All The Way From Tuam

All The Way From Tuam

Club 51 welcomes Galway fan Francis Creaven onto the site to give his view of our famous rivalry.

I must make this clear from the start. I do not like Mayo Football.

My experiences with the Green & Red have largely been negative. Games we should have won, disasters we should have avoided, supporters who weren’t very gracious in victory. For me, Mayo typify everything your average sporting rival should. Though, as I grow older, my feelings for the antagonist and my neighbours is pacifying ever so slightly. Maybe it was the time I spent working in Mayo and the people within Mayo GAA I met. There a number of honest decent Mayo fans I’ve come across, who I would not begrudge All-Ireland success. Unfortunately I have met many more that prompt reactions of stifled laughter whenever Mayo lose.

Stifled laughter is something I can seldom enjoy anymore as a Galway fan when it comes to Mayo these days. The promised land of an All-Ireland success is a long way away. And we can’t even solace ourselves with a victory over the old enemy. While we are left to navigate through treacherous qualifiers, Mayo are a regular fixture in the semi-finals at the very least. While the ultimate prize still eludes them, right now I wouldn’t mind travelling to Croke Park more often. I’d be grateful to see us win a bloody championship game there sometime soon. Watching Mayo in the latter stages isn’t easy. Usually it is at the expense of us, or in our absence. And there’s the terrifying prospect that one year, the cards will all fall into place, and they will win an All-Ireland Final. That prospect doesn’t enamour many Galway fans I imagine. I was once getting a haircut in my hometown of Tuam when I overheard the person next to me discussing Mayo’s progress in the Championship one year. He was jokingly asked “Imagine if they won it?” to which he said “Jesus! we would have to emigrate if they did!

Francis will be getting the first one of these after Mayo wins Sam

Francis will be getting the first one of these after Mayo wins Sam

Emigration would be a possibility for me, though that’s more because this country is still reeling from recession more than the thought of Mayo reaching the Promised Land. Yet surely the county itself will shut down for a good 6-8 months if they do win an All-Ireland? Mayo supporters are nothing if not vocal. The sheer desire, the lust to attain that Holy Grail is clearly evident in their eyes. And it’s the inability to control that emotion, as large as it is, why you have individuals like Mr. Barrett running onto the pitch to confront officials. Taking that into account, imagine the cathartic experiences that would ensue when a Mayo man other than John O’Mahony lifts the Sam Maguire in Croke Park.
That prospect is one thing that bothers me, the other is the neutrals opinion that wouldn’t you love to see Mayo win an All-Ireland? I have seen this so often and I can’t stand it. Sure, Mayo fans would love it and that’s grand but me? No! Why should I? I’ve grown up regarding Mayo as my greatest rivals. The one team I just love to see us beat year after year. The fixture that stokes so much passion in the build-up to throw in, the opposition that raises your game, raises your voice on the stands. And people think I can suddenly forget all of that when it suits. Mayo don’t deserve to win an All-Ireland because they have lost seven since 1951. Galway have lost as many finals in football & hurling in the same time period. Do we deserve to win one as well? It is something that came up recently when I witnessed my neighbouring parish and fierce club rivals Corofin saunter their way to their 2nd All-Ireland Senior Club title. I don’t have this switch inside my head that automatically makes it OK for me to support someone that any other time I’d want to lose.

Now reading all of that will make you wonder what kind of bitter deluded resentful Galway football supporter am I? Let me re-assure you I am nowhere near as bad as you think. The likes of Corofin & Mayo can do just fine without my support because they are excellent teams in their own right. I am in no state of denial over their ability and their achievements. Corofin have been the standard bearers of Galway club football for some time, the title of being the best team in Ireland is no more than they deserve. And there is no fluke, stroke of luck or miracle that has seen Mayo win four Connacht titles in a row. They are without doubt one of the best teams in the country in recent years. Their exploits and level of performance is the standard the rest of us in the province are striving to match. Unfortunately, Galway have given them nothing to worry about in recent years.

Count  'em Francis

Count ’em Francis

As a devoted follower of the Irish Soccer Team, I am often left cursing the fact I was born in 1991 and thus, missed the glory days of Italia 90 and Jackie Charlton etc. However, with Galway football, the timing could not have been more perfect. The exploits of the late 90’s and early 00’s inspired a passion inside me that will stay with me until I croak it. I can even gloss over the fact that brilliant side came to fruition under the leadership of a Mayo man. As bad as recent times have been, looking back on that time period eases the heartbreak inside, and reminds me why I will never stop following the Maroon & White.

I can vividly recall watching the opening round of the 1998 Connacht Championship at home. The importance of this game and what was at stake was huge. Mayo coming off the back of two consecutive All-Ireland final appearances. A young Galway side full of potential. A full house at McHale Park. A straight knockout tie that defined the summer. All of this on the 24th May. Could you imagine telling Donegal or Tyrone three weeks ago that there would be no second chances? Could you imagine the tension surrounding that game if there was no back-door? For talented players such as Ciaran McDonald and Maurice Sheridan, they only had 70 minutes playing time that summer. To this day, I don’t think there is nothing more beautiful than the sight of a shot hitting the underside of a crossbar and going in. It is for that reason alone, I idolised Derek Savage more than our local hero Ja Fallon during that summer. And it was experienced players like Ja and the free-taking of Niall Finnegan that drove Galway to victory. The sheer magnitude of the win would dawn on me many years later. The fact we went to Castlebar and defeated twice All-Ireland Finalists in such a manner could not have been a greater catalyst for the journey that followed.

Two years ago, I jokingly referred to the upcoming Connacht Football Quarter Final as the “Scorcher By The Seaside”. Ultimately, the only thing that was scorched that day was our backsides. I have ignored reflection on that game until I started this piece and it hasn’t been pleasant. Nothing went right for us on the day, our deficiencies were ruthlessly exposed, and the weather wasn’t even nice! I usually abhor leaving a game early but my resistance was finally broken when the amount of injury time was announced. My father and I decided we had enough. As we were leaving Pearse Stadium, a huge roar went up as Andy Moran had scored a fourth goal. It was chilling, I know this isn’t a horror piece I’m writing here but the goal gave a score-line an even more horrific outlook from a Galway perspective. It was a bad game I hope to never reflect on again.

Don't look now Francis

Don’t look now Francis

Pearse Stadium is a contentious venue amongst Galway followers. For a number of years, my father and I didn’t go to games there. We never liked it. Maybe we were more annoyed at the fact we could no longer utilise our shortcut on the railway tracks not far from our house to reach Tuam Stadium. We could never boycott it forever, our love for Galway football was too much. Yet there are those in Tuam and its hinterlands who firmly believe all will come right again with Galway football when the Championship football returns to the ground. I will not subscribe to that notion, partly because it is sentimental nonsense that has no impact upon our fortunes. And mainly because that while Tuam Stadum has a superb pitch, the rest of the ground is in dire need of renovation to be of a suitable standard to host Championship football again.

The last two times Galway & Mayo played in Tuam in the Championship had two things in common. Mayo won both games, and they won both by a 4 point margin. In 1997, it was a beautiful day. The atmosphere around the Town Square that day is something I can still vaguely remember. Back then, I was a naive six year old who had no idea what was going on. Two years later, in 1999, I was very much aware of what was at stake. However, this time the weather was atrocious. The ground itself was packed to beyond capacity. Health & Safety went out the window for what was the biggest encounter between the two counties in a generation. A premium section consisting of two brand new row of seats were installed in the aging stand for Uachtaran Na hEireann Mary McAleese and other high ranking officials. If the occasion a year previous was huge, then this was even bigger.

The game itself was deservedly won by Mayo as the reigning champions struggled in poor conditions. My father and I were at the town end, I still don’t know how we got tickets such was the demand. Sitting to my right were four Mayo fans in particular. All young lads, all in their early twenties and all if I remember correctly, slightly inebriated. With the game slipping away from Galway late on as every Martin Mac kick-out landed into the hands of Mayo, these lads started to celebrate early. The roars and the cheers were one thing, but the incessant barging into me as they swayed from side to side was too much. When the final whistle was blown, I was inconsolable, not just at the result but the louts beside me acting like idiots. I never experienced anything like it before or since at a game. Maybe the occasion got to them. The 1999 Connacht Final has gone down in Mayo GAA folklore ever since but it left an indelible impression on an 8 year old child at the time. Mayo became my greatest rivals that day.

Francis fumes as JM is lifted high.

Francis fumes as JM is lifted high.

The following years eased my pain. Mayo never capitalised on a victory of such magnitude, losing tamely to Cork in the semi-final. Galway however bounced back to make consecutive All-Ireland Final appearances in 2000 and 2001. In the same time, Mayo crashed to provincial defeats against Sligo and more memorably, the 2001 Connacht Final to Roscommon. I think that was the only time I wanted Mayo to win, as the Rossies put us to the sword previously in the semi-final. We would get our redemption against them in the quarter-finals, and another All-Ireland would follow in September in swashbuckling fashion once again. However, if you were to tell any Galway supporter back then that our victory over Meath would be our last such triumph of any kind at Croke Park for the foreseeable future, they would laugh long and hard at your face. As long as fourteen years you wonder? Aside from not winning at Croke Park, in those fourteen years we have also witnessed defeats at the hands of Westmeath & Antrim, scraping wins against Waterford & Louth, big defeats to Tyrone & Kerry, numerous one point defeats and one absolute hammering to Mayo in Pearse Stadium. I grew up watching Galway football that was magic. And it has been nothing short of a tragedy ever since our last All-Ireland victory.

The only summer I can remember with any fondness in the last 14 years was 2008. That year, under Liam Sammon, we reverted to playing fast direct football true to Galway principles. Padraic Joyce’s switch from full forward to centre half forward was a masterstroke that allowed his undoubted talent to flourish. And this was demonstrated with a superb individual goal in the Connacht Final that year. A surging run through the heart of the Mayo defence, sending defenders the wrong way before he buried the ball into the bottom corner. Although Mayo rallied in the 2nd half, Galway surged ahead late on to win by a solitary point. Any Connacht title won in your opponent’s backyard has to be cherished and the football Galway played that day was to be cherished as well. Maybe we cherish it that bit more as it happens to be our last Connacht title to this day!

For whoever wins on the 14th June, there is the potential prospect of meeting an up and coming Roscommon side, provided they get past Sligo in the other semi-final. Connacht football is definitely on the rise with great underage success across the province in recent years. A competitive provincial championship can only enhance each respective county and their development going forward. That said, is it too soon to expect Galway to cause an upset this season? We’ve endured another inconsistent League campaign. It started off brilliantly and then fell apart. The 2nd half against Cavan in March was a nightmare to watch. A week later, my father came in the door after our defeat to Laois in Tuam and said he would never go to another Galway game again! As we both watched Galway tamely defeat Kildare in our last league game, we couldn’t help but lament that the win should have guaranteed promotion, instead of avoiding relegation.

Kevin Walsh is trying to implement a defensive discipline that doesn’t seem to exist in the average psyche of a Galway footballer. It has been one of our downfalls to in the last decade to overcome the defensive revolution that has swept the GAA. It’s not that we have to start putting 15 men behind the ball. Mayo’s tenacity & pressure in the turnover that day in Salthill two years ago was frightening to watch. Because it is something we just don’t do. Time will tell if Walsh, one of the best midfielders to ever wear the Maroon & White, will succeed in making us defensively solid, and if it will come at the expense of the talent in our forward line.

With James Horan’s departure last year, some are inclined to believe that Mayo will not continue to challenge for an All-Ireland title. I wouldn’t agree with that whatsoever. They haven’t turned into a bad team overnight. It’s a fair question to pose that given the exploits of their last four seasons, is there anything left or we haven’t seen that will keep them pushing at the top? Maybe the new management team of Noel Connolly & Pat Holmes can bring something different that evolve this Mayo side further. Admittedly I haven’t seen a lot of their games this year and while their League form has been inconsistent, it has still been at a higher standard than what we have come up against. However, one wonders what impact the two month break since their last league game will have come throw in. It will be Galway’s 3rd Championship game and that may give us an edge in the opening periods. I don’t think it will be a decisive factor however. There’s enough experience in the Mayo panel to overcome something like that.

“To Win Just Once” has become the official song of Mayo football. However, as recent years have passed, maybe we can start claim it back as our own. To put it into perspective, Michael Jackson was still alive and considering a comeback the last time Galway “bate” Mayo in the Senior Football Championship. And if we’re to mount a comeback of our own to the top table of the inter-county football, then I hope it goes better than what happened to the King Of Pop.

I’ll give Conor Mortimer one thing, he has great taste in music!

He's bad , he's bad , really really bad ( at spelling).

He’s bad , he’s bad , really really bad ( at spelling).

Francis has not scored a goal in a game of football since 2001 and is starting to believe only a Galway win in Croke Park will help him get his shooting boots back on.

You can follow him on  @FCr_91

 

2015 GAA Championship Draw

2015 GAA Championship Draw

The 2015 GAA Championship draw has been made.

The 2014 GAA Championship has barely even finished, but already the 2015 draw has been made and we are looking forward once again.

Before a name was pulled in Connacht, we already knew of two definite fixtures. Galway will travel to Gaelic Park in New York for the preliminary round on the “B” side of the draw, and Roscommon will travel to the Emerald Grounds in Ruislip to play London in the quarter final on the “A” side of the draw. Leitrim will get to play the winners of New York and Galway in the other quarter final. It’s safe to say that anyone who made it to the Big Apple in May of this year will be looking on in envy at the Tribesmen as they get set to make the trip Stateside.

Sligo are into the semi-final, playing the winners of London & Roscommon on the “A” side of the draw and the mighty Green and Red will get to play the winners of New York/Galway/Leitrim in the other semi-final. Venues, dates and times are yet to be confirmed by the Provincial Fixture Planning committee, but as soon as we know, we’ll update our 2015 fixtures page, do make sure to check back.

2015 connacht gaa championship draw

If you’re in the same frame of mind as us, you’ll still have a bit of a mental hangover after what can only be described as a bruising season. As the long nights draw in, the heady days of Championship football seem a long way away, but the FBD league is only weeks away. Nothing like a chilly January night under lights in MacHale Park to whet the appetite for the promise of the year ahead!

There was lots of discussion on social media during the draw last night about the logic of holding the draw so soon after the 2014 championship draws to a close – why not hold it in the new year and make a bigger deal of it? Are the GAA missing a trick here?

The fact that only certain draws are made on such a platform is also a talking point:

A very fair point too – if the GAA is serious about promoting these competitions, they need to start putting their money where their mouth is. Speaking from a Mayo point of view, our hurlers put in a serious amount of effort each year, for little reward (and very small crowds!). So as supporters, it would be good for us to recognise that and get behind them a little more too.

In the meantime we have the County Championship Final to look forward to next Sunday week and after that we can all get behind the lads from Achill, Ballyhaunis and Ballintubber/Mitchels in their respective Connacht Championships.

Anyway, the full 2015 GAA Championship draw is here. We go again…

 

History beckons…

History beckons…

It’s the second weekend in July and we are preparing to make history. Honestly, at this time of year, as Mayo football fans, what more can we ask? We have two teams representing us on Sunday in the provincial deciders. Our seniors attempt to win their 4th title on the trot against the auld enemy while our minors defend their crown against Roscommon. We are also aiming to see our first back to back senior/minor Connacht Double since 1996/1997. History beckons! How sweet that would be indeed, but as we always say, that’s in the lads’ hands now. And best of luck to them.

As for us, the plan remains the same. We’ll have a couple of new recruits in the form of flags with us at the match, after announcing our first and second-placed designs in our schools flag design competition. We’ve got a couple of cracking designs that we can’t wait to unveil. But we also need people to wave said flags, so please come and join us beside the media tower at the McHale Road side of the ground. Absolutely everyone is welcome and the craic is always good so come along and introduce yourselves. And bring your own flags – there’s going to be a huge crowd there so let’s make it a colourful one (a green and red one!).

3 Nestors

We’ll be there from 11am or so setting up for our minors and we would urge absolutely everybody to come cheer on YOUR All-Ireland Champions as they take on the Rossies! They put in a hell of a shift in Tuam and the least they deserve is a good, loud support from the Mayo faithful on Sunday.

Minor Champs

Here’s to history!

H’on Mayo!!

MayoMark

All roads lead to Castlebar for this year’s Connacht Final

All roads lead to Castlebar for this year’s Connacht Final

When Galway disposed of a poor Sligo outfit the weekend before last, it was Sky Sports first time showing a Gaelic football match. I was closely following the reaction on the twitter machine as the game went on. The British audience seemed nonplussed by the game, whereas the previous week they were enthralled with the hurling.

I always thought this could be the way at the outset, but I’m sure the football will improve and excite our new audiences across the water before the summer is out. Galway won the game with ease in the end and as a result of this victory; they have earned the right to face Mayo in Elverys McHale Park on Sunday 13th July where both sides will do battle for the Nestor Cup.

A Connacht Final against Galway, it does not get any bigger than that folks! The fact that Mayo are going for their 4th in a row will also be motivation for our opposition. Whenever these two teams meet in championship, more often than not there is only a kick of the ball in it. Mayo blew Galway into smidirini last year and Galway will be looking for revenge.

The Galway midfield were made to look good by Sligo, who continued to kick the ball long and straight down the middle even though it was coming back with interest.  I am certain James Horan will have watched this and will instruct Robbie to take evasive action if necessary. Having said that, I feel our midfield will have enough to win that particular battle. Aidan O’Shea should be aiming to get back to last years high standards where he was touted as Footballer Of The Year going into the final, with his brother again being the unsung hero grafting away in midfield.

Our backs were magnificent against Roscommon. I lost count of the number or times we turned over possession. Tom Cunniffe and Caff were masterful. Boyler was his usual combative self. Donal Vaughan didn’t bring the shooting boots but worked hard and I’m sure Lee Keegan (for me best wing back in the game at the minute) will be back to himself the next day after a very, very rare off day.

Up front will be interesting. I wonder will James stick with the team that started or will he reward those who made such an impact against Roscommon?  I’m assuming Andy is fit to play, having come on for Ballaghadereen recently and by all accounts had a great game.  What I would like to see is space up front – our lads undoubtedly have the stuff to do it, it just feels at times our attacking plays can actually end up restricting the space for us to attack. Once upon a time I was a right corner forward.  I had one particular teammate who told me before games that his main aim when he got the ball was to feed me, that as soon as he got on the ball I was to be moving for a pass from him. I was small enough but I thrived on knowing if I made a run then 9 times out of 10 the centre forward was looking for me. Whoever plays CHF and in the corner forward position should be sitting down hatching plans to terrorise Galway. Clarity of role and effective communication is essential.

As for us folk on the terraces and in the stands, it was noticeable the support given to the team by the Mayo supporters against Roscommon when they were three down with ten minutes to go. I’m sure the team appreciated that and more of the same will be needed on the day. We need to be the 16th man to help our boys drive on to a wonderful 4th Connacht title in a row. See you on the 13th and as always with Club ’51 the message is a simple one. BRING A FLAG AND BRING YOUR VOICE! Mayo forever!!

TrevorFollow me on Twitter: @trevornaughton

Galway v Mayo May 13 2013

 Photo: Michael Maye

A wander down memory lane …

Those of you on Facebook and Twitter over the past few days will have seen us sharing various videos from the olden days of Mayo GAA, but just in case you’ve missed them, head on over to our video gallery to see (for the first time online) highlights of Mayo’s Connacht Championship of 1989, the famed Tyrone game of the same year, and the 2006 All-Ireland U21 final victory against Cork. Our most recent addition is the Galway-Mayo Connacht Final of ’99 in Tuam Stadium. Some of us are still drying out after that one.

Thanks to Ronan McHale for putting in the graft and converting these from VHS for us – a time-consuming process but one I’m sure you’ll agree was worth it. Check out our video gallery here for a wander down memory lane and keep an eye out for more videos coming soon.

And we begin again … Roscommon v Mayo

And we begin again … Roscommon v Mayo

It feels like forever since we were last gearing up for a Championship game, and while those of us lucky enough to get to New York got a fix of sorts, it didn’t quite scratch the itch. Next weekend however sees the action beginning in earnest on home soil as Mayo travel to Hyde Park to take on Roscommon at 2pm in Dr. Hyde Park.

By all accounts the Rossies, buoyant after another strong U21 campaign are looking forward to this clash as much as we are, and they will fancy their chances of springing a surprise on their home turf. So we could have a cracker on our hands next Sunday.

Roscommon v Mayo

Ticketing and Admission

Dr. Hyde Park as most of us know by now is not the most accessible of grounds, and a large attendance is expected next week. The Connacht Council have decided that seating will be unreserved for this fixture, meaning that if you want to get a seat in the stand, it’s first come, first served. Admission is €25 (terrace €20) with U16s paying €5. In their wisdom, they have decreed that OAPs and students must pay full price on the gate, with refunds of €10 available upon presentation of valid ID cards at turnstiles 6 & 18 (meaning that they potentially have to queue twice). For those of you travelling with large groups of children, you can enter at Turnstile 8 and avail of a decent group rate of €30 which gets you 10 x juvenile and 1 x adult ticket – we’re assuming that this is restricted to the terrace). All season ticket holders must enter the ground via the County Road Home end.

Meetup

With all of the above in mind, Club ’51 have after a bit of debate decided not to hold our customary pre-match meet-up before the game next week. Rather, we are urging anyone travelling to the game to get in there early. Very,  very early. If you want a seat, it’s likely you’ll need to be there at least an hour before throw-in, and if attendances at the Allianz League games this year are to be believed, it’s looking like this game could easily be a sellout. Instead, we’ll be aiming to congregate inside good and early and get the atmosphere building.

Hurling

In addition to this, the curtain-raiser sees Mayo hurlers in action once again, taking on Roscommon in the Connacht Intermediate final. Throw-in for that game has yet to be confirmed but is likely to throw in around 12pm, if not sooner. The hurlers have put in a great season this year, and are deserving of good support. So we urge you to come along and shout them on (and stake your claim on a seat while you’re at it).

Flags

It’s Championship time proper now, so let’s get the colours out! If you’re coming along, we’re asking you to do one thing – BRING A FLAG. Be it a big flag, a small flag, a flag without a pole, a car flag, a sheet – just find something green and red and wave it around! It’s amazing the difference a flag display can make to the atmosphere, and we want to make the Rossies feel next Sunday like they’re playing an away game and facing into a sea of green and red. Club ’51 will have the usual flags there and if you’re planning on being there early, come and find us in the stand, join us for the craic and help us make a bit of noise.

We go again …

See you all in the Hyde as we start once again in earnest on this journey. It’s always an adventure, and it’s time to get behind the lads as they put themselves and their bodies on the line once again. Let’s start as we mean to go on this year, shout loud and proud and be the 16th man through thick and thin … Maigh Eo Abú!

Autism Assistance Dogs IrelandPS: Another thing worth doing on the day – Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland are running a fundraising competition on Facebook – they’re asking you to take a ‘selfie’ or a group photo in your county colours, text AUTISM to 50300 to donate €4, and post the photo and text receipt on their Facebook page here. Why not!

 

 

Page 2 of 3123
Sponsored by BizSpace.ie The home of Top Performance and High Quality in Affordable web design, hosting and cloud applications.