Daring Donegal fans nail their colours to the mast

It’s set to be one of the closest fought All Ireland football clashes in recent years — but Donegal’s die-hard fans may have already shaded it in the battle of the flags.

Daring Donegal fans nail their colours to the mast

Devoted supporters of Jim McGuinness’s squad have managed to plant a Donegal flag on the isolated M6 weather buoy some 300km off the west coast.

Co Louth man, Brian Sharkey, a crewman on board the Marine Institute’s research vessel, RV Celtic Explorer, was instructed by fellow crewmen from Donegal to plant it on the buoy as he performed annual maintenance on the device yesterday.

The daring display of Donegal devotion was captured on film by Damian McCallig, the ship’s chief engineer.

That stunt came hot on the heels of the planting of another Donegal flag on Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntwohill, deep in Kingdom territory earlier this week.

Meanwhile, the build-up in Kerry has reached fever pitch, with the frantic scramble for tickets intensifying as up to 15,000 people are expected to travel for the first “double up” since 2006.

“The fact that the minors have also qualified for the final adds even more spice to the occasion,” a GAA spokesman said.

Donegal-Kerry households are numerous and go to the heart of Kerry life: from Siamsa Tíre’s Des Hurley and his wife Gemma Faulkner Hurley, who is originally Donegal, to the boating and marketing company for Fungi the Dingle dolphin — owned by Dingle man Jimmy Flannery and his Donegal-born wife Bridget nee Farren from Green Castle.

The Flannerys are one of a large number of Donegal-Kerry families in Dingle. “We’re not alone. There are many families in Dingle who have Donegal connections,” Bridget said.

And then there is the Jim McGuinness factor — IT Tralee is proud to claim Jim as a past student and his name loomed large on the college’s website yesterday.

He studied health and leisure and played in the winning Tralee IT Sigerson Cup team in the late 1990s.

He even trained at the famous Kerins O’Rahilly club, the home club of David Moran, Cormac Coffey and Barry John Keane.

Kerry’s X Factor star Ben Quinlan, 19, a first cousin of Eoin Brosnan, has written and recorded a rousing song, ‘A Tribute to Kerry’, to play his part in cheering the teams on in Croke Park on Sunday.

The Killarney teen, who will appear on X Factor again next Saturday night, features with Cheryl Cole in a YouTube video which has registered 386,225 views and is still rising.

“I’m up in Croke Park for every game I can get to,” Ben said.

“I am a big Kerry fan. Eoin Brosnan is my godfather.”

Yesterday, the winners of the best-dressed lambs in Killorglin’s St Patrick’s Day parade were painted in the Kerry colours.

Owner Bridget Richardson used special ‘sheep paint’ to transform Bressie, two, and Luke, nine months. The family pets are cared for by Bridget, and her daughters, Kerry, 13, and Holly, seven.

Banners have been erected on the main Tralee-Killarney entrances; Burke’s butcher shop in Milltown on the main road to Dingle has a stunning display, and the village of Farranfore near Kerry airport is awash in the green and gold.

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