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Thursday 8 December 2016

Jane Last: Bodhrans, banners and a blue-eyed view from famed Hill 16

5 September 2015; Dublin supporters on Hill 16. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final Replay, Dublin v Mayo. Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
5 September 2015; Dublin supporters on Hill 16. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final Replay, Dublin v Mayo. Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Any All-Ireland ticket for this Sunday's match is a golden ticket.

However, if it's not for Hill 16, then you're missing out.

Hill 16 is the place to be - I only realised what I've been missing out on all this time when I went to the semi-final replay between Mayo and Dublin.

Bodhrans, banners, sharp wit, some very inappropriate language and unusual smells, intense heat behind the pitchside screens and a constant swaying noisy bank that carries you on a physical and emotional rollercoaster from start to finish - the Hill has it all if you're a Blues fan.

Vocal

On the previous occasions I have been to Croke Park, in the Hogan, Davin or Cusack Stands, I would look enviously towards the Hill. There always seemed to be a party going on when Dublin was winning, and vocal support when Dublin were on the ropes.

So I was only too happy I was heading to the Hill less than a forthnight ago.

Clutching my precious semi-final replay ticket, myself and a friend went running down Clonliffe Road on and were up on the Hill as the teams took to the pitch.

Because we were latecomers, we were close to the front, right behind the perspex screens.

I have to say the view wasn't great - and standing behind those screens in the sunshine is like a standing in an oven. We were roasting. I felt sorry for the teenage girls plastered in make-up who were in our section and whose foundation and bronzer had slid off by half-time.

'Come on you boys in blue' was in full force throughout the opening 35 minutes.

'Better get to Specsavers' was another popular chant - you can guess who that was aimed at.

The Dublin team didn't get off lightly either - the Hill has high standards.

"They're not tackling them. Why are they so f****** afraid," shouted one woman over and over while another crudely compared Jim Gavin's men to lost sheep standing in a field.

At 10 points each, there was a sense of foreboding on the Hill at half-time.

The Hill was somewhat muted especially when Mayo scored the first goal of the match at the start of the second half and went four points ahead.

There was a collective "What the f***?" emitted after the Mayo goal.

This was followed by the Hill then screaming at the team to "get up the pitch" and "point it".

The Hill was roaring at the team to wake up. To the beating of the bodhrans, they sang, they shouted, they screamed, and they encouraged.

When Dublin woke up, the famous terrace began to shake to its foundations.

From the first Dublin goal onwards, the Hill was rocking right up until the final whistle.

Chanting

There was one man standing beside me who literally gave his all during the match in terms of chanting and shouting - he was hoarse and asked me for my bottle of water. He had to keep it up, he explained, and he needed the water. I duly obliged and he roared on.

The Hill really is unforgiving. As swathes of Mayo fans were leaving the Cusack stand before the final whistle, it seemed like the entire Hill turned towards them chanting "cheerio". It was hard not to feel sorry for those in the red and green who had a long journey home before them.

After the final whistle, 'water guy' got up on a barrier, helped by his friends, and proudly waved his massive Dublin flag. I can't imagine what this man will be like if Dublin beat Kerry this Sunday.

Hill 16 - there's no other place to be this Sunday.

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