All Ireland final time... If your county is playing it takes on a whole new meaning and the superstitious come into their own. The Kerry boys look for their lucky underpants, the ones that were in the wash in 1975,worn for the previous four years and other winning years. The ones handed down through generations of families, to be presented and worn as a young lad made his confirmation. Indeed, An Maor has heard of a pair whose owner claims they were washed by Peig Sayers herself while in service in Dunquin. Galway boys plan the same route as they took in previous winning year , none of your Kinnegad bypass for them on their quest for glory. Then, of course, there is the very important matter of tickets..... There are certain people who, although close personal friends, you wouldn't bother with about GAA matters...There are drinking buddies, work mates, work friends, family friends and so on and then there is the whole class of friend that appear every September, a carefully vetted type: the 'ticket friend' . The man you know has honour, the man you know will see you right as you did him. The real pro gets caller ID on the phone for the week, just to make sure you're not caught out by the wrong type of person looking for tickets. The Johnny come latelys who fancy the idea of going to the game, the boys whose green trouser suited American cousin wants to go for the kudos in their retirement community back home and so on. The former Taoiseach 'Charvet' J Haughty once invented a special category status called a 'business friend' to help explain all those millions he was stashing away. And the singer Charlie Lansborough had a big 'hit' with a sentimental ditty called 'My Forever Friend'. But both a 'business friend' and a 'forever friend' pales into insignificance beside a 'ticket friend'.The trick is to have a good few 'ticket friends' and - even better - have them from different parts of the country. Ideally for, say, a Kerryman would be to have a few from Cork. If Cork beat you in the football you can sort him out and, well, if Kerry beat Cork you're sorted. Then have a few from Clare, lads who promised you the sun moon and stars in 1995 and 1997 and have been in a position to sort you out when needed since. The Clare lads will never forget you. Having a few "ticket friends" in Kildare is no harm either. You can sort them out for the big Leinster games and the odd Semi and Final and they will be eternally grateful, but you know you'll want tickets when it really matters. Then, of course, it's good to have the few boys from Donegal whom you helped out in 1992. They can be called upon if need be. Keep your hand in with the lads in Wexford who hounded you in 1996. Have a few 'ticket friends' around Ulster because now you can get the odd ticket there, although in the early 90's the going was rough for a while. Preparation for the big day began back when the draw was made .You predicted as best you could who would win what. On that basis you can best plan where to get tickets for the final. As a general rule avoid having 'ticket friends' from Meath, Galway, Dublin, Mayo, Kilkenny, Tipperary as this can often be counterproductive. They take far more from you than you can get from them. Meath, Galway, Mayo and Dublin are all teams that you are likely to meet in the next few years. So, if Kerry are playing Mayo in the final this year and you owe a Mayolad, well, the way 'ticket friends' work, you have to pay up. So it's not worth the risk. The likes of Kilkenny and Tipperary will always be looking for hurling tickets, way more often than you'll be looking for football ones. Of course it's always handy to keep the hurling tickets as a bargaining tool for football ones. So it's Wednesday and it's all going according to plan, when you are asked: 'What will we get Danny and Mary for they're wedding?'.. 'Wedding? What wedding are ya talkin' about?'.... 'I told you weeks ago. It's on Saturday in Gweedore. I really hope it's a nice day from them, please God. I think we'll make a weekend of it, head off tomorrow evening...' 'I thought it was Saturday week. Where's the invitation?' 'No. I'm sure its next Saturday'. 'Where's that bloody invitation?' 'Here it is: Mr and Mrs Conor Kilduff cordial invite you to the wedding of their son Daniel to Mary Morrissey at St Patrick's Church Gweedore, County Donegal at 2.30 and afterwards at...' But... but...'. "No! We're going and that's the end of it. It was very nice of them to invite us and I've already replied. Sure don't you have relations up there?' Then hoping to avoiding the looming ticket chaos... 'Are the brothers , sisters, cousins and nuns that are arriving invited by any chance?' 'NO!'...... 'So we'll have to drive back early Sunday for the match...Sorry... .I meant to spend the day with the rest of them. It's a shame for them to come all the way over and not really get to see us'. 'For God's sake!' 'Could you not just miss the one match. Sure you've been going to them all year. What's one match?' . Eventually, after more frantic phone calls, an agreement is reached where you drive back for the game after the wedding and that Gertie Keaveney has plenty of room in her car for lifts back to Dublin. "Phew!". So its back to the real business....tickets! You sit beside the phone, with that very special black book, the one with all the 'Ticket Friends' home and mobile numbers. You are flicking through looking at the ticks, the lads who said that they might be able to fix you up a few weeks ago, the lads you sorted for the semis, for the hurling and then the boys you've fixed up from the last few years. Then the phone rings and after a quick look at the caller ID you decide that its safe to pick it up. 'Paddy, I've some bad news. Uncle Thaddy has just passed away'. 'Sorry to hear that Marty, he was a lovely old divil, a gent, a good footballer in his day. What was he? Ninety?'. 'He was indeed, and still wandering up to Mass every day' 'So how did he go?' , 'Same as ever, up by Redmonds' field and in by the cemetery. Anyhow, I've a good few to ring. So, so just to let you know, the removal is on Sunday evening in Gweedore...' 'Aaaaaagggggghhhhhhhh!!!' 'Hello... hello... Marty! I don't suppose he'll have any use for d'All Ireland ticket now, will he?...' 'Hello... hello... Marty?'