Grassroots diary: Macra na Feirme makes history in Croke Park
"Right, lads and ladies, it's a great privilege to be back here managing a team in Croker but finishing with a win over a Kerryman would be the icing on the cake."
These were some words of encouragement from John O'Mahony - former Mayo, Leitrim and All-Ireland winning manager with Galway, - before his side McHale Shamrocks took on the Massey Kickhams, managed by Kerry GAA legend and broadcaster Pat Spillane, at the recent Macra na Feirme Croke Park Challenge Cup final.
Macra made history on the day by becoming only the second charitable organisation to be allowed use of the iconic grounds in the heart of Dublin city. Over 60 players representing Macra clubs from all over Ireland, lined out, each having raised at least €1,000 in funds for Macra's broad range of support services for young farmers and rural youth nationwide.
Pitch side, both bainisteoirí were eager to make the trip up the steps of the Hogan Stand to claim a national title one more time.
"Look lads, I know we've done absolutely no training for this but we're here to win," said Spillane, winner of eight All-Ireland's for the Kingdom, with a mischievous grin as he revved up his squad before throw-in.
Hundreds of Macra club members, family, friends and sponsors turned out to support the teams composed of some former inter-county stars, camogie players, strong club players and others with minimal GAA experience.
Aogán Ó Fearghaíl, GAA president and former All-Ireland winning debating champion with Maudabawn Macra in Co Cavan, was also on hand to regale players with stories from his club days.
"Macra played a huge part in my upbringing, all the young people were in it back then. We'd meet up after Mass and the debating team practiced in our parlour at home. It was a brilliant social outlet but we wanted to win too," he said.