There are a still a few counties who have to host their respective county final fixtures which got me thinking, I wish I could go rewind the clock and enjoy those days through the innocent eyes of my childhood self.
It might not happen every year but when it does, it engrosses the heart of the entire parish and everyone plays their part to put the fundamental county final preparations in place. Somebody always sacrifices their car to be painted in the colours of the club, banners are hung in the streets, and the local shops and pubs suspend flags and streamers outside the door in support.
And through the wide eyes of a child, the whole process is a joy to be around. They don't have to endure the bar stool bullshit from the local self appointed experts and the burden of bumping into an ex at the game is a worry they don't have to contemplate yet.
They're just happy to be at the county final and here are some of the memories that bring us back to those carefree days.
Looking The Part
Your Mammy wouldn't let you rock up to mass looking like a wild animal, and by God she wasn't going to let you off to the county final bedecked in just any old thing. The complete county final outfit was a simple one to assemble, and each component was as significant as the last.
Facepainting - Getting the club colours painted on your cheeks was the most effective way of saying you were ready for war.
Wearing Daddy's Old Jersey - Yes you could barely walk because it was several sizes too big . And yes, the colours had faded so badly that the club colours were no longer distinguishable, but you had to wear it and there was to be no arguing about it.
Headband - If Annie the musical says you're never fully dressed without a smile, then the GAA gods will surely decry that you're not ready for the county final until you have one of these bad boys wrapped around your head.
Not Watching The Match
You went to the match with grand expectations of actually watching it, but when you found all your friends at the grounds, marathon games of 40-40 home soon commenced and they turned out to be far more important than the game. And more often than not, we showed more heart to win those playground games than the players did out on the pitch. It all came down to who wanted it more.
The Ice-Cream Van
Any time is a good time for ice-cream. And the Mr Whippy van often made an appearance at the county final, much to the delight of every child at the venue. The standard cone, the colourful boat and the humble tub were the choices on offer to hold the precious swirls of ice-creamy goodness. And if you didn't ask for a topping of sprinkles and red flavoured syrup on top of your order, then it can only be assumed that you were a broken child.
Building Monuments With The Gravel
The stands in modern GAA arenas are a feat of architectural excellence. It's all plastic seats and outstretched roofs most of the time now but it wasn't always like that. There was a time when the unsheltered areas were covered in gravel, and this surface brought out artistic skills we never knew you had. We got down on our hands and knees, weren't afraid to get stuck in, and built bitchin' mountains of dirt before tearing them down and starting all over again.
Roaring Ooooooooooooohhhh For Frees And Kickouts
The few times you did tilt your head in the direction of the pitch was always purpuseful and it was with the good of your home club in mind. Whenever the opposition were lining up a free or kickout, you made sure to gather up your pals to unleash a chorus of ooooooooooohhhhhh in an attempt to distract the kicker. It literally never worked, but that didn't stop you trying it again and again whenever the opportunity came up.
Sneaking Onto The Pitch
One of the hotspots for young supporters to head to during a game, was behind the goals to catch whatever stray balls landed that direction. But on county final day, the outskirts of the pitch were patrolled so strictly you'd swear it was Fort Knox. And no matter how much you pleaded and tried to charm the stewards, there was no getting on to the grass with their permission. Hopping the dangerously high fences was the only solution and even if you managed to do that, you were soon escorted back out to the stands again.
Sneaking Up To The Scoreboard
When the pitch invasion plan failed, the next best thing was to venture over to the scoreboard to get a vantage viewpoint of the game. It was merely another activity to keep you occupied. And helping out with updating the scores evoked a real feeling of importance.