Monday 20 November 2017

Devoted Dublin fans journey home from around the world to support beloved Boys in Blue in Croker

Former Dublin footballer Bernard Brogan Snr, with some of his sons Alan and Bernard's GAA mementos, in his home in Castlenock, Dublin
Former Dublin footballer Bernard Brogan Snr, with some of his sons Alan and Bernard's GAA mementos, in his home in Castlenock, Dublin
Former Dubs hero Brian Stynes with his aunt and uncle Nuala and Brendan Stynes in Raheny

Former All-Ireland-winning player Brian Stynes joined a mass movement of Dublin exiles travelling back to Ireland for tomorrow's big match at Croke Park.

The former All-Star made the journey from Australia for the All-Ireland showdown with Kerry.

"I watch all the Dublin games using the computer and television at home in Australia but I have to watch the games alone, except for the dog," said Stynes (43).

"And most people I meet regularly in Australia naturally won't give a crap how Dublin is doing. So, it's great to be back in Ireland with the Dublin fans and meeting my old team mates," he told The Herald.

Brian won an All-Ireland Senior Medal with Dublin in 1995, beating Tyrone.

"I'm enjoying meeting my aunts, uncles, and friends and visiting my old club Ballyboden St Enda's," he said.

Brian's father, Brian Senior, was in Croke Park for the semi-final and then returned home to Australia. Brian's three sisters and brother David, a former Dublin footballer, all live in Australia.


Brian's brother Jim, who won an All-Ireland with the Dublin Minor football team, became a sporting legend in Australian Rules football. He died of cancer in 2012 and received a state funeral in Melbourne, where a statue was erected in his memory.

Brian was overjoyed to book his ticket back to Dublin when the Blues overcame Mayo.

"I'm delighted we're playing Kerry. There's great rivalry between us.

"There were some great matches in the 1980s and the players I most admired in that era were Brian Mullins and Jack O'Shea.

"I modelled myself more on Jack because I had the same build as him," he said.

Many Dublin exiles keep in touch with the fortunes of the team via the All Dublin GAA Fans Facebook page, set up by Richie Larkin.

Die-hard Dublin fan Ian Rogers is home from Australia for three weeks and was still seeking a ticket yesterday.

Sydney-based dad Ian (35) from Greenpark, Dublin 12, "religiously attended" all Dublin games until emigrating in 2008.

"This is one to tick off my bucket list, an All-Ireland Final," he said.

Mr Rogers posted an ad online saying that he was willing to pay €200 - more than twice the face value - for a ticket. One caller invited him to better a bid of €400 a ticket but Ian refused on principal to enter a bid. "Hopefully, there are still some decent, genuine people still out there," he said.

Another Sydney-based Dub, Ger Hughes (50), a paediatric intensive care nurse, was also searching for a ticket.

"It's a childhood dream to see Dublin in a final in Croke Park," said Ger, a native of Crumlin who played in local juvenile GAA teams. A regular supporter of the Dubs when he lived in Ireland, he has worked for 18 years in Australia.

True Blue Dub Jimmy Sheridan has travelled from Britain for every Dublin final since emigrating in 1958.

"I've never missed a Dublin final and there's no way I'll miss this one," said Jimmy, who first attended a Dublin-Kerry final in 1955, aged 10.

"The 1955 Dublin team was our greatest team of all," said the 70-year-old loyal supporter.

His family moved to England from Ballyfermot when he was 13. Jimmy is vice-chairman of the Thomas McCurtain GAA Club in Ilford in London.

He was a building contractor and successful entrepreneur who, at one stage, had more than 90 employees. He also worked as a diamond cutter and a locksmith.


Jimmy, also a loyal follower of St Vincent's GAA Club and Shamrock Rovers, is not happy with some changes in recent years that made getting tickets for All-Ireland finals more restrictive.

He was travelling from London for the final with fellow emigrant and cousin Shane Doyle, a native of Malahide.

Another Dublin fan travelling for the final is Portrane native Martin Keyes (36), goalkeeper for Jimmy's London GAA club.

"It's going to be a great game. Kerry are a strong side but form goes out the window when the two sides meet," said Martin, a father-of-one and a former player for St Patrick's in Donabate and St Finian's in Swords.

Also travelling from London is superfan Breda Sheahan (42), a native of Killester, who makes the journey to Dublin several times a year to support the Dubs. A bank executive, she has been a lifelong Dubs fan and even brings her English fiance, David Thomsett (45), onto Hill 16 for the games.

"David is an Arsenal fan but he's now a Dublin fan, too, with his own Dublin jersey," she said.

Meanwhile, Danielle Byrne (26), long-term girlfriend of Dublin corner-back Cian O'Sullivan, said she is aware he has many female fans.

The 27-year-old star has been dating Danielle, a PR account manager at Thinkhouse Youth Communications Agency, for six years.


"I am well aware he has quite a few female fans, too," she said. "But that comes with the profile.

"He is a super-grounded guy and I knew him long before he was playing for Dublin and nothing has changed for us.

"It is really lovely to see young kids and fans asking for pictures, but it's funny at the same time because he's just Cian to me," she said. "I'll be going to the game with Cian's family."

It will be the couple's third All-Ireland Final together.

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