President pines for Galway glory
On a busy weekend of sport, there was one game that President Michael D Higgins simply wasn't going to miss.
Tonight, he will be present in his usual seat in Eamonn Deacy Park to watch his beloved Galway United participate in their first cup final in 18 years with St Patrick's Athletic providing the opposition in the EA Sports Cup decider.
This represents a huge promotional opportunity for a club that is only getting back on its feet again after coming back from the dead. President Higgins was an extremely excited spectator in the dramatic semi-final defeat of Dundalk according to manager Tommy Dunne.
"He was up and out of his seat and down the steps," laughs Dunne, reflecting on a topsy turvy encounter that was settled by a penalty shootout.
"I think the bodyguard that was with him had to have a word. That was even before the penalties because the game was a bit nip and tuck."
Anticipation levels are high around Galway with the home allocation sold out. The locals have asked the Saints to hand back any tickets they have left over.
Galway's top-scorer is an American from upstate New York, the affable Jake Keegan. In his two years in the west he's made a good impression. Ironically, he was recommended to Dunne by Saints boss Liam Buckley.
Keegan was out and about for the All-Ireland hurling final a fortnight ago and knows he lives in an area where the GAA is king but he's excited by the response to their big day.
"We went to Eyre Square for the second half and of course we saw the part where they didn't score," he sighs.
"I've enjoyed my time here," continued Keegan, whose long-term goal is to play in the MLS. "When a cup comes around you have to seize the moment."
The Saints are the favourites, however, and long-serving Ger O'Brien admits they travel in a search of a medal that was low on the list of priorities until a bruising league run and an FAI Cup exit to Cork.
"For us as a group, consolation is probably the right word," he says, "I don't think it's doing anyone any disrespect.
"We're not in a position where he wanted to be but we have to grab this opportunity with both hands and come out of the season with some silverware."