Donegal burst secures All-Ireland final

Donegal 2-11 -17 def Mayo 0-13 – 13

In the week in which every footy fan in Australia is focusing on an oval ball somewhere, it has passed most of by that one of the great football occasions occurred the Sunday before.

Late on Sunday night I drifted into the Tarragindi night to join a bunch of nervous, middle-aged Irish people in green and red busily cremating meat on a Webber. They were from county Mayo or Mhaigh Eo, as the enormous flag covering the bookcase in the lounge room declared, and they were playing Donegal in the All-Ireland Final at Croke Park.

Mayo, it appears, is like a pre-2007 Geelong, regularly appearing in Grand Finals over the last twenty years and regularly getting smashed. Donegal have only appeared in one final since 1887, which they won. I was hoping the people from Mayo in Ireland’s northwest would hate the people from Donegal a little further north, but they don’t.

“They’re lovely people, lovely,” said O’Grady who owned a suspiciously large number of Mayo football jumpers, one of which I was now wearing.

They don’t go in for all that theatrical hullabaloo at an All-Ireland final. Pregame entertainment was a marching band and the ball was tentatively abseiled into the stadium by a guy who looked like something from Catholic School picnic with a large scrotum, or hemorrhoid. Just one guy, no smoke or fancy costume, though the scrotum was definitely a wardrobe malfunction of its own.

The president, Michael Higgins emerged for two minutes, doing a wonderful Yoda impersonation, sang the national anthem and the game was away.

By the six minute mark Mayo was two goals down and according my hosts the game was pretty much over, 82 000 fans were shouting for naught.

Gaelic football is scored by a rugby-style goal. Under the bar is a goal and worth three, over the bar is worth one. Few games seem to have more than three or four goals. Considering there is no offside and a goalkeeper, opportunities are limited.

Early on Donegal’s big forwards are all-over mayo, taking powerful marks and slamming the ball through low and hard. Colm McFadden was dominant in the early stages and guaranteed Mayo would chase tails all afternoon.

But chase and chase and chase they did. Never giving up in that style all brave losers do, but never quite threatening, like all brave losers.

O’Grady was getting testy and the refs were shitting him to tears. I knew that horrible, drifting feeling of another title slipping away. Mayo hasn’t won since 1951. The second goal was a galling four point turnaround for an offense I didn’t understand, but the name Maurice Deegan won’t be welcome anywhere near Tarragindi (or Castlebar) anytime soon.

The second half was probably their best chance. Kicking with the wind and Donegal looking a little fragile, Mayo had three or four golden chances and fluffed the lot, each miss a spear in O’Grady’s wound.

From then the game marched to its predictable end. You can’t chase as long in finals, it’s where the nervous energy of the pregame catches up.

They desperately needed a Hawkins or Franklin, but this day they had nothing powerful up forward. Donegal had the height and the muscle, Mayo the run. But when the run slows down the big men don’t get smaller.

For me in was 2:30am on a Sunday. O’Grady was in drowning mode and I needed to miss out. Poor old Mayo, they’ll get there one day.

About Hamish Townsend

Hamish Townsend was born and raised in Geelong, supports the Cats and lives in Brisbane.


  1. Hamish – wonderful report. I’ve been watching the progress of Donegal (thanks to a local Irish lad who has been feeding me information) and was barracking hard for them to get over the line. Part of my O’Donnell ancestry is from Donegal. I had one of the best nights of my life in a pub called Peg McShane’s in Glencolumbkille in 1987. Wonderful place. See the official report of the match:

  2. Dips’ best nights in Ireland = number of pubs he went to in Ireland.

    (Tried and tested mathematical formula)

  3. It was a great thing to watch, a really enormous occasion and I was wished I was there. Amazing how similar it is to Aussie Rules, guess that’s why they have the composite rules games.

  4. Phanto – there’s a book in there somewhere, but people wouldn’t believe me.

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