Sunday 24 September 2017

Dubs and Royals nail their colours to the mast before Leinster showdown

Meath supporters from St Brigid's Villas in Navan don their county colours ahead of the Leinster final tomorrow
Meath supporters from St Brigid's Villas in Navan don their county colours ahead of the Leinster final tomorrow
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

WHEN it comes to local rivalries, it doesn't get bigger than Dublin versus Meath. With tension building ahead of tomorrow's Leinster football final, fans of both persuasions are firmly pinning their colours to the mast.

It is 11 years since the two old superpowers contested a Leinster final. And thanks to the influx of Dubs into the Royal County during the Celtic Tiger era, the traditional rivalry has taken on a new dimension.

In Dunboyne, Johnstown and even Navan, there is nothing unusual about finding the green and gold of Meath hanging alongside the neighbours' blue.

The Navan home of Dublin exiles John and Joyce Carroll and their children Naomi (19) and Dean (17) was all aflutter with blue flags yesterday.

The family have been in Meath for nine years and John explained that the rivalry was all good-humoured and just "a bit of banter."

He continued: "They're great people here. Great neighbours -- we couldn't ask for better."

But he still thinks the Dubs will win tomorrow.

Joyce said her only quibble with Meath was that she had to get bunting sent by her mother-in-law because the local shops weren't selling the Dublin colours.

In nearby Johnstown, more exiled Dubs -- Ciara O'Grady McLoughlin and children Yannis (6) and Saoirse (2) were getting into the swing of things.

"We had a few sour faces after we drove around honking the horn last year when the Dubs won," said Ciara, "but mostly it's good banter. There are so many Dubs around here that it's called Little Dublin anyway."

Banter

A huge banner stretching across Navan's main street wished good luck to the team, while posters in pubs advertised "The Big One".

At a sports shop, a shipment of green and gold jerseys in baby sizes had just landed and owner Jacksie Kearney -- chairman of the Meath supporters' club -- was doing a roaring trade.

Two ex-pats now living in Edmonton in Canada were in to snap up a royal county hooded sweatshirt and white polo shirt.

"That's the nearest thing to a Dublin jersey in this shop," laughed Jacksie, pointing to the blues of local club Simonstown Gaels.

Green and gold flags and bunting fluttered at St Brigid's Villas outside the town.

"I had the flags up the minute we beat Kildare," declared die-hard Meath fan Phyllis Kearney, whose son Ian was on the Meath panel in the 1990s. Her son-in-law Martin O'Connell made the millennium line-up.

Phyllis is taking a group of 15 family members to Croke Park tomorrow.

"We'll have a picnic of tea and sandwiches before the match -- we always do," said the grandmother of 10.

Neighbour Peadar Smith said: "Meath will win by a point or two" although he admitted that he was in "two minds" about attending the match because it clashes with his daughter's 10th birthday party.

Niall Meehan said Dublin's status as All-Ireland champions would not make any difference. "We were champions too," he mused.

For all the latest news and analysis on the weekend's GAA action, see Sport

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