Being around a Donegal team in an All-Ireland final will be nothing new to one of the backroom team, Maxi Curran, as he was just as close to the side twenty years ago, even travelling home with the team.
Maxi was a wide-eyed 12-year-old who hardly missing a training session. “I remember Packie Bonner taking part in the final session and Matt Gallagher telling me that Packie Bonner was playing midfield in the match and I remember going away back down the road excited, ‘Jesus Packie Bonner is playing for Donegal’. It was an indication of the innocence of the time. It was a great time and we just lived for Gaelic football and Donegal.
“It’s just so different now. You take that and the likes of Michael Murphy going out in the parade against Kildare last year and not playing at all. It goes to show the seriousness that is there now. Maybe some will say the innocence and the old fashionedness has gone out of it. There is so much invested in it, so much money and so much of people’s time, it has got so big and this is a life changing event for everyone involved.
“Nowadays, the gates are locked and you train away privately. Everybody is doing that and you try and guard your information and keep your cards close to your chest.”
The Downings man has plenty of tasks with the Jim McGuinness set up and is enjoying. “There’s a multi-faceted role. You would be lifting water bottles one minute and you would be taking stats the next. That’s the nature of the game and it’s nice to be involved. Nice when you get to this level, you see the effort the boys put in and not many do. When you’re on the inside, you get a real feel for what they do give. It’s phenomenal.”
Although he will be running out with the team on Sunday, Maxi has been a regular at Croke Park All-Ireland finals for 21 years. “I haven’t missed an All-Ireland final myself since 1991 and went up as an enthusiastic 11-year-old at the time. It was a Down and Meath final and thankfully I haven’t missed one since. Jim has spoken to the boys that it’s every boy’s dream to play in one, so from a coaching aspect it’s every coach’s dream to get to an All-Ireland final and to be involved in a team, whatever capacity that would be.”
He feels the journey that the team has travelled has lifted all boats in Donegal. “It’s great for the whole county. The amount of people it has touched this year, even compared to last year, it has gone on to a whole different level.”
Looking back to twenty years ago, he really enjoyed that time also. “1992 was a very memorable time. I would have been involved with the Supporters’ Club at that time, selling tickets and selling jerseys. My uncle, Paddy Bradley, would have heavily involved; I would have been in every part of the county selling cards and one thing and another. You would have been running after the team. I see wee fellas now running with their jerseys to get autographs and I was that wee boy back and then and I would have kept a very keen eye on county teams ever since that.
“It was a very memorable time. I would have travelled home on the team bus in ‘92 and it was just a magical time. I think I had longer holidays for the All-Ireland than I had for Christmas from school. When we got round all the different arts and part of the county; it is something that will stay with me forever and 2012 will as well.
“Having been a supporter, which I have been above all else of county teams; I remember going to College in Wales and coming back in November to watch National League games. When you reflect back on those days, as a supporter, you definitely get a feel for it, having sat on the terraces for long.
“Words can’t describe the feeling of pleasure it is bringing to other people, from being involved, it’s a great experience,” says Maxi, who is happy to play any part. “It’s just about being able to give something back, to give something to the cause, whatever that may be.”
But while Donegal are back in an All-Ireland final, Maxi urges people to enjoy it as those days don’t come around that often.
“My first Donegal game I remember going to was the Ulster final of 1989, when they drew with Tyrone. And then they were back in the final in 1990 when they won and back in the final in ‘91 when they lost. Then back again in 1992, my first experiences were all of getting to Ulster finals and we were one of the best teams in the province at the time. Little did we think in ‘93 when we were swimming across Clones, that we wouldn’t be back there for a long time,” says Maxi.