In 1989, the actor Daniel Day-Lewis played Hamlet in the National Theatre and left the stage during a performance reportedly disturbed after seeing his father’s ghost. Also in 1989- and not directly connected- Donegal played Tyrone in the Ulster football championship.
If the cast of that particular on-going play was ever to be concerned about ghosts, then they’d never leave the dressing room. Because the old faces and voices are about them all the time.
At five o’clock on Saturday comes the latest version of the Tyrone-Donegal enmity. Suddenly, the Ulster championship finds itself at the height of fashion and celebrated by high society, shrugging off the old prejudices of spite, taunting, dragging and prolonged bouts of claustrophobia to produce a series of riveting games.
Saturday afternoon’s game is expected to be the high point of a gripping provincial drama. Since 2010, Donegal have appeared in seven Ulster finals, winning four. Tyrone have won three championships.
The teams only met in one final throughout that time: an anxious, broiling affair in 2016 defined by two late points by Sean Cavanagh. But for the most part, their summers were largely defined by gargantuan first round or semi-final meetings when they sought to mortally wound the other’s ambitions.
“When Jim McGuinness first came in, Tyrone were always on our radar,” says Rory Kavanagh, the former All-Ireland winning midfielder with Donegal.
“We always knew we would be meeting further down the line and we always knew our defining moment would be against Tyrone and as such we were tapering and planning training with Tyrone in mind. Think back in 2011 and 2012, we started in the preliminary round but it was Tyrone we were building towards.”