Unbelievable, Jeff: Kammy blown away by Croke Park experience

A friendly garda who turned a blind eye to some All-Ireland day speeding helped Chris Kamara make his commentary seat just before throw-in when Jeff & Kammy’s Journey to Croker reached its climax on Sunday.

Unbelievable, Jeff: Kammy blown away by Croke Park experience

Kamara, one-half of the most famous double-act in sports punditry, arrived at the last minute as Sky Sports’ Goals on Sunday over-ran by almost 30 minutes, leaving him with a frantic dash for Dublin for the climax of his AIB online series with fellow presenter Jeff Stelling.

“It didn’t finish until 12:28, I had a motorbike at the studio to take me to Luton airport and another one ready when we landed in Dublin,” he revealed. “It was a bit crazy. Both drivers were on a mission to get me there as quickly as possible and coming through the crowd to Croker on a motorbike was great.

“Just as we came to the stadium, a police bike flagged us down but, when I lifted my visor, he went ‘oh crikey!’

“He knew the score, that we were breaking the speed-limit but it was fine. I got into the stadium at 10 past three.

“It was another 10 minutes before I got to the gantry but I made it!” he laughed.

“I’ve never come that close before. I once went to the wrong ground for Soccer Saturday but that was the producer’s fault.”

Stelling, well coached by Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh, was in the stadium since 9am and confessed he was ready to call the legendary ‘Voice of the GAA’ out of retirement if necessary.

“The one consolation I had was looking behind me and seeing Micheál there. I was thinking: ‘Hello! Bring on the substitution!’” he joked.

“I’ve been to every single World Cup and Euros that England have been involved in since 2000 but the roar of the crowd beforehand was greater than any,” said Kamara.

“The only thing I could compare it to is the roar before the first race in Cheltenham.”

Stelling came armed with 70 useful facts to pad out the commentary, including, prophetically, a note on Dean Rock’s free-taking acumen.

But nothing prepared them for the pace and physicality of Dublin and Mayo’s latest epic final: “I knew how fast a game it is but what I wasn’t prepared for was the electric atmosphere and the sheer physicality of the All-Ireland final,” Stelling revealed.

“During the commentary, Kammy said ‘the referee needs 100 pairs of eyes here’ and they do!

“It was just going on everywhere, little niggles and clashes.

“I remember saying to Kammy ‘it’s a good thing they don’t have retrospective punishment here’ because everyone would be banned!

“But a lot of it is just players winding each other up. It sort of added to the enjoyment in a curious way.

“The game is right up there with the best,” said Stelling. “And the fact that the fans are integrated, that there’s no segregation, is amazing. The great thing as an outsider is the speed of the game. There’s no time to celebrate when you’ve scored, or roll around if you’re hurt because the action’s back under way straight away. Even though we had no allegiance to either side you can’t help but get wrapped up in it. By the end I was as gutted for Mayo as anybody else,” he admitted.

They both reckoned that Donal Vaughan’s red card was the moment that swung the game. Asked to compare GAA players with those in British soccer, Stelling said: “They’re as fit as any professional footballer. They have to be, due to the relentless pace of the game and also because of the size of the pitch. It’s immense. It’s hard to imagine how they do it with full-time jobs as well, I’m full of admiration for them.”

Asked if they’d seen anything they’d like to bring to British soccer, Kamara said:”You’d love to take the community spirit back. When you see the fans all in together — elation and sadness sat next to each other, kids crying and the other half of the family up there, giving it all that — that’s just incredible.

“As soon as the final whistle goes in a cup final, you look to the losing team’s end and they’ve gone. They are not interested in watching what’s going on. But the place was still three-quarters full when the celebrations were going on.”

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