We’re proud of our Priceless Mascot winner
When seven-year-old Maebh Shanahan from Templeogue discovered that she had won a Priceless Mascot Experience with Mastercard at the UEFA Champions League Final Cardiff 2017, she was filled with excitement and trepidation.
Maebh’s dad Fergal, who won the prize, describes the moment he broke the good news.
“When I told Maebh what she’d won, she was both elated and scared. Lots of thoughts started to swirl around in her head. What was she supposed to do on the day? Would she make any mistakes? What if something goes wrong?”
The UEFA Champions League Final Cardiff 2017 pitted two of the game’s most iconic clubs against each other: Real Madrid CF and Juventus FC . With an estimated global television audience of 350 million, it was only natural that Maebh would feel nervous about the big day ahead.
To calm her nerves, Maebh viewed footage on YouTube, which featured the mascots from a previous UEFA Champions League Final. In a couple of weeks’ time in Cardiff, Maebh too would be a mascot. She could not wait for the day to arrive.
Carnival atmosphere in Cardiff
Maebh and Fergal jetted in to Cardiff on Friday morning and, after checking in to their hotel, spent the day exploring the city. Thousands of Real Madrid CF and Juventus FC fans occupied the city-centre, producing an incredible carnival atmosphere. The place was abuzz, with everyone anticipating the match on Saturday.
Lunch with Ryan Giggs
On Saturday, before the match, Maebh and her dad attended a specially arranged lunch with all the other mascots and parents. Joining them for lunch was Manchester United and Wales legend Ryan Giggs. Maebh was quite nervous on Saturday morning, but after meeting the other mascots and posing for photographs with Giggs she felt a lot more relaxed. Everything now seemed less daunting.
After the mascot lunch, all the mascots and their parents set off on foot to the National Stadium of Wales. Walking through the crowds of Real Madrid CF and Juventus FC supporters enabled them to capture the atmosphere of the day. The sense of occasion was immense. It was now 3pm and kick-off was several hours away. Fergal bid farewell to Maebh and wished her luck as the mascots were brought into the stadium to begin their rehearsals.
Maebh takes centre stage
By the time she had lined up with the players in the tunnel, Maebh was relaxed and savouring the atmosphere of the occasion. Meeting the players and the whole tunnel experience was incredible. She remembers the thunderous noise – all the chanting and singing. Maebh will never forget it. She waited in the tunnel with the players until the Black Eyes Peas had finished their set.
Real Madrid CF midfielder Toni Kroos walked out onto the pitch with Maebh – an exhilarating experience for the seven-year-old. RTE match commentator George Hamilton gave a special mention to Maebh and to the Presentation Primary School in Terenure, much to the delight of Maebh’s classmates who were all glued to the television back home.
Kick-off for the players
With their job done, the mascots went back down the tunnel and Maebh joined her proud dad in the stand to cheer on Real Madrid CF, the club she now fervently supports. Fergal supports Liverpool and Barcelona, but is definitely more favourably disposed towards Real Madrid CF. As he jokingly puts it,
“I’ve mellowed towards them.”
During the match, the crowd never stopped cheering. The singing of the Real Madrid CF and Juventus FC supporters was deafening – and with the roof being closed, the stadium was one big cauldron of noise. Maebh was thrilled to take part in all the singing and chanting.
Needless to say she was delighted when the Spanish giants beat Juventus FC 4-1 to claim their twelfth title in this competition. Maebh and Fergal watched from the stand as Sergio Ramos was presented with the cup and as Real Madrid CF did their lap of honour.
As they walked back to their hotel, Maebh and Fergal took in more of the atmosphere of Cardiff. Maebh was still excited by the whole occasion. Fergal says that he and Maebh had a fantastic weekend. Everything was so well organised and went off without a hitch. He is especially grateful to MasterCard, official sponsor of the UEFA Champions League, together with Bank of Ireland Premier for giving his daughter Maebh an experience that was truly priceless.
Read more about Bank of Ireland Premier here.