Home is where the heart is.

Today at 15.30hours Croker time one of THE great spectacles in world sport will commence.

I reckon if that magnificent stadium in Drumcondra was twice the size then there would still be thousands outside begging for tickets.

Inside the stadium there will be 82,000 unsegregated fans. There will be no trouble because there never is among the spectators, although they may get to witness a few in-depth discussions on the field of play.

The two teams comprised will be local lads from places like Achill, Castlebar, Gweedore and Letterkenny.

They don’t have agents, image rights or Maseratis.

If you are still of the age to partake in contact sports and you think you are handy enough at fitba then try a bit of Gaelic.

When I spoke with Neil Lennon in the lobby of the Hyatt hotel in Philadelphia our chat immediately focussed on the “Gah” and the pursuit of Sam.

They say stateside that if you don’t understand baseball then you don’t understand America.

If you don’t get what is happening in Dublin this afternoon them you don’t fully appreciate Celtic’s young manager.

He played for his county at minor level.

Neil Lennon bossed the Celtic midfield like a Gaelic player.

Tough, uncompromising, but fair.

Kevin Moran and Roy Keane were also handy Gaelic players.

Let’s just say it is a more physical code than modern soccer.

Cristiano Ronaldo wouldn’t like to turn out at Croker today.

GAA and the chase for the Sam Maguire cup is the heartbeat of an Irish summer.

I have felt the buzz through Donegal in the past few weeks.

For sure this place could do with a lift and I won’t grudge them the win, but my heart isn’t with them.

Sport can do that for people and in the age of the satellite TV soccer supporter the love of the parish and the county still means a lot here.

This Donegal household has subversively pumped out the Saw Doctors all week as loud as my old ears can take it.

The Green and Red of Mayo is the anthem, written by Galway lads, and they know their neighbours well.

The last time Mayo lifted the Sam a young fella from Westport thought he would impress his Glaswegian fiancé with an intimate date in the Hogan stand.

The people who would become my parents saw the men from the Wesht win the All Ireland for the second year on the bounce.

It was the golden age for Mayo football when the county contested three All Ireland finals winning two of them within a four year period.

The only time that Donegal lifted the Sam Maguire was the year I stopped being a single man.

My three Donegalies weren’t born when Dún na nGall won and I wasn’t thought of when Sam went to Mhaigh Eo.

When the victorious Mayo team toured the county with the trophy the story goes that when they went through Foxford, they didn’t stop for a funeral.

The widow of the deceased person cursed them and said that Mayo would never win Sam while any of that team was alive.

There are now only five of them left including the star fullback Paddy Prendergast.

This story was first told to me by my grandmother and she believed it.

Donegal are the form team and they clearly have the better players.

This Mayo team is growing and improving for sure, last year they got to the semi and Kerry were better on the day.

Over recent years Mayo teams have been able to play brilliantly in semi-finals and beat better teams than the one they lose to in the final.

In 2006 Mayo beat hot favourites Dublin in the semis; we were brilliant that day, unstoppable.

Kerry were waiting for us in the finals that year.

I had a ticket that day.

The Kingdom destroyed us in the first 25 minutes.

Maybe it is better that I’m not there today.

I might be the jinx…

At this stage I’m willing to buy into anyone’s theory if it tips the balance for Mayo.

If Sam is adorned in the Green and Red today I’ll just cry with happiness.

My Donegal neighbours get that, sure we all get it here.



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