Monday 19 August 2019

'Let's do an Offaly' - fans are eager to derail Dubs' drive for five

Kerry fans Alex and Max Clifton from Wicklow and Mark and Sara Jemeson from Tralee are ready for the clash against Tyrone to decide who meets the winners of Dublin v Mayo. Photos: Domnick Walsh/Sportsfile
Kerry fans Alex and Max Clifton from Wicklow and Mark and Sara Jemeson from Tralee are ready for the clash against Tyrone to decide who meets the winners of Dublin v Mayo. Photos: Domnick Walsh/Sportsfile
Dublin v Mayo in 2016. Photo: Sportsfile

Ralph Riegel

Dublin may be putting the "drive for five" into top gear but from Killarney to Knock and Killeter, plans to "do an Offaly" are being carefully hatched in Kerry, Mayo and Tyrone.

In the Kingdom, Kerry fans quietly believe it will be their destiny to stop the Dubs from winning their fifth Sam Maguire title in a row - having failed so famously themselves to make Gaelic football history in the 1982 Croke Park classic against Offaly.

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"The expectation is for Kerry to make the All Ireland final - but that is the expectation every year here in Kerry," Tralee sports shop owner Brian Hennebry said.

"The buzz from the fans is really around the final. Every year Kerry fans expect their team to be in the All Ireland final.

"But the last time Kerry made the final was 2015 so there will be huge excitement, especially if it turns out to be a Kerry-Dublin final."

A poll in 'The Kerryman' newspaper indicated overwhelming belief the Kingdom would beat Tyrone tomorrow and set up a mouth-watering clash with their long-standing rivals, the Dubs.

Almost 90pc of people who posted an opinion tipped Kerry to win their semi-final against the Ulster side.

However, the poll was less encouraging in respect of where the Sam Maguire Cup may spend the winter.

While virtually all respondents admitted to supporting Kerry in any All-Ireland decider, a large number still reckoned Dublin might be too strong and could clinch their prized five-in-a row.

A talented young Kerry side has excited football fans across the Kingdom.

Such is the tsunami of support that Iarnrod Éireann has arranged extra services tomorrow for fans heading to the Croke Park for the showdown with Tyrone.

Support has been boosted by the Kerry minors also featuring tomorrow as they take on Galway.

The 7.10am Tralee-Dublin service sold out within minutes - so Iarnrod Éireann has added extra capacity.

There also will be an extra service tomorrow evening departing Dublin for Tralee at 6.50pm.

Many Dublin fans who decided to focus on the final rather than the semi-final will travel en masse, in keeping with tradition, to Killarney to watch the match.

"There are times you'd think you were in Dublin with the number of blue jerseys around Killarney hotels and pubs," one local said of the invasion.

In Mayo, demand for tickets has rivalled the traditional hunt for final passes.

Castlebar and Westport witnessed remarkable scenes on Tuesday and Wednesday as desperate fans tried everything to secure match tickets.

In Castlebar, fans queued from 7am outside Kavanagh's Supervalu to secure a ticket for the Saturday showdown in Croke Park against the mighty Dubs.

Across the county, Mayo fans believe it will 10th time lucky in 2019 and their All-Ireland curse will finally be lifted.

Mayo has agonisingly lost all nine All Ireland finals the county has appeared in since 1989.

The county is now without an All Ireland football title since 1951 - despite Mayo boasting one of the best footballing sides over the past decade.

Supervalu manager Damian Hall said the demand for tickets in Mayo for the Dubs showdown was comparable to a final.

Despite all the heartbreak, Mayo fans remain intensely loyal and convinced this season will be different.

"It was busy on Wednesday but nothing compared to Tuesday," Mr Hall said.

Mayo fans who failed to get tickets on Tuesday despite queuing for hours returned on Wednesday and were almost all successful.

GAA county board chairman Mike Connolly insisted clubs received the ticket allocation they had ordered.

He said he was hopeful anyone who sought a ticket at an early stage should have secured one.

In Tyrone, fans are quietly confident of surprising Kerry tomorrow and making successive finals for the first time in county history.

Despite making the 2018 final, Tyrone fans have been delighted with the intense media focus on their Munster rivals and the predictions of a Dublin-Kerry final.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte insisted Kerry's history always makes them one of the All Ireland favourites.

"Kerry are still the top team in the country as far as the Sam Maguire is concerned," he said.

"They always have their eye on that. People always expect them to be big contenders and they seldom let people down."

"It is a big battle and we have to bring our best game," he said.

Dublin has tried to learn the lesson from Kerry's bitter experience of the 'Five in a Row' in 1982.

Kerry went into the All Ireland final against an Offaly side they had comfortably beaten by seven points in the 1981 decider.

The Kingdom fielded arguably the greatest Gaelic football team of all time.

However, Offaly gamely stuck with Kerry throughout the 1982 final and, in the dying moments, Séamus Darby scored the only goal of the match to clinch the Sam Maguire Cup by a single point.

To add insult to injury, a special song had already been penned to hail Kerry's stillborn 'Five in a Row' with substantial merchandise prepared.

Dublin officials have warned that nothing of the sort will be tolerated before the final.

Irish Independent

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