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Sure how could you not have the Connacht Final in the Hyde?

 

 

Good news then; great news in fact. Not only will Kevin and the team be at the Hyde on June 17th, the other Kevin and his team will be there too.

  Of course we always expected that the Hyde would get this game; mind you, the Connacht Council has fairly laid down the law, so to speak (see details on page 48).

  The Council has basically said: ‘You can have your party this time, but there will be no more parties until you attend to all those housekeeping issues that we’ve been going on about!”

  As we go to press, the alarming word from County Board Chairperson Seamus Sweeney is that the housekeeping issues could carry a €3m price tag.

  If the Roscommon business community could be assumed to have, metaphorically speaking, poured itself a symbolic ‘stiff drink’ to celebrate getting this year’s final, then that will have been coughed up pretty abruptly on hearing that €3m figure.

  I will leave the politics/finances of this issue for now – this week, we’ll leave the future to the future and just welcome the fact that there was a successful outcome to the frenetic behind-the-scenes manoeuvring of recent weeks. 

  We won’t be alone on June 17th, there will be no embarrassing build-up, the uncertainty is over…it’s Roscommon v a mean and mighty Galway, it’s game on!

  It’s going to be a great occasion for the county town, for the people of Roscommon, for the GAA.

  The Hyde on Connacht Final day, indeed the town on Connacht Final day, is truly special. On these days, anticipation and nervous excitement intertwine to create a very special atmosphere. 

  For Roscommon fans, the Hyde will always be the perfect Connacht Final venue. It’s our home, our would-be fortress, our familiar theatre of dreams.

  I first lived my Hyde dreams through the heroes of the late 1970s. I was drawn to the Hyde in those days by childhood wonder and the rock ‘n’ roll swagger of the Roscommon team of that era.

  Eight or nine of us were bundled into a small car in Rooskey on one Connacht Final morning, and off the driver sped, devouring road with zeal. We waved our crepe hats and visualised what wonders we might witness in an hour or two.

  As kids, we became used to witnessing Roscommon victories – there was that Connacht four-in-a-row from 1977 to ’80 (which I may have mentioned before). It turns out we were being spoilt.

  When I was sports reporting in the 1980s in the now sadly defunct Champion, I routinely referred to it as ‘the decade of despair’; a barren, chastening era for Roscommon footballers.

  In 1989, we almost escaped that unwelcome epitaph for that unforgiving decade. Losing in the dying seconds of that year’s Connacht Final replay at the Hyde, Roscommon flirted with glory when Tony McManus calmly converted a penalty; the stadium erupted, Mayo heads collapsed into Mayo hands. The premature celebrations of delirious Roscommon fans were part-shared on the pitch; fatally, some Roscommon players lost concentration. Mayo launched a desperate attack, time threatened to stand still and then a Michael Fitzmaurice free levelled for Mayo. Extra-time, hearts in mouths, anguish that we hadn’t sealed the deal. Next, seesaw exchanges before Jimmy Bourke scrambled home one of the ugliest goals of all time, the ball almost apologetically crossing the line. Mayo won. A sickener!

  In 1990, our Connacht title winning famine finally ended, Martin McDermott the calm manager of what will always be a fondly-remembered team. They retained the title too, in ’91.

  Gerry Lohan’s last-minute goal in 2001 won the title for Roscommon (against Mayo), a sensational late drama which now has a special place in folklore.

  In 2010, we were just back in Rosslare after a holiday in France when we tuned into the tense closing minutes of the Roscommon/Sligo final. Fergal O’Donnell’s Roscommon were outsiders that day. It was agony listening to those final minutes as we disembarked, agony followed by joy. Missing that one in the flesh was tough, but of course we’d had a great holiday!

  Hyde Park on Connacht Final day is about the football, it’s all about the football, but there’s other stuff too.

  There’s the sheer adrenalin rush you feel all morning, meeting familiar faces as you pick up a Sunday paper, everyone tuned into the same wavelength today. There’s the flags and the banners, the sheds painted in your county’s colours, the bunting at schools. All week, there’s the largely pointless but priceless pub debates on what might unfold. There’s the media interest. On match morning, there’s the growing buzz in town, the ‘early comers’ at the Hyde, the cones in place, the building momentum, the day’s mystery soon to be revealed. Then, the cars and buses, and the faithful are arriving.

  Ten days and counting – down. A new script to be written. Two Kevins, two teams, one prize.

  Sure how could you not have the Connacht Final in the Hyde?

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