|Dublin’s Kevin McManamon in possession during the Meath match.|
A story of a lawnmower, one that has nothing to do with the Leinster football final win for Dublin over Meath but one that was told at Croke Park on Sunday.
My first Sunday off in weeks resulted in not one but two invitations to visit the GAA’s headquarters for the Leinster football final. Both were accepted.
The first involved sitting down for lunch with some good men and women from Penn State and the University of Central Florida, to discuss their visit to our shores next year for a college football game.
Both UCF coach George O’Leary and Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner were intrigued by their first trip to the home of the GAA and fascinated by the prospect of watching Gaelic football in the flesh.
They also made for informative and entertaining lunch guests and have promised to make an impression when they bring their respective teams back to Croker next year. I’m sure they will after a short but interesting spell in their company.
Soon after the final dessert spoon was put back on the table, we left the lunch suite in Croker for a corporate box in the stands on what used to be called the Canal End at this very famous ground.
Liberty Insurance, a Boston company now with a large presence in the Irish market, were the hosts for the live entertainment as the Meath team I follow took on the side representing the county of my birth.
We lost as it happens, but I never expected anything else to be honest.
What I didn’t expect was this young Meath team to take the game to their illustrious opponents and even have the temerity to lead by two points at the halftime interval.
I’ll get back to the game in a minute, but first I want to get back to the lawnmower and connect it to Sunday’s events in a very roundabout way.
We had a bit of a milestone moment in our house on Sunday as our one and only daughter Lia celebrated her 18th birthday. Like all teenagers, from what I can see, she has many, many friends, and it was vital that they all party in our back garden on one of the hottest nights of this glorious Irish summer.
Now kids being kids, something was bound to go astray when so many teens descended on our rural retreat down a country lane in the heart of the Royal County.
And sure enough, on Sunday morning as it happens as I prepared to leave for an early throw-in at Croker, news broke that our lawnmower had vanished.
It had started the night of the party sitting happily by the front gate but ended it on the missing list. Only the box that gathers the grass at the back of the mower was still present and correct, and that fact alone offered hijinks as the reason why the red machine was absent without leave.
A quick scan of the lane followed with no sign of said mower. Maybe someone had robbed it properly or maybe someone had pushed it away with them as they left the party, got bored and dumped it somewhere? Only time would tell.
It was a story worth telling as we sat around the lunch table in Croker, and I did just that with the consensus backing the mischief theory.
And sure enough, as we settled into the halftime refreshments in the Liberty Insurance box and came to grips with the fact that Mick O’Dowd’s Meath were winning, news came through of the lawnmower’s return.
Our neighbor Martin went to bed with one lawnmower parked in his garage and woke up to find two sitting there, side by side. Problem solved.
Dublin had their own problems to work out as we laughed at the return of the lawnmower, and that’s when their new boss Jim Gavin proved he is up to the job.
Having watched his team lose their way to Meath’s packed midfield in the first half, Gavin went like for like. Meath had stifled Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs in the opening spell but Gavin’s half-time talk certainly did their trick.
They shut down the midfield channels, hunted in packs going forward and ran Meath ragged for the second 35 minutes, no-one more so than young Ciaran Kilkenny who is, without a doubt, the finest young Gaelic football I have seen live since the Gooch Cooper was a kid in a Kerry jersey.