An unforgettable experience
IT’S HARD to believe that it’s a full nine years since I lined out for Tyrone in my first All-Ireland senior final. At times it feels like only yesterday, but then you think of all that has gone on since and it feels like a lifetime ago.
It might be approaching a decade since then, but I can still remember it all as clear as day.
The week leading up to it was hectic. You learn after that first time to take a step back, but that’s only with the benefit of hindsight.
You were sorting tickets, you were sorting clothes. You were helping the women get themselves sorted for the banquet and the likes as well, which I think probably took up more time than any of the players’ own preparations.
Long before the England football WAGs descended on Baden Baden, we had the Tyrone WAGs. The weekend of the All-Ireland final there was the team bus, closely followed by the WAGs bus. That’s how it was from the Saturday right through to the homecoming on the Monday evening.
They couldn’t possibly have been better looked after, with Cuthbert Donnelly the man keeping everything right and making sure it all went smoothly for them over the weekend.
For us as players it was great, because it took another bit of pressure off us and we knew they were in safe hands.
We had done the dry run to Dublin the previous week, staying in the same rooms on that Saturday night as we would do for the All-Ireland weekend, just to familiarise ourselves. It probably shows how far things have come since then that Donegal were down for four nights last weekend as they ready themselves for their decider.
I remember feeling glad when I actually got to join up with the lads on the Saturday morning and get away to Dublin, away from the hype in your own county. From that point on, the weekend just went by so quickly.
On the Saturday night, we stayed in Killiney Castle, away from the buzz in the city. We joked about it at the time and since then, but one of the things which stands out for us as players were how comfortable the beds were that night, because we all got the best night’s sleep that we ever got before a match.
The full story is in the current issue of Gaelic Life, published on Thursday September 20. Buy your copy now in your local newsagent, or you can purchase the online version – for only 90p – by clicking here