De Paor warns his neighbours to seize opportunity
Published 21/09/2016 | 02:30
Slowly, the memories start rolling into Seán óg De Paor's mind.
He was there for the last All-Ireland football final that ended in a draw, front and centre as his Galway team and Kerry couldn't be separated back in 2000. And he knows what the Mayo and Dublin sides will face in the next week and a half.
The stand-out memory from the drawn game isn't one of relief or frustration. Galway had come from behind to snatch a draw but might have won the thing there and then but for a few missed late opportunities.
"I had a chance myself late on," De Paor remembers. "Dropped it short."
Instead, he remembers the stilted feeling around CityWest that evening when they went back for their post-game function. The place felt strange, held in suspended animation. There wasn't the elation of victory or the despair of defeat. No cup to cherish or mourn. Nothing to hang your hat on.
"You're expecting to be down or delighted but you were neither. So no one really knew how to behave. It was a funny feeling, surreal I suppose. We had a few beers that night alright but no one went overboard. Everyone had one eye on the replay.
"The next day we had to go to a lunch and had to mingle with the Kerry players. That was strange too. It was all very mature and there was some nods and hellos. You'd have known some of them from the compromise rules. But it was just a funny place to be in."
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There was no such strangeness for Dublin and Mayo last weekend. Mayo went ahead with their banquet but headed west early on Monday morning. Dublin's players returned to their hotel for a post-match meal. There were rooms available to them but most opted to go home and sleep in their own beds. The lunch on the Monday after the All-Ireland has since been done away with.
These few days will be different to anything else both sets of players have experienced, De Paor reckons. The Cheathrú Rua clubman remembers it as an All-Ireland final alright but without the bells and whistles.
"It's just different. And it's much more about the match itself," he said of the replay. "I suppose you had people coming home from all over the world for the first game and that was gone for the replay. Tickets, I remember them being less of an issue too.
"For the first match there's all the razzmatazz you'd expect from an All-Ireland final. We tried to stay away from that but you'd be very aware of it at the same time. The second day was all about the game and less about the occasion."
As is the case this year, there were 13 days between the two matches back in 2000.
De Paor remembers one running session but everything else revolved around team meetings and talking strategy with manager John O'Mahony.
"The week after the final we had one good blow-out in terms of training and running. But we had a few meetings and you're trying to make a few tweaks. The team changed a little. And we knew that Maurice Fitzgerald would come on at some stage.
"I think Páidí (ó Sé, Kerry manager) had been using him as a sub and when he'd come on Kerry would get a lift from it so we knew we had to be ready for that. The week leading up to the game things tapered off a lot and was a lot more about tactics.
"After the first game we felt like we were still in with a chance. We might have won it late on but I can't say it really affected us. Maybe after the second game you looked back at the first game with regret and thought we missed our chance the first day but going into the replay I can't say we were affected before that."
Saturday week can't come quick enough for those players though De Paor is unsure as to who holds the aces.
"It's human nature that when someone tells you you can't do something that you go out and try your best to prove them wrong and I think you saw that with Mayo the last day. They did play well and perform but Dublin probably feel they sold themselves short and that there's more in them so you'd imagine it might be easier for them to motivate themselves.
"But then Mayo have dealt with all the adversity that has come their way. So it's very hard to know who is in the best position going into the replay."
Galway would lose the replay in 2000. Fitzgerald was sprung from the bench and helped steer Kerry home. Galway would bounce back to win the following year's All-Ireland but the 2000 defeat still rankles with De Paor.
"Beating Kerry in a final would have been special because of who they are with the history and all that.
"Losing that replay was my biggest disappointment in football."