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Two-tone blue bunting flows all over town as Dubs' pride builds

As a city, Dublin is awash with commemorative blue plaques relating to celebrated Dubliners or historical events. I hold the view that an additional and specially designed matching pair of plaques should be erected for the more intrepidly curious of tourists to find.

One should be discreetly placed outside the abandoned wilderness that is the former Irish Glass Bottle Site -- purchased in 2006 for ¤412m by the professional superstars of Irish finance who could do no wrong.

The other should be placed outside the world-class stadium that is Croke Park -- purchased for £3,250 in 1908 by an amateur enthusiast for an amateur association. They would represent the best and worst property purchases in the history of Dublin.


The fiasco of the Irish Glass Bottle Site might have added to the nation's gaiety, if it hadn't added to our Gross National Debt. But Croke Park has added not only to our gaiety, but also to Dublin's cultural and sporting life on a scale that its initial purchaser, Frank Brazil Dineen, could never have imagined when he purchased it from the City and Suburban Racecourse and Amusements Grounds Ltd -- and, in the process, left the noble sport of whippet racing without a home in the city.

For Dubliners, it has not only become a field of dreams, but also a field of romance, as was famously proven, some years ago, when two university students were interrupted by security personnel after deciding to break into Croke Park at midnight and consummate their passion on the halfway line.

The Celtic Tiger had glamour but it lacked resonance and romance: therefore one suspects that security staff at the Glass Bottle site rarely get disturbed by such combustible displays of spontaneous passion.

Indeed, I suspected that the couple in question only chose to consummate their passion at midnight as there was less chance of Micheal O Muircheartaigh spying on them from the commentary box, because -- even allowing for the fleetness of youth -- they would never have been able to keep up with his commentary.

A similar combustion of passion and romance has blossomed across whole sections of Dublin city all this week, leading up to Dublin's All Ireland semi-final encounter with Donegal on Sunday. The anticipation may not be palpable in Kingstown, but in Marino and Cabra and Summerhill two-tone blue bunting has been appearing on small terraces, with flags hung from bedroom windows in scenes reminiscent of a cross between the Eucharist Congress and that time when Ireland nudged our way to the quarter finals of the World Cup, through a stirring succession of one-all victories.

Dublin GAA clubs do not have the same historical family interconnections as more remote rural clubs, where it is taken as a birthright that one day you will have the chance to deliver an off-the-ball dig to the man whose great-grandfather once delivered a sly off-the-ball dig to your great-grandfather during the same local derby.


But Dublin clubs such as Na Fianna in Glasnevin (which has soared in recent years, thanks to the unsung voluntary heroism of stalwarts like Martin Quilty Senior) and Erin's Isle in Finglas have become magnets in creating a sense of community spirit within areas of the city, in a way that no other sport can, because no other sport works on such a local level with no motivation but to foster young talent and community pride.

As a youngster growing up in Finglas I had ideological problems with the GAA, dating from the days when even the sight of several lads playing soccer in the school yard at break time could unleash one particularly violent and ideologically bigoted bully of a teacher from the staff room with a strap.

Any child will rebel against a sport that is thrust upon them as a weapon of ideological nationalist branding.

But Ireland has come a long way from the days when Liam Brady was expelled from St Aidan's in Whitehall for playing an under-age soccer international for Ireland on the same afternoon as he was selected for a GAA match for his school.

The GAA has become less insular; in Dublin it has grown in self-confidence and it is right to be confident and proud because the young people playing it now do so not through any ideological pressure but because it is the last truly great amateur sport in the world.

It is one that is now vibrantly alive (in both football and hurling) in every suburb of Dublin, in all the old communities and the new estates from which Dubliners of every age and sex will make their way to Croke Park this Sunday. They will pass the bunting put out by my old neighbour, Connie Caulfield, whose house has been decked with bunting for decades every time Dublin get this far, and through streets transformed, for one day, into a blaze of colour and into the unique kaleidoscope where all the colours in the rainbow become transmuted into just two shades of blue.

Dermot Bolger is a Dublin-born novelist, playwright and poet