Jeff and Kammy’s Journey to Croker Episodes 1 to 8
They’ve done it! Jeff Stelling and Chris Kamara have completed their journey into the heart of GAA which culminated in a very special experience – commentating on the All-Ireland Football Final live from Croke Park.
During the summer, we immersed Jeff and Kammy in all aspects of the GAA as they toured Ireland in a bid to understand how club fuels county. They received first class tutoring on commentary from Micheál O Muircheartaigh, visited one of Ireland’s most remote GAA clubs on the island of Inis Oírr, learned how club really is family in Currin, Co. Monaghan, witnessed the fine line between professionalism and amateurism in Tyrone’s Garvaghey Centre, watched an intercounty match with devoted Leitrim GAA mammy Breege McGovern in Carlow and caught up with Dublin’s Jonny Cooper before commentating at the All-Ireland Final in Croke Park amongst 82,000 roaring fans.
The final stage of their journey to Croker was almost derailed at the last minute, leaving Micheál O Muircheartaigh waiting in the wings on the chance he was to be called out of retirement. An over-run on his television work in London meant that Chris Kamara had to make a frantic cross-channel dash to GAA HQ involving a plane and a motorbike taxi where he was cheered on by the gathering supporters at Croke Park, joining his commentating partner Jeff Stelling just 15 minutes before throw-in.
“Kammy was doing ‘Goals on Sunday’ which is usually off-air at 12 o’clock and I was watching and could see it didn’t finish until 12:28!”, Stelling revealed. “Somehow he still managed to join me at 15:15 but the one consolation I had was looking behind me and seeing Micheál there. I was thinking: ‘Hello! Bring on the substitution!’”
In commentary terms it would have been a substitution that matched those that Dublin used to win their three in-a-row but thankfully it wasn’t needed. “I had a motorbike pick me up and take me to Luton airport and when we landed in Dublin I had another one ready to take me to Croke Park,” Kammy explained. “It was a bit crazy, both drivers on the bikes 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 came up beside us and flagged us down, but when I lifted my visor he went ‘oh crikey!’. I got into the stadium at 10 past three. It was another few minutes before I got to the gantry but I made it!” he laughed.
Jeff certainly had his homework done and it was clear he took plenty of tips from Micheál as he floated the possibility of a “double celebration” during commentary for Mayo’s Tom Parsons as his wife is soon expecting.
Nothing they had experienced during their rapid GAA education had prepared them for the cauldron that was Croke Park on All-Ireland final day. “I’ve been to loads of matches in England and been to every single World Cup and Euros that England have been involved in since 2002 but the roar of the crowd beforehand was greater than any of those,” Kamara said.
“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,” Stelling admitted.
The duo had a birds-eye view from the gantry of Cillian O’Connor’s heart-breaking free off the woodwork for Mayo and of Rock’s ice-veined winner for the Dubs.
So with their eight-part GAA odyssey finally over, what memories will stay for them most? “What I’ll take away is that Gaelic football is about a passion that’s felt by the whole nation” Jeff said.
And for Kamara? "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. You'd not find that in football (soccer),” he said.
Jeff and Kammy’s Journey to Croker may have ended for 2017 but, would they like to come back?
“Yes, definitely,” they enthused. “We’re just waiting for the invitation…and this time for the hurling!” quipped Kammy.
Watch all 8 episodes here now!