Kerry's Prince Charming plans to bring back Sam as football fever sweeps across Kingdom
Published 18/09/2015 | 02:30
In a Kingdom renowned for its Gaelic football royalty, James O'Donoghue is now Kerry's undisputed Prince Charming.
The 25-year-old star was given a rapturous reception as he took time out from his work at AIB's Killorglin branch to show his support for the Kerry Hospice Foundation (KHF) fundraiser.
The former St Brendan's and University of Limerick star was mobbed by well-wishers and ticket-hunters alike yesterday in Jones's EuroSpar in Killorglin.
"All my tickets are well gone," he smiled at fans. "But there is a draw for a pair of tickets - you might get lucky."
Privately, the corner-forward admitted that he will be glad when the Kerry panel finally heads to Dublin early on Saturday morning.
"The wait is the hardest part. All you want is for it to be Sunday and Croke Park," he said.
His support of KHF was particularly gratifying for chairperson Caroline Williams, who brought along a tiny Kerry jersey for James to autograph.
"It's for my son, Ethan, who is 11 months old," Caroline beamed. "We'll treasure this jersey."
KHF official Colette Boyle was celebrating on the double as James helped boost donations - and she had earlier secured a ticket too.
"The problem now is there is going to be tussle with my daughter Nicole (25) over who gets the ticket.
"But I think mammy is the favourite."
As Kerry fans mobbed a visibly overawed James, EuroSpar's owners Brian and Shane Jones were admitting it was not easy being Dubs in the Kingdom. The brothers, from Blanchardstown, said the banter has been infectious.
"It has been great fun. But there is going to be some slagging on Monday morning if Dublin don't win," Shane admitted.
The ticket frenzy in the Kingdom is similarly no laughing matter.
The 14,000 tickets allocated to the county were snapped up within minutes.
Kerry County Board PRO John O'Leary warned fans not to expect eleventh-hour miracles.
"It is unprecedented. The demand was huge last year but it is even worse this year. The fact Dublin is involved has ratcheted up the interest."
Die-hard Kerry fans also expressed exasperation as, in one on-line auction, a pair of Croke Park tickets sold for over €2,000. Tickets are being auctioned from as far away as Australia.
Killorglin publican and auctioneer Billy O'Shea, who won an All-Ireland in 1997, said they now boast the strongest football panel in years.
"There's a fantastic atmosphere around the county because I think Kerry people are excited by the football the team are playing and they realise the strength in depth on the panel.
"It is the team with the strongest panel that wins the All-Ireland in September."
Billy admitted that he sees little between the talented Dublin and Kerry sides.
"I think they are both strong teams. Dublin proved in the semi-final against Mayo what a good side they are. They went down four points but they still didn't panic and won through comfortably."
He feels injury might well decide the outcome.
"If Cian O'Sullivan isn't fully fit, I think that will be a blow for Dublin because he is a fantastic player."
In the Kingdom, there is growing confidence that Sam Maguire Cup will be spending its 38th sojourn in the county.