BY CHRIS MCNULTY
THE GREEN and gold rush is on: In the region of 30,000 Donegal fans are expected to converge on Croke Park this Sunday as the county footballers do battle with Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final.
A place in a second-ever All-Ireland final is the carrot for Donegal and the county has hit fever-pitch in the last month. Every corner of Donegal is bedecked in green and gold as the county has been captured by Jim McGuinness and his team.
Ticket sales have reached levels never before seen in Donegal. Indeed, the biggest exodus from Donegal since the famous final of 1992 will head for Dublin on Sunday.
The county board moved 12,000 tickets by last week, but with sales in other outlets and sales to Donegal people in other counties, the Donegal support will be around 30,000 of Croke Park’s 82,300 capacity. The Jones’ Road stadium will be packed to its rafters for the big game.
Across the county, people’s imaginations have been grabbed by Donegal’s march to the semi-finals.
A painting depicting Jim McGuinness as Che Guevara dominates the Main Street in his native Glenties; Liz McFadden’s house in Dunfanaghy proclaims ‘Who needs Cagney, we’ve got Lacey!’; in Creeslough, Rose’s Bar has a painting of the four St Michael’s players – Christy Toye, Colm McFadden, Martin McElhinney and Daniel McLaughlin – and McGuinness on the front of the building wishing them well; while the local radio and the internet has been hogged by the recently-released songs of The Tractor Boys (‘The Green and Gold Jersey of Tir Chonaill’) and The Regulatos (‘Back to the Hills’).
If you haven’t already got a ticket, then join the scramble – GAA officials confirmed last weekend that the fixture was a sell-out. The well has run dry on tickets as an unprecedented Donegal demand has been called for a semi-final fixture – Donegal’s first since 2003.
“It’s unreal, we wouldn’t have expected this at all. It is the biggest that I have ever dealt with,” said county administration manager Noreen Doherty.
Mrs. Doherty paid tribute to county secretary Aodh Mairtín Ó Fearraigh for his assistance and also to her niece, Lynne McGowan, for aiding in the distribution of tickets from the office in Ballybofey, which has been a hive of activity over the last fortnight.
She said: “Aodh Mairtín has been a fantastic help. We were in four nights last week, where we distributed 12,000 tickets. He is a voluntary officer and the help he has been to me has been superb. My nice Lynn has been a great help since the Ulster final too. This is a job that I couldn’t have controlled on my own.
“Hopefully it will pay dividends on Sunday. I’d like to compliment all the clubs too, they have been doing outstanding work distributing the tickets – everyone in the county is playing their part.”