GARTAN man Timmy Boyle was relieved to see Croke Park’s imposing shadows on Sunday after the power of his Donegal jersey allowed him get on an oversubscribed flight from Dubai to Dublin in time to see the All-Ireland semi-final.
Time was already tight for the 23-year-old, a son of James and former Donegal GAA treasurer Grace, but he has never been happier to see the tarmac on Dublin airport as he was at 11.50am on Sunday.
A few hours earlier – at 4am Dubai time – he stood bleary eyed at the check-in desk in Dubai to begin his trek home to support Jim McGuinness’s team against Dublin.
Proudly wearing the Donegal colours, Timmy began to fear the worst when a nightmare scenario began to unfold before him.
“I watched in the queue as a family ahead of me got into a heated discussion with the girl at the desk,” he said.
“I wasn’t surprised when it was my turn to find it was an overbooked flight. My options were to get a flight to Scotland and arrive in Dublin at 3.50pm. ‘No good’, I says, ‘the match is at half three’.
“I just pleaded with them and asked them if there was anything they could do.”
He’d been in Dubai for the past month, where his sister Grainne, a former Rose of Tralee contestant, is based, but was returning home for the new college year.
The Emirates flight attendant wondered if there was a ‘special reason’ Timmy needed to be on the flight.
He said: “She was looking away at the Donegal jersey. I said: ‘Yes, I’m going to the match’.
“It must have helped as an hour later I was one of the lucky few to get a seat and made it in time. I wouldn’t have got on if it was a Dublin jersey, or so I tell myself!”
Soon, Timmy – a student at UCD – was fastening his seatbelt for an eight-hour flight to Dublin where he witnessed history made as Donegal booked a place in the All-Ireland minor and senior finals thanks to a double win over the Dubs.
“He won’t have as much bother getting to Dublin for the final,” said his mother, Grace.
In the next fortnight, scores of Donegal people are expected to flock back from near and far as the search for one of the 82,300 golden tickets reaches fever pitch.
Donegal has been hit hard by emigration in recent years but, as 2012 proved, the All-Ireland final will give many an ‘excuse’ to return to be a part of the magic.
Two years ago, supporters – most of them without a ticket – came back from Australia, America and Canada, among other far-flung places, just to savour the atmosphere.
As Timmy Boyle could testify, it might do no harm to wear a jersey when boarding the plane!
2017 saw Donegal win the Ulster Championship while they also reached the Division 1 final, losing to Cork. Their...