Jim did fix it as the whole county sings about winning

Tue, Sep 25, 2012, 01:00

DONEGAL:Sam Maguire crossed the Border from Co Fermanagh last night to a tumultuous welcome in Pettigo and to a sea of green and gold Donegal colours — and a village and a county intent on painting the place red.

Jim McGuinness and his team captain Michael Murphy were given the honour of carrying Sam Maguire aloft over the bridge of the River Termon, past Britton’s Bar and into the Co Donegal village. “It’s very proud moment for us all,” said McGuinness as he walked back to his home county, with Murphy beside him and the rest of the team walking behind.

The job was done. Twenty years on Donegal had its second All-Ireland, and home were the heroes.

And what was the song the 3,000-strong crowd in Pettigo were singing? Of course: “Jimmy’s winning matches, Jimmy’s winning games, Jimmy’s bringing Sam back to Donegal again.” With captain Michael Murphy, just as he did when he grasped the Sam Maguire cup on Sunday, joining in the chorus.

It was the start of what will be one long party — until the team manager cries halt, and starts aiming for two-in-a-row, as he said he intends to do. This was a team that could have the “hunger” of Kilkenny hurlers, he said. “I believe this team is honest to the bone,” he told the delighted crowd. And it was a team who would “want more”.

Could Donegal take two years of such excitement?...Probably.

“It makes you very, very proud to be back in the home county with the number one team in the country for the first time in 20 years,” he told the crowd to more hollers of delight. He had them in virtual ecstatics when he added, “We have the best supporters in the country without any shadow of doubt.” He was speaking close to a green and gold pained house with “Jim’ll Fix It,” inscribed on the wall from the days when the county had hope and expectation. But yesterday there was an added message for the conquering cavalcade stating simply, “Congratulations Donegal — All-Ireland Champions 2012 — From All of Pettigo.”

After Pettigoe the caravan moved on to the village of Laghey where the team got another great reception. They then made their way to Donegal town, and 20,000-30,000 welcoming supporters, arriving at 10:00pm, only two hours late – not bad by Donegal standards – but such were the crowds that it took them another 25 minutes before they could make it to the Diamond, in the centre of the town, for the mother of all receptions that went on into the wee hours. The relentless rain scuppered plans for an open-top bus tour of the town.

About an hour before the team arrival a less plush vehicle, decked out in the Donegal livery, “Jimmy’s Bingo Bus” cruised into Pettigo. Out jumped some pumped-up Donegal supporters onto Main Street to sing the new anthem — “Jimmy’s winning matches”. From early in the evening the crowd built up steadily. The rain fell equally as steadily but like the hardy “bingo bus” bucks many of the still ecstatic supporters preferred to discard coats and anoraks so they could proudly display Donegal team jerseys.

Middle-aged couple Lawrence and Marjorie McManus were dressed for the weather. “I’m originally from Burtonport; I lived near Packie Bonner and Daniel O’Donnell,” she said. And, would you believe it, just then Daniel O’Donnell himself was driven past, a big smile on his face, waving a Donegal flag from the front passenger window of his big car, en route the 20 or so miles to Donegal for the main bash of the night. Sam and Daniel too! Too much.

Lawrence McManus, a local community worker, couldn’t avoid making a bit of a political pitch amid all the celebration. “With all the doom and gloom I hope this win gives us a lift — because Donegal is the forgotten county; it never saw the Celtic Tiger,” he said.

Kathleen Ford carried the green and gold flag she flew in Peckham in London where she worked when Donegal won its only other senior all-Ireland in 1992. She’s retired now and living back home in Pettigo. “Oh, the team were wonderful,” she exulted. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Her sister Bridie Colley felt the pundits should now be eating humble pie after all the criticism McGuinness was subjected to last year, and some of this, over his blanket defence strategy. “It was disgusting,” she said — of the criticism, not the strategy. McGuinness had proved them wrong, she was delighted to say. “Jim McGuinness, top man.”