Written off by everyone - but Donegal tear up the script
Dublin given a dose of the blues as 81,500 raise roof in Croker.
Published 01/09/2014 | 02:30
JIMMY'S winning matches once again. Donegal's senior and minor footballers rolled into Croke Park on a glorious sunny day, knowing they had been written-off by almost everyone as no-hopers.
They still haven't won anything, but what Donegal manager Jim McGuinness and his players did to Dublin yesterday showed the wondrous magic of our native Gaelic games.
More than 30,000 had set off from Donegal for Croker - one in six of the county's population. And they went home last night to the happiest county in Ireland.
Everyone had tipped a Dublin-Mayo final, but it is the kings of Ulster and Munster who will meet in the All-Ireland Final on September 21.
Like the other semi-final not 24 hours earlier, this was a victory carved from hope and turned into reality.
There was a muffled feeling to the build-up for this one among the Donegal fans. The crowds at Croke Park from early on were evidence that most wanted to see their minors take on the Dubs in the curtain-raiser.
By the time the final whistle was blown the teenagers from Ulster had pipped their counterparts from the capital.
Minor boss Declan Bonner punched the air and all around Donegal fans teased the massed ranks of Dublin supporters on the Hill to our right. They responded with their Boys in Blue anthem, as six brave Donegal fans smothered in the middle of the Hill tried to unfurl a Donegal banner.
The 81,500 fans were overwhelmingly in blue; now we could hear that roar that you only hear when Dublin play.
But Donegal stayed in touch, Ryan McHugh scored to the net and Donegal believed again. It was nerve-jangling stuff.
As the clock ticked down to six minutes to go, a crowd of Donegal fans jeered and began a chorus of 'Where are the Boys in Blue?".
It was all good-natured fun, Dublin fans generous in defeat.
There were so many brilliant performances on the day from the Donegal men. Rory Kavanagh was immense; big Neill Gallagher and captain Michael Murphy probably played their best ever games in a Donegal shirt. The Donegal anthem of Jimmy's Winning Matches sent the Donegal fans into heaven and the Dublin fans heading towards the exit. Oisin O'Boyle (16) and his brother Eoin (14) were there to cheer on their brother Connall, who was on the minor panel.
"We always believed," said Oisin, who plays with the St Eunan's Club in Letterkenny. "But we didn't expect this. Most Donegal fans thought that if we did win it would have been a lot tighter than that."
Brother Eoin, who punched the air, said: "It's just incredible. We're in another All-Ireland final. Who would have thought that?"
A few rows back the O'Connell family were in mixed colours and mixed humours.
Dubliner Alan O'Connell was wearing a Donegal jersey, having settled in Letterkenny. Three of his children play for Donegal and his daughter Lauren is on the Donegal Ladies panel. "It was a brilliant double for Donegal," said Alan. "I'm a Donegal man now."
But his father, the independent Dublin county councillor Gus O'Connell, was still staunchly wearing his Dublin cowboy hat after the game.
"The best team won on the day," said Gus, "and sure the grandchildren are very, very happy. I hope Donegal goes on now and wins it."