All-Ireland final hype is about to enter fever pitch. Nothing beats preparing for a final, whether your a player, supporter, county board or club official. It gives everyone a pep in their step. The players and officials have the trivial matters out of the way and will have their match day suits ready for the off and press commitments done and dusted. For them now it's all about focused minds and mentally preparing themselves for the biggest day of their footballing lives.
The hard work is done, the winter slogging a distant memory. It's all about tweeking the little things so they hopefully give their best on the day. There has never been a player who hasn't regrets from final day, even the very best look back and wonder, if only. Sometimes the biggest obstacle to winning is the fear of losing.
I have to say I'm a big fan of the players press nights. It allows the management and players to get their media duties out of the way and done in one evening. Journalists have their few hours to get their stories for their publications for the lead up to the big day .All parties forbidden to do anything outside of these allocated few hours. Things were a little different in my time.
In 1996 it was chaotic and I was in the middle of the media circus. I would have received up to 20 calls a day to our shop phone from media men, cousins, well wishers and even one unusual call from a guy from Derry who informed me that he had stayed in our house a few years before when we hosted a team for the feile and if I'd ever be so good as to sort him out with four tickets for the All-Ireland final. Is this a prank I wondered, it couldn't be sincere, it was but I think you know the outcome.
My work situation made it difficult to avoid people and stay focused as working in the retail trade meant anyone could just walk in off the street to have a chat. It was all well intentioned and nobody meant any harm but it was energy sapping. I had to vacate the place the Wednesday before the game as it became too much. There wasn't mobile phones back then either, thank God for that. Donal Vaughan finds himself in a very similar position, anyone can pop in for an autograph or a selfie to the family shoe store. I'm sure he won't mind as long as they have a pair of shoes in a bag with them on the way out .Most of the Mayo players should be well aware how to deal with All-Ireland hype. Most are playing in their third final, Andy Moran in his fourth and Alan Dillon getting ready for his fifth shot at the title. When you consider Mayo had not been in a final from 1951-1989 thats an amazing statistic. It's a shame the seven since have not gone to plan.
Securing the match day ticket is a real worry a lot of supporters. Dublin being the opponents doesn't help matters with their huge fan base. It is the nightmare job for county board and club officials as it's virtually impossible to keep everybody happy. Most don't realise they have a ticket until the day before the game, they always seem to turn up. I have watched tickets exchanging hands on the streets of Charlestown over the years, the relief on the supporters face is always of pure elation.
The players went away to a quiet retreat last weekend to fine tune the details and get away from it all. In 1996, we went to Renvyle in Connemara the weekend before the All-Ireland against Meath, I don't think anybody found us. Leaving Renvyle we were given our tickets allocation, ten tickets complimentary with the option of buying ten, everyone took up that option. Colm Mac was always given an extra allocation because of his large family, no one would have argued with him about it. I travelled home from Renvyle with Kevin Cahill and while coming through Tuam a few lads in a car ahead recognised us, all obviously Mayo supporters. I decided to have a laugh, I got my 20 tickets and Kevin Cahill's 20 tickets and fanned them out like a deck of cards to show the boys in front.They nearly hopped through the back window and it caused mayhem at the traffic lights. It was a good laugh and they boys in front took it in good humour, I think. They were great times.
The build up is starting to heat up for the final and the punditry circuit is in full swing, I'll be in Castlebar tonight in An Sportlann with www.sportsjoe.ie where myself, James Horan, Ray Cosgrove and Pillar Caffrey will be on duty.