Amazingly, in the strangest of years, the final shopping weekend before Christmas is also the same weekend of the All-Ireland football final. 2020 has tested us all but the prospect of a thrilling All-Ireland football final between Dublin and Mayo under the Croke Park lights this Saturday evening is really quite extraordinary.
Speaking during a preview of Saturday's All-Ireland final, former Mayo manager Stephen Rochford and Dublin legend Coman Goggins believe it's going to be a very close game.
Mayo came very close to beating Dublin under Stephen Rochford in the All-Ireland final but never got over the line. They lost by a point in 2016 and 2017 All-Ireland finals. If Saturday's game is anything like the 2017 decider we're in for a treat.
Looking ahead to Saturday's match, Rochford thinks Dublin might have the slight edge over his old team.
'They’ve (Dublin) the potential to be more physical and obviously a strength of their game is being able to run that ball. I expect it to be fiery. It’s unfortunate that we won’t have a crowd there because I think the crowd adds to amplify that,' the former Mayo manager said.
HERE. WE. GO! 💪@MayoGAA 🟢🔴 will take on @DubGAAOfficial🔵 in the 2020 @officialgaa All-Ireland Senior Football Final! Will Dublin keep Sam Maguire in the capital or will Sam be travelling west? 🏐 #TheToughest pic.twitter.com/E1HkqUbeDn
— AIB_GAA (@AIB_GAA) December 6, 2020
Rochford does not feel that the absence of supporters will make much difference to either team and he expects Mayo to be well in contention heading into the final quarter.
'People are saying 'there will be with no Hill there, there will be no weight of expectation without supporters." I think it happens both ways. When Mayo generate a bit of momentum in Croke Park, the roar from the crowd is massive.
'The same way as when you try and put Dublin on the back foot and the hill goes quiet, that’s important and then vice versa. Obviously Dublin get three or four points and then the Boys in Blue chant or the drums are rocking up!
'I don’t think it’s an advantage or disadvantage to either team. They’ll both get their benefits out of it, but I expect it to be tight, certainly up to the second water break," Rochford said.
Goggins feels the game will be very close, but just fancies Dublin to edge it.
"I think it will go right down to 55 or 60 minutes. I think both benches will be needed to try and see out the game and I’d probably favour Dublin’s because they just have a bit of experience, know-how and potentially more scores that will come off, when maybe scores are at a premium," he said.
2020 will be a year none of us will forget, that's for sure. For the GAA community, it's been a year of challenges, restrictions, and ultimately, togetherness.
The Toughest Season, produced by AIB and Sportsfile, is the definitive record of this unforgettable year from a GAA perspective. It features beautiful photographs of the GAA community making sense of life during lockdown. The book is now for sale in all good bookstores across the country (and is available for purchase online - you can buy it here). It's been brilliant to see the reaction of GAA fans who've bought it, and with all proceeds going to support AIB's charity partners, it really is the perfect Christmas gift for the GAA fan in your life.
Delighted to hear news from @AIB_GAA that two of my photos of @MeathGAA were included in The Toughest Season book which is for sale now. The action photo is of Ruairí Kinsella @DunshaughlinGAA scoring a brilliant goal against @StColmcillesGAA and the other a jovial Meath fan. pic.twitter.com/AJJqkDNfir
— Brian Mulligan 📸 (@BMPHOTOME) December 8, 2020
Looking for the perfect Christmas present for the GAA fanatic in your life? 🎁@AIB_GAA have got you covered!
The Toughest Season book is out now. By purchasing this book you are also helping to support some great charities too 💙 pic.twitter.com/mYKphMib5T
— Waterford GAA (@WaterfordGAA) December 14, 2020
Our @justbuyirish monthly pick for December #TheToughestSeason
A photography book by @AIB_GAA showing how hurling, football + camogie communities came together to support one another throughout 2020@sportsfile #SportsBooks #JustBuyIrish #Booksellers #Ireland #GaelicGames pic.twitter.com/b6g69umFzZ
— OMahonys Booksellers (@OMahonysBooks) December 15, 2020
The book truly captures the GAA's community spirit. Both Stephen Rochford and Dublin legend Coman Goggins praised The Toughest Season for perfectly portraying the best parts of the GAA.
'There’s three or four pictures there of different clubs coming together doing a couple of home deliveries, couple of food deliveries.
'It’s become a little bit clichéd about the GAA community, but I think just as a national community, how people checked in on each other, looked out for each other, adhered in the main to what the authorities were asking us.
'People went about being very selfless and putting themselves out there on deliveries and putting themselves in harms way if you think of it that way. It was a great bit of spirit and community spirit,' Rochford said.
Goggins explained how one picture in the book perfectly captured the tone of what will happen on Saturday.
'One of the pictures that stands out for me, there’s a little and large moment, I’m not sure what page the pictures on where two guys are playing in a club game when action got back together.
'One guy is quite small and the other guy is quite big. It just shows the heart and commitment that maybe epitomises what GAA is all about. In some incidents, it maybe epitomises what goes on when Mayo beat Dublin. That everyone talks about Dublin and nobody gives the underdog a chance,' he said.