An Armagh woman, a Tyrone man, and Kerry football may not seem like the most harmonious combination but all three were in perfect alignment during the recent Kerry versus Armagh game in Tralee.
Rachel Fields from Armagh City – a diehard Armagh GAA supporter – was given the surprise of her life when partner Michael Casey proposed to her as part of their GAA trip to Kerry.
The couple tour the country regularly watching their beloved Tyrone and Armagh teams in action.
But being a wise Tyrone man, Michael knew the Kingdom would provide the perfect backdrop for a romantic proposal to his partner of eight years.
Michael is from the village of Blackwatertown on the Tyrone border with Armagh, and while the red hand county is where Michael’s loyalty lies, he and Rachel manage to reach hesitant agreement whenever the rival counties meet on the field.
The couple and their children arrived at Kilshannig near Castlegregory last Friday evening. On Saturday morning, Michael suggested he and Rachel take a walk on the nearby strand.
“Michael said come on for a walk. We had planned to meet relatives in Dingle and I said by the time we get ready we’ll be late. He said come on anyway as the scenery was stunning,” Rachel said.
"I had one baby in one arm and the toddler was trying to run into the sea. I told Michael to run after him and when I turned around, there he was on one knee. It all made sense. It was lovely.
"I rang my granny after and she cried her eyes out because she and my grandfather – who passed away just before the 2002 All-Ireland final - had done the Ring of Kerry many times in the past. She said there’s nowhere nicer than the Kingdom,” Rachel added.
Later that evening at Austin Stack Park, Rachel’s uncle, Ger ‘Punky’ Toner – the kit man with the Armagh team - arranged to have news of the engagement announced over the tannoy.
“It was lovely. Everybody was cheering and clapping. I had wondered why some of Michael’s family weren’t in Castlebar watching the Tyrone game and came to Tralee instead. It all makes sense now,” she said.
"Michael left the Armagh game at half-time to head to the pub to watch the Tyrone game. So, I suppose nothing much has changed since we got engaged,” Rachel joked.
The couple hope to get married in 2025 and while there’s no guarantee Sam Maguire will be at the wedding, Rachel said she would be happy with the Anglo-Celt Cup for now.
“That’s the plan anyway. We’ll have to make sure there are no games on that weekend,” she said.
“I’m happy with the way Armagh are playing right now. I’m not sure Michael is as happy watching Tyrone! It’s all good craic and it’s part of what makes the GAA so great,” Rachel said.