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Derry v Galway: Fans dare to dream again after decades of heartbreak

Supporters have Sam in sights ahead of Galway clash 

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Tim McCann with a teamsheet print of the 1993 All-Ireland Derry team

Tim McCann with a teamsheet print of the 1993 All-Ireland Derry team

Chloe Bell and Pearse McFlynn

Chloe Bell and Pearse McFlynn

Derry fanatic Tim McCann

Derry fanatic Tim McCann

Derry GAA fans Adrian Moran and daughter Sorcha with Joe Muholland

Derry GAA fans Adrian Moran and daughter Sorcha with Joe Muholland

Derry’s Gareth McKinless scores his side's fourth goal against Clare in their quarter-final victory

Derry’s Gareth McKinless scores his side's fourth goal against Clare in their quarter-final victory

©INPHO/James Crombie

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Tim McCann with a teamsheet print of the 1993 All-Ireland Derry team

GAA fever is sweeping Derry ahead of the Oakleaf county’s huge semi-final clash with Galway on Saturday.

Supporters are itching to see their team in an All-Ireland final — a feeling that only fans in their late thirties or older will remember.

For Derry devotee Joe Mulholland, the journey back to the lucky last-four position has been a poignant one.

“Win or lose is irrelevant. A win would be nice, but the journey has been epic,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“Just after we beat Donegal in the Ulster final, I was overcome with emotion as all I could think of was my father Kevin, who passed away seven years ago and was the most ardent Derry supporter. He travelled the length and breadth of the country following them.”

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Derry GAA fans Adrian Moran and daughter Sorcha with Joe Muholland

Derry GAA fans Adrian Moran and daughter Sorcha with Joe Muholland

Derry GAA fans Adrian Moran and daughter Sorcha with Joe Muholland

Joe recently found an old match programme of an under-14 county final he refereed between Glen and Ballinascreen, in which a then 12-year-old Conor Glass played as corner-back.

“He’s developed rightly,” the Desertmartin man joked of Glass, who returned from a successful stint playing in the Australian Football League to tear it up in the midfield for Rory Gallagher’s tenacious side.

Pearse McFlynn, from Moneymore, was born in 1993, the only year Derry won the coveted Sam Maguire. He is heading to this afternoon’s game with his Ballinderry fiancee Chloe Bell — cousin of Derry back Gareth McKinless — and their families.

Ever the optimist, he has booked a hotel in Dublin for the final, with free cancellation just in case.

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Chloe Bell and Pearse McFlynn

Chloe Bell and Pearse McFlynn

Chloe Bell and Pearse McFlynn

“We are really excited to go down. Days out in Croke Park have been rare enough,” he said.

“Until this year, I think my last time down watching Derry seniors in a championship game was against Dublin in a quarter-final in 2007 [which Derry lost by three points].

“Most days out have been with the minors in Croke Park. Most of those boys, whether it’s McGrogan, Doherty or Glass, are now leading the senior team, which is class.” 

Before May’s triumph, it had been 24 years since Derry had taken home an Ulster title, and today marks 18 years from when they last reached an All-Ireland semi-final. 

It has been 32 years since Tim McCann, from Limavady, got a tattoo of the country crest on his arm, and despite the side’s lack of senior silverware over the decades, he’s always been proud to show off his ink, even if it is a bit faded these days.

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Derry fanatic Tim McCann

Derry fanatic Tim McCann

Derry fanatic Tim McCann

“At the start of this season, I would’ve just taken the championship win over Tyrone,” he said.

“To win Ulster was unbelievable when you think how long it’s been. Anything from here on is a bonus. I’m not saying we will beat Galway, but we’re perfectly capable of doing it. Then you’re into an All-Ireland final and anything’s possible.”

Tim creates personalised GAA teamsheet prints as a keepsake for fans. It started when he made one of the winning 1993 Derry team for his brother. 

“What’s most interesting is that when we won Ulster, I thought I was going to ship a pile of the Derry teamsheets, and I shipped one,” he said.

“I think it’s because people in the county think, ‘I’m not going to jinx it by getting an Ulster frame because these boys are capable of going further’.

“I’m hoping we win an All-Ireland and that my order book will be full to the brim.”


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