Blue bunting business booms as Dublin fans predict five in a row

‘They’re a good Kerry team but not great,’ says one brave, fate-tempting supporter

Liam Connolly puts the finishing touches to a neighbour’s lawn on Clonliffe Road, near Croke Park, in advance of the Dublin v Kerry replay. Photograph: Alan Betson

Liam Connolly puts the finishing touches to a neighbour’s lawn on Clonliffe Road, near Croke Park, in advance of the Dublin v Kerry replay. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

For the time being it’s all calm in the Hill 16 pub, just a 10-minute walk from Croke Park.

Bunches of green and gold balloons dangle alongside blue and navy ones outside the bar on Gardiner Street Middle but, inside, bartender Diane Reilly isn’t neutral about Dublin’s “drive for five”.

“Dublin came so close; I really hope they do it this time.”

Wayne Corcoran, who lives “around the corner”, beside Diane, pauses from putting up blue and navy bunting in the bar to declare: “We’ll definitely do it.”

Diane says the matches “bring a good sense of community”, and the local shops are running short of blue and navy bunting. She is anticipating a great atmosphere after the match, whatever the result.

“We had some girls in here from Birmingham for the final. It was their first time in Ireland and they had such a good time they’re coming back for the replay. They’ve got their Dublin tops.”

Peter Wall, a lifelong Dublin fan in his 60s who lives in nearby Summerhill, is wearing his Dublin jersey. He will be on Hill 16 for the replay and for the women’s final on Sunday – “Sineád Aherne is a great player” – and is hoping for a “double celebration” on Monday.

One glance at Peter’s home leaves no doubt about his loyalty. The blue and navy bunting is everywhere and flags celebrate the male and female Dublin teams. One flag pays particular homage to Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly, and a large sign proclaims: “Sam is staying AT HOME.”

Peter considers Connolly “one of the best Gaelic footballers this country has ever seen” and hopes he will have another All-Ireland medal shortly. “They’re a good Kerry team but they’re not great.”

A follower of Dublin “since I was a kid”, Peter remembers all the greats, including Anton O’Toole, the “Blue Panther”, who won four All-Ireland medals, and who died earlier this year.

He wants the five in a row for history, “for Anto” and for Mary Byrne, a friend and lifelong Dublin supporter who is very ill.

Denied by death

Anton’s brother Peter O’Toole is sad his beloved brother, who died earlier this year of cancer, won’t be taking his usual seat in Croke Park. “Anton knew, if the Dubs got the five in a row, he would not be alive to see it.”

Anton was also well aware of the scale of the challenge facing Jim Gavin’s men, and Peter shares his brother’s apprehension over whether the drive for five will succeed.

“If you had said in 2011, when we won our first All-Ireland since 1995, that we would be going for five in a row just a few years later, you would have been locked up.”

Peter, who grew up with Anton on the South Circular Road and played alongside him in their Synge Street club, will be at the match but is “very nervous”.

“It would be such a big achievement to pull this off. We have a great Dublin team but we had great teams in the 1970s and 1980s, too. This Kerry team are very good. Anything could happen.”

Maurice Farrell, another true blue Dublin supporter from North Richmond Street, has no such doubts.

“Kerry had their chance and Dublin will have learned from that. It will be tough but I think Dublin will win by six points.”

On Portland Road, two minutes away, Josie Parrott is putting up even more Dublin bunting outside her already well-bedecked home. “It’s very hard to get – the shops are all out of it,” she laments.

Her 14-year-old grandson, Adam Molloy, is shy but, when asked who will win, is adamant. “Dublin.”