It was 29 years in the making and when Galway won the All Ireland Hurling Championship two weeks ago it was always going to be some party. Can you imagine what it would be like were Mayo to bridge their 66-year gap this weekend?
One man that doesn’t have to imagine but does have to plan every last detail of how that celebration would go is John O’Farrell, General Manager at the Citywest Hotel to which the Mayo team and their supporters will repair after the game, win lose or draw.
The Citywest has become as synonymous with All Ireland weekend as Up for the Match or the hunt for tickets. It’s Citywest Suite caters for a sit-down dinner of 1,600 bigger than anything else in the country and every space will be filled on Sunday night.
“It’s the most exciting time of the year without a doubt and we are always ready to make the night special for the teams, the counties and the fans,” said O’Farrell speaking yesterday to Sport for Business.
“Our game plan kicks into action as the final whistle is blown on a semi final when a winning county has already made a provisional booking with us. For this year’s Hurling, three of the semi finalists had done just that and the call came in from the Galway organising committee the night they beat Tipperary with that Canning super point.”
O’Farrell is a consummate professional and though he is a Tipperary man by birth he is always ready to fully adopt the county that is coming.
“I always wear my Tipperary tie on the Sunday night, after all, we are one massive GAA family and no one begrudges the team that has come through.”
“It’s a massive logistical exercise making sure that everything goes exactly as it should but we have had a bit of practice down the years. The Kilkenny team and fans have been with us for each of their last 14 finals.”
“The last time we had the double was in 2008 when they were followed by Tyrone two weeks after.”
O’Farrell’s own team will run to a massive 700 staff on duty on Sunday across the accommodation, reception area and catering sides of the business.
“It’s all hands on deck and there is a lot to do. Generally we will have a lot staying the night before. We have 764 rooms and will serve 1,400 for breakfast on Sunday before most head for the Luas and into Croke Park. There will always be a few hundred that have not got a ticket and they will stay around the bars to watch the game unfold.”
When the whistle is blown and Sam Maguire is handed over then the plan kicks quickly up into fifth gear.
The fans will start arriving back around 7 and the team will generally arrive, amid the lights and fever of a full Garda escort at between half past eight and nine o’clock.
“I’ll be outside the main entrance with the Head of the organising committee on the phone to the bus giving us a countdown to arrival and the fans are watching me to see how long it will be.”
“When they arrive our front of house team will board the bus and give the players their room key cards. They will emerge to a rapturous welcome and head upstairs to gather themselves and get dressed for dinner. That takes around half an hour.”
“If the team has lost it’s more subdued. No Garda escort and sympathy rather than a celebration but the party goes on.”
“We’ll serve the dinner at around nine thirty. Our team of around 50 chefs will be ready for small delays and the timing will be different if they win or lose. The RTÉ Sunday game team will be heading out ahead of the players and we have an area all set up for Michael Lyster and the man of the Match presentation.”
“The dinner should finish at around 1130 and then all those staying with us who were in town will be coming back and the after party starts to swing.”
For now, on the eve of the biggest weekend of the year, it’s about making sure that all the details are in place. Stephen Rochford has his game plan, John O’Farrell has his. If Mayo are to have a weekend to remember for the rest of their lives then both will need to be executed to perfection.
The Citywest Hotel and the Tetrarch Group are among the more than 220 organisations that play an active part in the Sport for Business community.
Image Credit Presseye Darren Kidd