Hear it in the trees - 'Sam for
by Linda McGrory
SSShhh. If you listen close enough, you'll even hear
it in the trees - 'Sam for Donegal'. With their
green leaves turning gold, wouldn't you just know
it, Ireland's trees are supporting Dún na nGall.
And they're not the only ones enjoying a seasonal
makeover. Sheep, dogs, the dogs' lampposts, the
cat's pyjamas, the cat's mother, the mother's cat.
In fact, if you stand still long enough in Donegal
these days, you might just have a brush with...the
How excited and proud are we? We have the collective
goosebumps. Our goosebumps have goosebumps.
Household charge, what's that? Recession, what
recession? Jimmy's winning matches and - for this
weekend at least - that's all that matters.
All our Christmases have come together. In fact it's
just like Christmas on the streets and in the bars
of Buncrana, Carn, Moville and Clonmany, as ex-Pats
travel home and green and gold bunting billows where
fairy lights twinkle in December.
But it's well and truly 'Countdown to Croker' time
as the big hand ticks towards throw-in on Sunday at
It's been announced that Donegal will be unchanged
for the final against Mayo, with Buncrana's Ryan
Bradley retaining his place in the half-forward
The Ballymagan man was battling a shoulder injury
and was facing competition to be in the starting
But he has been central to the team over the past
two years and was recently named the GAA/GPA
Footballer of the Month for July.
"Ryan has started for us in every game in the
championship this year and has been playing well,"
said Donegal assistant manager Rory Gallagher.
Donegal are going in as favourites to end a 20-year
drought for All-Ireland success.
A group of men hauled 12
tonnes of sand-filled bags up Knockbrack Hill in
Malin to show their support for the county squad.
Photo courtesy Paddy 'Paul' Doherty.
But Jim McGuinness is
taking no chances and has highlighted Mayo's
strength of performance against reigning champs
Dublin in the semi-final, citing their good
'possession, speed and teamwork".
And since Mayo hasn't lifted the cup for 61 years,
Donegal - despite only winning Sam once - can't
fully claim the benefits of underdog status either.
There are only two certainties - the West is Awake
with enthusiastic support from Clare Island to
Clonmany, Louisburg to Letterkenny. And, every Irish
GAA fan is eagerly awaiting a scintillating showdown
on Sunday between two counties that share a great
deal in common.
Both teams deserve their big day in Dublin as their
many hours, days and months of training in the salty Altantic rain culminate in a 70-minute battle of the
Meanwhile, as thousands of Tír Conaill supporters,
bedecked in green and gold, head to Croke Park,
thousands more prepare to watch the big match in the
county with family and friends in the clubs, bars and
Homes of Donegal. A pint of 'McGuinness' anyone?
DONEGAL: P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, F McGlynn;
A Thompson, K Lacey, E McGee; N Gallagher, R
Kavanagh; R Bradley, L McLoone, M McHugh; P
McBrearty, M Murphy, C McFadden.
MAYO: D Clarke; K Keane, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L
Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle; B Moran, A O'Shea; K
McLoughlin, J Doherty, A Dillon; E Varley, C
O'Connor, M Conroy.