Meet Emily McDonnell - the first-ever woman to lead the Artane Band onto the All-Ireland football final pitch
The Artane Band typifies the sound of the summer says Drum Major Emily McDonnell, who will be the first woman in the marching troupe’s 130 year history to lead it on to the pitch at this Sunday’s All-Ireland Football final.
Ava Johnston (16) made history early this month when she took to the field at Croke Park to lead the band during its half-time performance at the Senior Hurling final.
Now Emily looks set to join her by making history at the football final.
“Dublin are playing in an All-Ireland, so it’s an extra special day for me,” she told the Herald.
“I’m not sure who’ll be more nervous on the day, me or the players. There’s a lot of pressure on me but you can’t think about stuff like that when you’re on the pitch.
“The rest of the band is counting on you, so you’ve got to stay focused.”
The Artane band is synonymous with the GAA and traditionally plays before marquee matches at Croke Park, including All-Ireland finals.
This year the group, famous for its blue and scarlet, is celebrating this 130 year partnership that has come to define big match days.
The band's general manager, Keith Kelly (34),who has been an active member since he joined at the age of seven, said the band, through its affiliation with the GAA, had woven its way into Irish society.
“This kids are something else, outside of the Garda and Army parade bands, I’d say there’s no band more professional or dedicated.
“Every year they show why they deserve to be at Croke Park.”
Even after performing at 20 All-Ireland finals little can dull the buzz of seeing the sight of sky blue dominating Croke Park, said band member Gavin Hodson (17).
“It’s a little hard to stay neutral when the Dubs are out there on the field. You try your best but you can’t help but cheer them on.
“You’ve got to give up most of your summer for the band as we rehearsal four or five nights a week but it has been worth every second.”
Another band member Aisling Williams (17) said she’d spent her childhood walking around her backyard backing two bin lids together listening to the marching troupe practice.
“My older sister was involved and we leaved so closed I could hear them play every night. It has been such a fantastic experience.
“I’ve been to every county in Ireland and I’ve grown up sitting on the side lines watching Dublin win the Sam Maguire. I’m not even into sports that much but I can’t help getting swept up in the magic of an All-Ireland.”
She added: “It's always a bit more special when Dublin's playing too. The cheers are louder and fans more enthusiastic."