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All-Ireland Final was better than any football match I've ever been at, says Chris Kamara

By Cian Tracey

Chris Kamara has been at and played in his fair share of major soccer games down through the years but none of them matched his first experience of Croke Park for an All-Ireland final.

As part of AIB's 'Journey to Croker', Kamara along with his Sky Sports colleague Jeff Stelling, with the help of Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh, commentated on Dublin's thrilling win over Mayo and both were in agreement that it was an incredible experience.

"I've been to every single World Cup and Euros that England have been involved in since 2000, it was slightly ahead of that," Kamara enthused.

"The only thing that I could compare it to and it's not to do with football, is the first race at Cheltenham. I know there are no where near as many people at Cheltenham but there is a noise and a roar when that first race of the day goes off. It was exactly like that."

Stelling concurred, saying: "The game is right up there with the best (I've been at) as a spectator. You feel part of a special event before it even starts because it's such a special stadium and the fact that the fans are integrated, that there's no segregation, is amazing.

"If somebody's hurt there's no rolling around because there's no point, the game's going to carry on without you. There is literally no pause for breath.

"During commentary Kammy said, 'The referee needs a 100 pairs of eyes here' and they do because it was just going on everywhere, little niggles and clashes going on absolutely all over the pitch! But it was riveting. It couldn't have been a more dramatic game. If you can't enjoy that you can't enjoy anything really."

The pair's journey that began in Kerry and took them to Inis Oirr, Tyrone and Monaghan, where they spent time with Dick Clerkin's club Currin, has seen both Kamara and Stelling become engrossed in the GAA. Kamara wondered if Stephen Rochford might have regretted not taking off Andy Moran earlier in the second half.

"I don't know whether the Mayo manager will think, 'Maybe I was swayed by Andy Moran's performance in that first half,' because in that second half, I think his contribution was way, way below what he had in the first," he maintained

"Don't get me wrong, the fella was outstanding and by far the best Mayo player in that first half but he didn't have the legs. Little things like that went against them. I didn't think the Dubs played anywhere near their maximum."

Stelling on the other hand, pointed to Donal Vaughan's red card as the turning point:

"The coach was reluctant to criticise him but I thought the Donie Vaughan incident decided the match," the Soccer Saturday host maintained.

Episode "Obviously the Dublin boy (John Small) was going to be sent off so keep your head, let the ref do his job and send him off and it'll be 15 v 14, on a warm day and on a big pitch... but he just lost his head, didn't he?"

In the seventh episode of the series, which can be watched on YouTube, Kamara and Stelling spent time with Jonny Cooper and both admitted that the Dublin star summed up the commitment in the GAA.

"I have massive admiration that they do it for nothing," Kamara added. "It will filter down to the grassroots. That's an admiration in itself.

"Jeff asked Jonny Cooper would he like to be paid and he said, 'No, it would kill the sport'. And he's right, it would, because it's unique.

"You'd love to take the community spirit back (to English football). You see all the fans, elation and sadness sat next to each other. You'd rarely find that in football. It's incredible."

Irish Independent

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