The sound of singing drifting down the lanes around Croke Park was the first sign something different was happening yesterday. The pubs were quiet but the scarves-and-headbands men were doing well.
If you’re thinking that sounds loud, that’s because it was loud with 31,083 bums on seats for three GAA ladies football matches; the highest attendance for any women’s sporting event in Europe this year. But it was Before the Game which interested me. It was still to play for, and anyone can dream of lifting that cup.
Lines of young girls chattering and singing streamed out of endless buses. The atmosphere was more like a giant school-tour than a serious tournament until I understood how far people had come for their teams.
One Tyrone club come every year, regardless of who is playing, their coach said. He jokingly referred to himself as a feminist but who needs a label when you’re driving the future of women’s sport around?
Waterford fans came racing in to catch their team, not the main event according to the programme but try telling them that.
Club after club arrived from Cork with red and white flags flying and the woolly headbands being twisted around their heads. Fuelled by sugar and excitement, the singing was just beginning.
Dubs came with their families and in teams- one club starting a sing-song outside the Cusack stadium. A tiny Cork boy strolling past produced an almighty roar of Up the Rebels only to be drowned out by a sea of blue shouting back. All in good fun of course …
I came too late to meet any Scots. Yes, Scots – a team from Scotland took to the field to play against Co Louth in the Junior All-Ireland final.
And now typing this up not too far from Croke Park, I can hear lines of girls still singing as they make their way home. The matches are over, but their memories are just beginning.
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