Ahead of this weekend's All-Ireland final, this IMAGE writer explains why being surrounded by Dublin supporters has never made her more proud of her county.
The 1st of September is D Day.
On the morning of the 2nd, the culchies or the city slickers will be waking up with their hearts broken or full. The greatest rivalry will fight it out to make history on the biggest of stages on the greatest of days.
As most know by now, I am a proud Kerry woman. And us Kerry people are blessed with an innate sense of self. We know who we are and we accept it. We don't like to boast, but we adore when others do it for us. We might speak harshly of the Rose of Tralee, but we secretly relish that our county is placed on a pedestal.
Daithi O' Se is the essence of the Kingdom. We place a goat in a cage at the top of Killorglin and make a session out of it. We are the county of Mick O' Dywer, Colm Cooper, Daniel O'Connell, John B Keane and the Listowel Races. We are a county of literature, of song, of music, of dance and of devilment.
And we are a county of football.
Our county pride bubbles to the top when we are aware of Croke Park's outline on the horizon. Nothing envelops the psyche of a Kerry person more than knowing we are in a final. It feels extra-special this year as – apart from the team themselves – no one expected it.
"Since moving to Dublin, a fear has raged within me that I would lose my Kerry ways."
We would have been happy (enough) with a good showing, but to make it to the premier level in the fashion that we did feels pretty remarkable.
Since moving to Dublin, a fear has raged within me that I would lose my Kerry ways. However, there was no fear of such a despicable thought manifesting.
Already today I have spoken about turf fires and Dingle to more than one person. Anyone with an ear and an appetite for detracting humour doesn't stand a chance when I am in close proximity. And that's the thing with being from Kerry – we are self-deprecating to a fault. Even though our appearance in the final marks us as one of the two best teams in the country, you won't hear an aul fella strolling around Cahersiveen harping on about it. Honest.
For the first time in years, we are complete underdogs. No one in the country expects us to do the business, but it is unusually nice.
Dublin has more at stake. We are the young guns, with fire in our bellies and years to burn. We also have a legacy, one which has lived longer than this current Dublin team. We are the aristocrats. Football is in our veins.
We are quiet this year, the atmosphere is subdued, but there is no fear. We prefer not to be pre-emptive. But, what have we got to lose? Go out there, go at them and fight.
Anything more is a bonus.
Living in the county which is now your greatest foe, gives you a newfound sense of pride. I currently write at a computer that is draped in a Kerry flag and green and gold streamers while I wear my county's jersey. Some might see this as aggravated self-indulgence, but I see it as defiance against the Dubs.
"Kerry people are cute. Ask us one question and we will talk in rings and never tell you the answer."
I am surrounded by them in the office (as the photograph above shows). They taunt me constantly about how certain the "drive for five" is. They are confident. As I chat to Dublin peers, it's almost like they are thanking me for attending their party. Their party. This may be the case but we won't take it. That isn't the Kerry way.
Kerry people are cute. Ask us one question and we will talk in rings and never tell you the answer. And we are keeping schtum about this one, with a few "yerras" and "sure we'll see" thrown in.
There is an immense sense of pride in Kerry about this final. For any county, making it to an All Ireland does good things for the soul. It's raw emotions mixed with euphoria and a sense of make-believe.
It makes the winter less long and is the reason young boys and girls long for warmer days to get out on a field and kick a ball while pretending to be their heroes. You may not like the fact it's Kerry or Dublin, but every county knows and will know a feeling similar to this.
It might be fairytale thinking and quite possibly this task is beyond our reach but whatever the result may be on Sunday, this team has glory years within them. Win or lose I could not be prouder and the county feels the same. Four years waiting to be in a final is too long in Kerry.
We will do nothing but relish this. My county. Our Kingdom. Ciarraí Abú.
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