Joy and tears on open-top bus tour ... 'till I nearly turfed Sam over the side
DAVID Diebold goes behind the scenes on the Dublin stars' visit to Skerries
It's quite a crush on an open top bus with an entire Dubs team as it snakes its way through 8,000 people in Skerries.
At one point, the Herald has to help pass the Sam Maguire cup hand-over-hand to captain Bryan Cullen up the front and it's so heavy I almost turf it over the side to the heaving crowds, shaking flags and cheering with such fervour that it's frankly quite frightening.
But tonight is all about good feeling; about one of Skerries' own fulfilling a promise and bringing the cup back to his home ground, Harps GAA, where he got his start and to thank these people who supported him and the Dubs all the way.
"Steeeevo! Steeeeeeeeevo!" shrieks a mob of girls now running and stumbling alongside and the crowds heave down every side street, atop every wall, as we get nearer the Harps clubhouse.
"Jayz, they're eager," says Stephen Cluxton, then Denis Bastick leaps crazily onto the canopy at the front of the bus and raises the cup to a stadium roar.
Just 10 minutes ago we'd stood in a dark car park on Skerries' outskirts as the team rolled in from Merrion Square.
They looked exhausted. As they got off their coach, Bryan Cullen's sister, Sinead, and his godparents Alex and Marie Fynes waited nearby.
"I haven't even had a chance to give him a hug," said Marie. "I went to one of their big matches before," she confided, "and they lost. So now I'm banned. I'm bad luck!" Marie watched the final from her home in Glasnevin and lit three candles.
"I had to fight with the stewards to be allowed on the pitch," grinned sister Sinead. "I'm like -- I'm his sister! I'm his sister!" Sinead was hopping now from foot to foot and craning her neck in anticipation of seeing him again.
Then, as 150 stewards and gardai applaud, the boys make their way over. "Bryan," says someone, "Give your godmother a hug!" He searches for her for a second with his eyes and then his arms are around her, his face burying into her shoulder.
The bus trundles on its way, past a quiet pond. It's the last time we're able to hear each other speak without shouting over the din. But the boys seem tired, subdued after the celebrations in town.
"Is there anyone actually going to be here, tonight," says Barry Cahill. "Wait," we tell him. "Just wait until you see."
A trickle of banners and cheers begins and soon it is a sea -- and the crowd, so full of honest joy for these young sportsmen who have done them so proud, seem to lift the lads with their singing and chanting.
In no time the whole team is grinning like loons and lifting and shaking Sam Maguire to a marvellous mayhem below and Bryan's sister is wiping tears from her eyes.
"Heads!" shouts someone and we duck electrical wires as we finally approach the hallowed grounds of Skerries Harps where a guard of honour waits to guide us in. Then it's pints, good food and hugs in the clubhouse before Bryan and his Dubs take to the stage to tumultuous cheers, raising the cup and leading 8,000 in unison: "Up the Dubs!"