A LATE free from Seán Kelly clinched the Celebrity Bainisteoir title for Calum Best’s Moy Davitts side at Parnell Park, Dublin on Friday evening.
That score edged the Mayo side 0-9 to 0-8 ahead of Longford club Newtowncashel, who were managed by Tipperary-born model Roz Purcell.
“The smile says it all,” Best said afterwards. “I could not be happier.”
But the international playboy was keen not to hog the credit, saying in his post-match speech: “This is all about the team”.
“We’ve waited a long time to win a game like this,” said half-forward Jimmy Byrne. “It’s brilliant.”
Centre half-back Andrew Malee described the feeling as “unreal”, while goalkeeper Kieran McNicholas said he would “never forget” the experience, making special mention of the crowd who travelled to Dublin for the game.
The final formed the centerpiece of last Sunday night’s final episode of the reality TV show. It was a particularly cold night – programme presenter Mairéad Farrell observed: “They don’t need a warm-up … they need long johns!”
But there was also footage from the build-up, including Calum Best’s appearance at local schools and a special visit by Mayo manager James Horan, who told the Moy Davitts players that “very few people get to play” in an All-Ireland final, and that they should take the opportunity presented to them.
There were also clips from a press conference held in the Mayfly Hotel in which a certain Mike Finnerty made a cameo appearance. Asked by our esteemed Sports Editor what he drew on for inspiration in motivating the Moy Davitts team, Best had a one-word response: “Cheerleaders!”
Speaking ahead of the game, captain Seán Kelly, who ultimately proved the matchwinner, told the programme: “We want to win it for Calum, we want to win it for the community … it’s huge”. There was a cameo appearance by Seán’s mother Breda, who joked as she prepared a morning breakfast for Best: “I hope he likes rashers!”
Best was clearly animated both on the training field (he slammed a pre-match session as “too casual”) and on the sideline, asking in frustration at one point: “Ref, where you from?” before being told “Westmeath” by Whelan.
The Mayo side led by 0-6 to 0-5 at half time, and their California-born manager urged them to “leave everything you have out on that pitch” for the second period. They trailed by 0-8 to 0-7 before Kelly equalized after a fine solo rum, and then added the winner after Moy Davitts had been reduced to 14 men.
“It’s a very moving experience,” said Best. “I won’t forget it anytime soon … The more I learned and the more they saw I learned, the more they gave back. It’s been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had … I’m the bainisteoir but the lads have done the hard work … This is something which I hope when they’re 50 years old, they’ll say ‘We won Celebrity Bainisteoir – how cool is that?’”