AROUND Croke Park, Saturday’s usual business mixes with the strange anticipation of an evening All-Ireland final.
Traffic snarls is this part of the city on a regular Saturday afternoon but add in the arrival of more than 80,000 supporters over the next few hours and Drumcondra will take on a whole new look.
The Garda cordon has already been up a few hours but Clonliffe Road remains largely devoid of jerseys streaming towards the cathedral, some of who usually like to reach the stadium early and taste the atmosphere but perhaps that is to be expected. With no minor preamble today, supporters’ match-day rituals are out the window.
Everything from usual parking spots to eating habits have to be changed for the 5pm throw-in.
Only the strains of musician Paddy Casey at 3.45 might entice supporters down from the eating-houses and pubs in the area while the ‘Family Fun Zone’ in the Davin End car park has been open from early this afternoon.
Casey’s performance is followed by the ‘Super Hurling 11s’ exhibition, the unique short-form of hurling which has been devised with a view to having a version of the game suitable for established sporting venues not large enough to accommodate a 15 a-side game.
That game will feature a number of hurling’s biggest names and it will feature in the USA next month as the half-time show when College football giants Notre Dame take on rivals USC as part of a GPA/GAA initiative.
Dublin has possibily never seen a quieter night on the eve of an All-Ireland final but Cork and Clare supporters are expected to stay in the city tonight, having started the long journey to the capital at various times this morning.
Some things have, however, remained the same.
Both teams have confirmed that they will stay in the city tonight. Clare will return to where they stayed the night after the drawn game - the Clyde Court hotel, formerly the Berkely Court. Cork will be in the Burlington tonight with RTE TV broadcasting live and announcing the man of the match from the winners’ hotel.
By now the odd jersey is skipping down Clonliffe Road, a bodhran batters out a rhythm and it starts to feel like an All-Ireland final again.
That familiarity brings comfort but despite all the nuances to this All-Ireland final, only one question really matters. Cork or Clare?