Sunday 21 January 2018

Everyone a winner as festival of football takes over Croker

Jade Riordan of Scoil Maelruain celebrates
Jade Riordan of Scoil Maelruain celebrates

Michael Verney

More than 500 young footballers got the opportunity of a lifetime when gracing Croke Park's hallowed turf for Dublin's Allianz Cumann na mBunscol finals yesterday.

A festival of football with 18 titles up for grabs brought huge excitement with HQ covered in banners, painted faces, megaphones and flags. And that was just the spectators.

Bubbling with enthusiasm, the boys and girls took part in an event that personified everything that's good about the GAA: sportsmanship, skill and fun. 

With three games going on simultaneously, there was action everywhere you looked. Is it any wonder the Dublin conveyor belt continues to produce excellence? 

There wasn't even a blanket defence in sight. In its place was a remarkable occasion continuing a tradition dating back to 1929 as Dublin showcased the stars of the tomorrow on its greatest stage.

"It's a huge thing to have Croke Park available for the finals, everyone wants to play there and this will be a lifelong memory for all involved," Dublin Cumann na mBunscol PRO Jerry Grogan said. "What a major promotion for GAA in the city days like this are. All of the great Dublin players have played here."

Togging out in the famous changing rooms adorned by Sam Maguire heroes like Bernard Brogan and Jack McCaffrey last month is something they will never forget. Current Dublin star Ciarán Kilkenny, who gave many great performances for Scoil Oilibhéir, Coolmine in his youth, even presented a trophy while former full-back Dermot Deasy exemplified the spirit of the day by refereeing one of the finals.

Former 'Late Late Show' host Gay Byrne was in attendance to see his grandson Cian O'Byrne and St Fintan's, Sutton narrowly fall to Booterstown BNS. 

Booterstown were led by Alex English, son of Tipperary hurling legend Nicky, while their coach Miriam Munnelly, a native of Mayo, was delighted to finally get a win for the west in Croker.

Earlier, Mayo siblings Brendan and Sarah Reilly had fallen short with Scoil an Linbh Íosa, Larkhill against Sacred Heart, Sruleen. However, Our Ladys BNS, Ballinteer bridged a 40-year gap when claiming football honours but Luke Byrne's 1-9 haul wasn't enough for Gaelscoil Lios na nÓg, Ranelagh, who lost both finals they played.

The innocence of youth meant tears were quickly turned to cheers with losses forgotten. To quote Hot Chocolate: "Everyone's a winner, baby, that's the truth."

Yesterday everyone was.

Irish Independent

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