‘Some people do recognise you and there’s usually a bit of banter there, like ‘there’s lots of room to improve they way you are going’ says celebrity builder
Today in Drumlish in Longford, a lesser-known part of the GAA, Masters football, will have its big day out.
The over-40 footballers of Tyrone and Dublin will go head-to-head for the All-Ireland title in a game that will be preceded by the plate final between Cavan and Roscommon.
The main game will see former greats such as Stephen O’Neill and Ryan McMenamin line out for Tyrone, while Shane Ryan and Peadar Andrews will play for a Dublin side managed by Mick O’Keeffe.
And there will be a familiar face and name from another sphere entirely.
Peter Finn, the TV builder who features in RTÉ’s Home Rescue show, and has previously appeared in Room to Improve with Dermot Bannon, was an accomplished footballer with St Mary’s in Saggart long before he ever appeared on our screens.
And he’s still chasing his football dreams.
“Some people do recognise you from the show and there’s usually a bit of banter there, like ‘there’s lots of room to improve the way you are going on’ and ‘you’ll need a hospital rescue today more than a home rescue’. They are some of the ones that have been thrown at me. But it’s all in good banter, and I have to say I really enjoy it. It’s all good.
“The TV work that I do is very positive and it’s a feel-good show and to be able to double up on that by being involved with the Dublin Masters and Masters football in general. The two connections are just so positive and two very unexpected things to happen as well.
“Not too many builders get the profile I’ve got out of being on the TV show and then to get the recognition to play with the Masters, it’s just such a brilliant thing to be involved in.”
Those sentiments are shared by those involved in the competition, which is edging back towards the level of popularity it enjoyed in the 2000s, when there was up to 20 teams involved.
Back then, more than 2,000 watched Mayo take on Dublin in the 2006 final. However, when it was no longer deemed an official GAA competition after 2009, it struggled for traction with the 2012 running of the competition down to just five teams.
However, an agreement with Croke Park chiefs means they are permitted to use pitches, along with a surge in interest has seen the competition grow. This year, 17 counties competed for the Dr Mick Loftus cup, with Leitrim and Longford joining forces at this grade. It would have been 18 but for the pandemic forcing London’s hand.
The competition is expected to expand further with the likes of Meath, Limerick and Waterford all expressing an interest in entering a team.
There’s also an international dimension. The Gaelic Masters Association, who run the competitions, are recognised by the AFL whose Masters side played here in 2016 and 2019. Ireland won on both occasions and a return tour was in the pipeline before the pandemic intervened.
Having been involved since 2018, Finn is not surprised at the growing level of interest.
“It’s such a brilliant initiative, fair play to the lads that run it. It’s not an easy thing to do to commit more time for fellas of our age. But, in this day and age, everyone has to be inclusive and it’s not just about the lads on the pitch or a load of auld lads trying to drag out their careers – it’s them getting the opportunity to play for their counties when their kids are watching them.
“They probably had no kids when they were playing, they didn’t get to share it with their kids and now we can, and they are on the pitch afterwards. It’s just a brilliant moment.
“It gives you something to aim for in terms of fitness levels but the feel-good factor you get out of representing your county and playing at a competitive level against other counties, it’s just a brilliant thing to be involved in.
“To do it for my county, it’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever been involved in in sport. It took me a long time to get there, but it’s great.”
All-Ireland Masters final
Dublin v Tyrone, 4.0, Fr Manning Gaels GAA grounds, Drumlish, Longford, S Carroll (Westmeath)
All-Ireland Masters Plate final
Cavan v Roscommon, Fr Manning Gaels GAA grounds, Drumlish, Longford, P Neilan (Roscommon)