herald

Saturday 7 December 2019

'I'm a true blue Kerryman' - says voice of Croke Park

Stadium announcer Jerry Grogan will be behind the mic at Croker for the big match on Sunday. Photo: Irish Independent
Stadium announcer Jerry Grogan will be behind the mic at Croker for the big match on Sunday. Photo: Irish Independent

All-Ireland final day will be filled with emotion for Croke Park's announcer, who has watched the Dublin team grow up yet holds Kerry well and truly in his heart.

Jerry Grogan (68) started volunteering at Croker 41 years ago, and this year marks his 15th on the mic.

A retired principal at Holy Trinity senior national school in Donaghmede, Jerry has also watched the Dublin team grow up owing to his involvement in Cumann na mBunscol.

Despite his long career and the fact that his wife Billie and four grown-up children are from Dublin, Jerry, who comes from Cahersiveen, is still a Kerry man through and through.

Religion

"I'm from Kerry and I was brought up with GAA all my life," he told the Herald.

"The GAA is like a religion where I'm from. I can't believe I'm in the position I'm in, where I'll be right in the middle of the biggest day in the GAA sporting calendar, watching the players come out.

"I'm in a win-win situation. I've been involved with the Dublin players since they were in national school.

"I'd be happy for them to win. Someone called me a Kerry-blue, which is a nice description.

"I'm a blue Kerryman, true, but really I don't want anyone to get the five before Kerry.

"My wife and four children are all Dubs, so I have mixed feelings about the final. In my heart I want Kerry to win, but the Dublin boys are lovely lads, so I'd be happy for them too.

"I know how talented they are and how they could have done a lot of other things, but they stuck with the GAA and they've achieved so much."

On Sunday, Jerry's day will start at 8.15am when he will already be at Croker, preparing for the game.

At 9am he will attend a Mass at the stadium with officials - the Sam Maguire Cup will be placed on the altar.

The ceremony provides a "focus" for the busy day ahead, and after a traditional Irish breakfast for officials, Jerry will tuck into his sausages and bacon, as he contemplates the day ahead.

"I started volunteering in 1978 and the All-Ireland final is a huge and very busy day," he said.

"Breakfast is a chance to sit down and you feel the atmosphere building already.

"We have a production meeting after breakfast and the key people involved putting on the entertainment attend.

"We had a preview meeting yesterday too, involving the gardai, stewards and others.

"In the morning we go over the key elements to make sure everyone is up to speed.

"There could be changes to announcements that I have to make. There could be a change to presentation parties - is someone's wife with them or not? There could be team changes.

"I get my sound system up and make announcements, including any changes, and I make sure that everything is working correctly."

Jerry makes announcements before the game, as the atmosphere reaches a climax across the stadium with fans screaming for their teams.

All the while he must remain a true professional, never showing which side he would prefer to take the Sam Maguire home with them.

"When the game's over I give a hand out at the media centre with interviews and a press conference," Jerry said.

"Both team managers come before the press, and after that I have dinner in the players' lounge and I finish up at 8.30pm."

Even after such a long day, the GAA man still isn't finished without one last ritual - something he has done at the past 15 All-Ireland finals.

"At the end of the match, I always go back out on to the edge of the pitch," Jerry said.

"I walk round the edges when everyone has gone and the only lights on are up at the corporate box where you will still hear some celebrations going on.

"But the stadium falls completely silent apart from that and I love being there at the end.

Poetry

"The hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Kerry people regard Croke Park as our Stratford-upon-Avon.

"We've had some great poetry written for us from Croke Park, and it's a lovely feeling, just standing there at the end.

"I do it after every All -Ireland final. I think about the game, the players, the fans and the fact that despite the rivalry there's a respect there between us all.

"There's a respect between Dublin and Kerry. Without a shadow of doubt, this is country versus city.

"There's a great rivalry. No one in Kerry wants Dublin to win, yet there's still a deep-seated respect there and Dublin respects Kerry too."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News