It may have gone head to head with Man United in the Premier League on Sunday but for two pundits more used to the eleven a side version of football there was only one place they wanted to be on Sunday afternoon.
Earlier this summer AIB challenged Jeff Stelling and Chris Kamara to travel the length and breadth of Ireland in a bid to understand how grassroots GAA clubs fuel the county championships.
Their journey has been documented in one of the marketing highs of the summer as a mini-series released exclusively across AIB’s social channels.
The journey was all a build-up to commentating live on the All-Ireland Football Final from Croke Park on Sunday, the final fruits of which will be released next Monday, September 25th.
“I knew how fast a game it was going to be but what I wasn’t prepared for was the electric atmosphere and the sheer physicality of the All-Ireland final,” said Stelling.
“You feel part of a special event before it even starts because it’s such a special stadium and the fact that the fans are integrated, that there’s no segregation, is amazing.”
“At a Premier League game in England now, anyone who has bought tickets from a tout and finds themselves in the wrong section, fingers will immediately point and they’ll be removed, even if they’re completely harmless.”
“The great thing as an outsider coming in is the speed of the game. There’s no time to celebrate when you score because the action’s back underway straight away.”
“If somebody’s hurt there’s no rolling around because the game’s going to carry on without you. There is literally no pause for breath and that’s what makes the game as fast and furious as it is.”
“Even though we had no allegiance to either side we couldn’t help but get wrapped up in it. By the end, I was as gutted for Mayo as anybody else.”
“These are amateurs but they’re as fit as any professional sportsmen. They have to be due to the sheer pace of the game and also because of the size of the pitch. It’s immense. The halves are shorter, time-wise, than football (soccer) but the pace is unrelenting so I’d imagine the pace the players are as fit as any professional football. Bearing in mind that they’re amateurs that is an achievement in itself.”
“I didn’t get off-air on ‘Goals on Sunday’ on Sky until 12:28 on Sunday,” said Kamara.
“So I had a motorbike pick me up, take me to Luton airport, the plane was on time and then when we landed in Dublin I had another motorbike ready to take me to Croke Park straight to the ground.”
Sky Sports Pundit and colleague of Stelling and Kamara Paul Merson is one of the Keynote interviews at One-Zero in Croke Park on October 17th. Secure your place among the most influential gathering of sporting and business leaders right here.
“It was a bit crazy, both drivers on the bikes were on a mission to get me there as quickly as possible. Coming through the crowd on a motorbike was great.”
“Just as we came to the stadium a police bike came up beside us and flagged us down but when I lifted my visor he went ‘oh crikey!’ He knew the score, but it was fine! I got into the stadium at 10 past three and it was another 10 minutes before I got to the gantry but I made it!”
“I’ve been to loads of matches in England and been to every single World Cup and Euros that England have been involved in since 2002 but the roar of the crowd beforehand was greater than any of those.”
“The only thing I could compare it to is the roar before the first race in Cheltenham. There’s a noise that comes up and it was exactly like that yesterday and it was like that up and down throughout the match.
“If I could bring anything back to the Premier League from our time here you’d love to bring back the community spirit.”
“When you see all the fans in together, the elation and the sadness and everyone sat next to each other. Kids crying and the other half of their family up there and giving it all that, that’s just incredible, you’d rarely find that in football (soccer).”
“In Britain, as soon as the final whistle goes in a Cup Final you look to the ‘away’ end and the losing fans are gone, they’re not interested in watching what’s going on but yesterday the place was still three-quarters full when the Dubs were celebrating yesterday. That is very special.”
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Image Credits TG4