Thursday 19 October 2017

I'm your fan, by Enda Kenny, Mayo

'In the end the captain from the best team will lift Sam... We hope, we pray'

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at last year's All-Ireland semi-final clash with Dublin
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at last year's All-Ireland semi-final clash with Dublin

THERE can be few more exciting times for a GAA fan than the week leading up to an All-Ireland final. The dreams of the previous year are nearing conclusion and all thoughts, prayers and hopes are on a successful conclusion on that momentous Sunday in September.

Mayo have had many such weeks since 1989. Six to be exact, and none, unfortunately, ending in that elusive, successful conclusion. It is a very hard thing to finally 'get over the line' and often it is in the nature of these things that the longer it goes on, the harder it becomes.

But this is what sport is all about. The chance for glory – for immortality. For these Mayo lads the chance to finally emulate the lads from 1951.

The buzz in Mayo is incredible. It is marvelous to see the efforts people throughout the county have made to show their pride in their team. The flags, the bunting, the banners, the colour that clearly demonstrate the great community pride and spirit that exists in our country. That can-do, will-do spirit. The sheer enthusiasm of the people, their love of the GAA, the love of their county and their love of sport.

There is no doubt that the game of Gaelic football has changed considerably over the years - even more so in recent years. The effort, the commitment, the skill levels, the dedication of these amateur players to their clubs and counties is frankly phenomenal. The sacrifices they make in terms of their social lives, their personal lives, their work, their studies and in all other areas of their lives is astonishing.

This current group of Mayo lads are amazing athletes. They have put in a massive effort over the last number of years and to be playing in back-to-back finals speaks volumes for their dedication, their belief and their resilience.

In James Horan they have an inspirational leader and a man who has left no stone unturned in the search for Sam. They have had powerful performances throughout the season and are worthy finalists.

There are formidable opponents ahead in Dublin. I think any fan across the country would admit that the two best teams this year are in the final. Like Mayo, they have had some hugely exciting and high scoring performances this year.

Playing the Dubs in a full Croke Park with a vibrant Hill 16 is something amazing to witness and I look forward to it on Sunday, as do the Mayo players.

The fine summer we have had has brought with it many great GAA memories. Sunny Sundays - and Saturdays, and even a Friday! Colourful fans and friendly banter and great games in both codes. New heroes for our children to emulate and to look up to as role models. The GAA makes this country very unique and is something that is, rightly, a huge source of pride

The weather forecast is for a summer's day on the 22nd and my hope is that this will be the case. A clear blue sky – not an omen I hope! – over 82,000 fans and two great teams giving us a fitting end to what has been a remarkable football season.

Waiting for 62 years is too long and I look forward to an emotional dam being breached and the ghosts of the past exorcised.

Both teams travel to Croker with the intention of playing their very best and the ambition to win on the ultimate stage. And in the end the captain from the best team will lift Sam... We hope, we pray

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