Harrington hoping for Dubs to edge it in close game
All-Ireland Build Up
Pádraig Harrington: “ I wouldn’t enjoy the match if Dublin had an easy win. I’d rather see the challenge and Dublin come out on top.” Photograph Brenda Fitzsimons
Pádraig Harrington is well able to empathise with the disappointment of generations of Mayo fans. His father Paddy was a full-back for Cork in the 1950s and, despite reaching two All-Ireland senior football finals, never came away with a winner’s medal.
Harrington himself played football for his school, Coláiste Éanna, and for Ballyboden St Enda’s in Dublin, before focusing on golf. He still makes a point of telling people he played his last game (which his team lost) in Croke Park.
“I would have been 16 at the time. It was in my last year of school; I captained my school team in one of the schools finals.”
That day he was playing centre-back and marking a young Dessie Farrell. “He was as good then as he was when he played for Dublin. He ran rings around me and I certainly knew that day that golf was my game.”
Harrington has always had a fondness for Cork, but he’s a Dub first and foremost. “As much as I would have an affinity with Cork, there’s no doubt I was brought up a Dub and always am a Dub. There’s no question about that.”
What he’s hoping for on Sunday is “a really, really close match that Dublin win”.
He remembers days out in Croke Park when he was younger, watching games from Hill 16 with the scouts, but when his golf career took off, he had fewer opportunities to enjoy the GAA.
“Once you go professional, you’re travelling the world and basically you don’t have anybody to discuss the matches with, so you end up – and I hate to say this – but I would spend more time now talking about soccer and rugby because they’re international sports, and if Ireland play against any of the home nations I can find another Scot or an English fan or Welsh fan to have a bet with.”
But he says now, thanks to his 10-year-old son, his interest in football has been rekindled. “My son loves it . . . I went to the semi-final and I’m going to the final because my son dearly loves to go. It’s a big deal for him.”
But Harrington also wants to see a good game. “The Kerry game was brilliant for me, exciting, it was right to the wire. I wouldn’t enjoy the match if Dublin had an easy win. I’d rather see the challenge and Dublin come out on top . . . I kind of predict that’s the way it will go. It will be very, very tight and I think Dublin’s fitness will get them across the line.”
And what of the hardship of successive Mayo teams, the seemingly endless string of All-Ireland disappointments? “That’s a good story but let them beat somebody else next year, not Dublin.”