When winning is everything

I’ve never been much of a sports player and outside the few nods of the head to Gaelic games in school haven’t played much football. I’ve been very much a spectator and being an Antrim fan when it comes to top level football usually a spectator of other teams’ spectators.

This year that all changed.My son, who is becoming increasingly football crazy, decided this was the year we travelled to watch Antrim matches where ever they might be – unbelievably timely. As he dragged me almost kicking and screaming to Ballybofey just a few weeks ago the only thing he heard in his ear was pessimism, the expectation of defeat that goes with supporting Antrim over many fruitless decades. And they won. On Donegal’s home turf they won and I told him it was fluke. Antrim don’t normally win and he shouldn’t expect much in the next match.

Then it was off to Clones for the Semi, telling my son the entire time how good it was to be this far and how we could expect at least one more match in the qualifiers when we lost. Then we won. And I was confused. Antrim don’t do getting to finals.

So in the run up to the final I studied the odds, Antrim were 100/1 to win the USFC at the start of the season and we were now down to 14/1. Tyrone are all Ireland Champions and favourites to retain their title. A strong team of skill, movement, strength and just pure big massiveness across the whole park. We couldn’t win this match and I told my son again. He believed me and at this point I think the entire Antrim team and fan base started to believe dreams aren’t made of this.

They lost. Antrim football won. Children in GAA shirts everywhere, bunting and flags in streets alongside Orange Arches, buses filled, tickets for matches not being delivered being worthy of news stories. Antrim football may not have arrived on the big stage today but all of a sudden a hunger that never was there while I’ve been watching has. Long may it continue. Roll on Round 4 and the future.

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