Dubs hail ‘best ever’ team while ‘neutral’ fans cheer for Tyrone

Northerners’ pre-match nerves turn out to be justified as Dublin cruise to four-in-a-row

The man selling the white four-in-a-row baseball caps outside Croke Park breathed a sigh of relief as the second half of the All-Ireland final drew to a close and Dublin maintained their lead.

"Here, look at this" he said, turning one of the caps inside out. Just about visible under the heavy plastic sticker rejoicing in Dublin's fourth triumph in as many years was another sticker welcoming Pope Francis to Dublin. "I'm selling these for a mate," he explained. "I sold all me Pope hats last week. But he would have been screwed altogether if they'd lost."

In truth, apart from a 10 minute spell at the start there was little chance of that happening and most of the people outside Croke Park before throw in knew it.

Sandra Norton from Scotland was confident as she prepared herself for her first All-Ireland final in an absolutely jammed Big Tree pub in Drumcondra, hosting its last All-Ireland final party before closing its doors ahead of a major redevelopment.


"I've never had a ticket before," she told The Irish Times. "This fella always gets one but not me," she said gesturing to her husband Niall. "Football has always been big deal for us," she continued. "In fact on our first date he took me to see Dublin play Laois. And we had to be on the Hill for a semi-final two days after we got married so never got our honeymoon."

Her husband Niall, from Walkinstown, was unapologetic. "Well we can't miss the big games can we," he said. "I wouldn't say I'm overly confident but Dublin would have to be really bad for Tyrone to win and I can't see that happening".

Eamonn White from Castleknock agreed. As he spoke he rooted in his bag for two balloons with the number four on them. "I'll be blowing these up later for sure," he said, denying he was being complacent. Sort of. "Am I counting my chickens? I don't think so. Well if I am we own the chicken farm so we do."

While Tyrone fans in the pubs and on the streets around Croke Park were in good spirits they were fearful. Clusters in the Big Tree spoke nervously about the game. “If we can just get a goal early,” one told his friends. “If we can get just get a four or five point lead,” another said. “Dublin have never had to chase a game.”

Maeve McBride was dressed red and white and just before the match started she was optimistic. “Well we definitely have a chance,” she insisted. “I’ll be gutted if we lose.”

An hour before the start, the touts were doing grand. The Irish Times followed one to see just how business was. She bought a ticket from a man draped in Tyrone's colours and paid him €40. Just 15 seconds later she sold the same ticket to a Dublin supporter for €80.

As she plied her lucrative trade, an almost entirely naked man painted in blue danced nearby. There was a line of people waiting to pose for selfies with him. He was Shane Peppard from Clondalkin. " I've been doing this since 2013, it's my thing," he explained.

He wasn't the only photographic draw. On a baize-covered table stood the Sam Maguire, or at least an exact replica. People posed for pictures holding it aloft. " That's my fruit bowl normally," said Sandra Murphy. "It belongs to my husband Darragh. He has loads of replicas and they're all in my sitting room.

"Normally we use it to raise money for the Crumlin Children's Hospital but this year we just brought it down. It'll be good for the poor Tyrone fans. They're not going to have another go of it."

When the match started the pubs near Croke Park emptied but there was still a fair crowd in the Big Tree, mostly made up of Kerry and Galway fans who had travelled up for the minor final. They were all cheering for Tyrone.

With 20 minutes played the northerners were 4 points ahead. Then Dublin got a penalty. “No way was that a f**king penalty. He dived,” the neutrals screeched. Dublin scored another goal to a sound of anguished howls from the Big Tree “neutrals”.

“It’s over now,” a lone a Tyrone fan said disconsolately. “They must be the best team ever and I’m not even joking.

Soaking up the atmosphere in the Hill 16 pub on Gardiner St were a delighted Megan La Salle from Philadelphia and an equally thrilled Christy Parks from Delaware. The flight attendants had flown to Dublin from Washington hours earlier and gone straight into the city to savour the atmosphere.

“We haven’t slept in 24 hours but are still delighted to be here watching the Dubs,” La Salle said. “It’s craic and it’s fun to be a part of such a big event for you guys.”

Parks nodded as she sipped her pint of Guinness. “Of course we are supporting Dublin, I mean hello that’s where we are. We don’t really understand the rules but that’s okay , it’s nice to be involved and it really matters to lots of people.”

It certainly mattered to Brendan Clark from Coolock who was sitting at the bar. "I don't want to be cocky or anything by who can stop us winning now," he said. "I mean Mayo can't and Kerry can't. We're the best team ever."

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast