| 11.4°C Dublin

SKERRIES parties as home town hero bRYAN lifts Sam Maguire

IT WAS the face of a little boy in the front row of a packed marquee outside the Harps clubhouse that said it all as Dublin scored their winning point, in one corner of the very same pitch where a young Bryan Cullen once took his first tentative steps onto the grass with a GAA ball.

And then the town exploded in a single cheer.

Outside, the streets had been empty. Usually bustling even on a Sunday, seaside Skerries was a ghost town, the nearby roars that ebbed and flowed with the fortunes of the Dublin team throughout one of the most anticipated All-Ireland finals in a generation, the only sound behind the walls of 14 pubs.

Now, in this one victorious moment, a little boy's face reflected the hope against hope of an entire town, that one of their own would lift the Sam Maguire Cup.

He screamed, eyes wide and fists in the air, hugged the nearest person, jumped up and down, then promptly burst into tears.

A single point -- a final action in the closing moments of the game -- decided how these children will now feel about football here for years to come.

They erupted from the Harps clubhouse, from the little marquee and ran around the pitch, flags and banners trailing in a victory lap.

Even adults dabbed tears from blue face paint on their cheeks and car horns started blaring as Skerries took to streets that had been festooned all week with bunting and 'Good Luck Bryan' banners.

Skerries is a proud town that stands by their own.

It's just a week since the town was honoured at the People of the Year Awards for coming together in their tens of thousands to help keep boats afloat to find two fishermen in April and bring them home to their families for burial.

Yes, Skerries stands by their own and Bryan Cullen is 110pc Skerries.

All weekend the conversations had been the same, in the line at the SuperValu on Church Street, or in the chair at Colin Ridgeway's barber shop at Dowling's Corner or outside St Patrick's Church on Strand Street. "Do you think Bryan's boys can do it?" "I saw Bryan last week. He seemed focused, positive." "If anyone can do it, Bryan can." It was a like this Final was not so much Dublin versus Kerry, as Skerries versus Kerry.

Then, hours before the match, Bryan's sister Sinead posted on the town's Facebook site: "On behalf of Bryan and our family thank you Skerries for all your support and kind wishes. It means a lot to Bryan and to us. Let's hope he plays the game of his lifetime and lifts Sam later."

And what celebrations there were. For the first time since their missing sons were found and brought home and marched through the streets as thousands looked on, Skerries has a reason to embrace relative strangers on the street.

If Dublin needed this victory, Skerries needed it more. "You realise, this will change the way children here play Gaelic football for a generation," said someone standing outside Harps as cars, taxis and trucks rolled by, windows down, honking horns and saluting with clenched fists. "They have a hero.

"Our Bryan is a hero."