May 4, 2010 18:28 by Tony
Tony Leen in Tralee
THAT first whiff of summer Sundays was in the Tralee air yesterday as corporate Croke Park brought the Big Tent to the people. Good move it was too, launching the All-Ireland football championship on Strand Road, the home of Kerins O'Rahillys. The legends weren't just at the top table - where Kerry's Mike Quirke, Cork's Michael Shields, Tyrone's Stephen O'Neill, Dublin's Alan Brogan and Mayo's Trevor Mortimer were holding court - but dotted around the clubhouse, one of the most impressive in Kerry.
O'Rahillys were always that little bit ahead of the game - the first to purchase a club coach (the four-wheeled variety), the first to hire a club coach (remember the Deadly Dub, Vinny Murphy?). Much of it was down to a man whose portrait looks down on those climbing the stairs to the club's function room - former chairman Pat Healy, now sadly deceased. Healy was a model of husbandry, but a dynamic ideas man for whom the best was never too expensive if it helped drive the 'Narries' on. The club still holds true to a number of those values today and it was noteworthy how many stalwarts were suited and booted in club regalia at the event - from Sean Walsh to the Keanes, Mikey and Davy, Barry O'Shea, Haulie Kerins, Morgan Nix, Mike Griffin and their biggest import, Eoin Liston (quite a boast for a club that has also taken in Jack O'Connor, Ogie Moran and John Evans!). Haulie's father Micheal not only welcomed the great and good, he also presented GAA president Christy Cooney with some free golf in Tralee Golf Club in Barrow.
For us media types, the top table question and answer session is a cosmetic waste of time, but Ger Canning's probing of each of the provincial champions' representatives elicited some nuggets. Who would Dublin's Alan Brogan sign in an open GAA transfer market? Unhesitatingly he plumped for Kieran Donaghy, a "once in a generation" kind of player who would clearly maximise Brogan's talents. Tyrone's Stephen O'Neill opted for Colm Cooper - and said he'd drop himself while Michael Shields made the fair point that with so many left footed forwards in the Cork set-up, a Steven McDonnell would be nice.
Micheal Quirke - a career in media awaits that man when he finishes playing, surely - said he'd buy a time machine and make Darragh Ó Sé 25 again, while Mayo's Trevor Mortimer deadpanned that his county could do with a few players. Opinions varied - as they do - on the merits or otherwise of travelling the shortest route to Croke Park against the benefits of generating some momentum with a run through the qualifiers. O'Neill didn't mind the idea of the back door where Quirke and Shields both preferred the direct route.
All in all, a nice morsel to whet the appetite. Plaudits to Croker PR chief Lisa Clancy and their media man Alan Milton for getting the roadshow out to the constituencies with this kind of thing. Too frequently, the default option is Dublin for this kind of event. Clancy was appointed last year to broaden the communications canvass of the GAA. This kind of thing helps and president, Christy Cooney pledged this was something they'd do more of - in between his insistence that Kerry were locked on favourites to retain their title.
The games have begun.