flags and bunting on the house notwithstanding – there’s underage training and matches and all that Saturday stuff to sort out shortly. As all the while, thoughts about tomorrow’s contest swirl around with increasing intensity in the background.
My house here is located little more than a mile away from Croke Park and is also but a short stroll down the road from the nerve-centre of the county’s operations at the Regency so, once all the Saturday stuff is sorted, I’m more or less in situ for what comes later this weekend. Many of you, though, still have your travelling to do and, however you do it, take it handy. There’s still over thirty hours to go until throw-in after all.
The one thought I wanted to capture today – which is really one for tomorrow but I fear I won’t be in any state to say anything coherent twenty-four hours from now – is one about the lads who will carry our hopes tomorrow. It goes without saying, though maybe we could say it more often, that we’re enormously proud of them, of what they’ve done and of the lift they’ve given the county in these interminably uncertain times. And that we should remain immensely proud of them regardless of how tomorrow goes too for the simple fact that they’re OUR lads: they grew up where we grew up, went to the same schools, strode down the same streets, tramped the same fields. When they go into battle on our behalf tomorrow, we have to be right there with them and be there too whatever the outcome is after seventy minutes of action.
The word I’m hearing about the squad is that they’re relaxed, in fine fettle and ready for it. Their focus is obviously narrowing remorselessly down to that channel of time that lies between 3.30pm and 5pm tomorrow and, I dunno about the rest of you, but it’s getting to be the same with me. I’m not really interested in entertaining any thoughts about what might possibly happen after the final whistle is blown tomorrow, still less am I bothered about everything – and, in particular, all those other finals – that has gone before. On both sides of this short, hyper-intense period of time, it’s all just incoherent noise. All that matters now is what happens in Game 5 itself.
Not long to wait now, just the eternity of another day.