And here we all are again! This truly is a great time to be a Mayo supporter. The buzz in the lead-up to these games is something only a handful of counties can enjoy and we’ve had this for 4 years running now.
Hopefully your plans have all been made. If not, take a look at MayoMick’s post on alternative travel options now that the trains aren’t running. But whatever your plans, do your best to get into Croke Park on time for the All-Ireland Minor semi-final between our lads and Kerry. Remember, these lads have put in a serious shift so far this year with wins in Tuam against Galway, against Ross in the Connacht Final and a comprehensive victory in Croke Park v Armagh. These lads are in peak physical condition, something that’s hard at the best of times, but many of these lads juggled their training with exams. Not only that, but this team are a joy to watch. They play lovely football, but are well able to dig deep when it’s needed. So, get in on time (not early!) and roar these lads on to another All-Ireland final.
In other news, the senior 15 has been named for Sunday and, as always, this is followed by our now ritual “rallying call”. Bring your kit, bring your flags, bring your drums, bring your fog horns. Bring it all and make more noise than you’ve ever made before! After the anthem, we want the lads to know that we are there with them every single step of the way. If someone starts a chant beside you, join in,don’t leave them hanging. We’re all in this together! This group of players and management have reached levels of intensity and performance that we have seldom seen before in this country, let alone this county.
They have done their bit. Now let’s do ours.
The bauld Ciaran Mac inspired us to roar at the telly
Nostalgia week continues with a view from someone living far away cross the ocean , far away o’er the foam.
The life of the Irish expatriate on the European mainland is, on the whole, a happy and fulfilling one. You have chosen to leave home in order to enjoy the opportunities afforded by a job abroad and you can enjoy the culture of your adopted country and still, thanks to low cost air travel, return home on a regular basis and also invite friends and family to visit. The script for the Irish male on most Saturdays in Europe is along the same lines in every country. Get yourself into the local Irish pub with all the English and Scots and watch as much football and rugby as the landlord can fit onto his screens. Sundays however can take a different turn. On Sunday the pub may still be full but there will be one corner TV showing the big premier league game and in the other corner, the big Irish heavyweight, the GAA.
Our brethren in the US historically have had a different experience when it comes to viewing our games. The Astra satellite shadow does not fall over the North American continent and as such they have always been reliant on service providers to ensure that they see their county men in action. Pubs all over the US welcome hung over Irishmen on a Sunday at hours ranging from 4 or 5 AM in San Francisco to 8 am on the east coast. By welcome I mean greet them with an ignorant door man demanding 25 dollars entry fee.
The down under experience is another step into dedication. I was in a pub in Melbourne at about midnight one night and an Ulster championship clash was just commencing, the place was packed and it was on every screen. How do these lads get up for work the next day?
I have been in Croke Park and Castlebar for many of Mayo’s finest days and for a few disasters as well but I remember watching us beat Tyrone in Amsterdam in 2004, just myself and a lad from Ballina whom I had just met roaring at the telly. I watched us lose to Galway in 2003 from O’reillys pub in Frankfurt. The day we beat Cork in 2011 I was in the Irish Pub in Bornheim. The famous day against Dublin in ’06 I was in the Anglo Irish pub with about 7 dubs, I simply could not afford to come home.
So folks , when you hear about lads turning up for All-Ireland finals from foreign countries I can see where you might feel aggrieved that they somehow manage to score a ticket and you did not. But don’t forget although we left home a long time ago our love for our team is just as strong as it was then. We are blessed with GAAGO this year but it was not always the case ,I know a man who took a flight in America to fly to a city in another state with a pub that was showing a Mayo game. You hear English accents and American ones as well in Croke Park when Mayo play, lads fulfilling their father’s wishes to see Mayo lift that chalice, bitten by that same bug that you yourself have. We are all the same or as they say in Thailand, “Same Same but Different”.
Mayo for Sam.
Kenneth Conway is our latest contributor to our “Nostalgia Week”. I’ve just this second made that up, but it works. So it’s Nostalgia Week from now on. Take it away Kenny!
I’m a 19 year old and for someone of such a young age I have seen and been at an amount of Mayo games you would need a few sets of hands to count and even then you might need an extra hand or two. I have been going to Mayo matches for the last 10 years or more. In 2004 I went to my first All Ireland Final and that was an experience in itself and I am going to tell you a little bit about the experience in the lead up to it and after the match itself.
At that time it was a week or so off my 10th birthday and I remember I kept asking my dad to bring me to Croke Park for the final but he kept saying no that it was too expensive. So me like most children when they didn’t get their way went to their bedroom and sulked. Little did I know he had actually got tickets for us both.
It was the night before the final and I went to my room and there it was right in front of the telly was a ticket and I felt as if I was after getting the golden ticket like Charlie from the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My parents were in the sitting room which was directly below my bedroom and I’d safely say they thought I would come through the ceiling with the way I was jumping for joy.
I remember running down the stairs and going straight over to my dad giving him the biggest hug. I was absolutely ecstatic at the fact that I had got a ticket after asking him over and over again to get me one and him repeatedly telling me no.
My dad soon told me to go and get my jersey and flag ready for the morning and head straight to bed as it was going to be an early start in the morning. I ran straight back up to my room got my jersey and flag ready and jumped into bed. Tried as I might I just couldn’t get to sleep that night with the excitement of going to my 1st All Ireland Final. I know I was already in Croke Park previous to the final but this time was different as it was going to be my 1st final.
The big day came and we headed up to Dublin. So eventually we got there found a parking spot and made our way to Croke Park. Walking up Jones’ Road is another experience in itself being among tens of thousands of people who are all there for the same thing you are.
We finally got inside and made our way to our seat. The teams came out done their warm ups , had their photo’s taken , had the team talk and stand and face the flags for Amhrán na bhFiann. With all of these out of the way it was game time.
As we all know it didn’t end up being our day like it has every year we have been in a final since then and we suffer heart ache each year. For me as a 9 year old yes I was obviously disappointed that Mayo didn’t win but at the same time I was so happy that I was able to see an All Ireland Final for the 1st time.
Since then I have been to every final Mayo have been in and many a match since and hopefully I will be at another final this year and many more finals and matches in years to come.
Maigh Eo Abú !
In the next of our series of guest posts, we’d like to welcome Shamrocks (yes, of course that’s his real name) to the hot seat to take us on a journey from past to present. For those of you who remember ’89, this will bring back some magic memories.
An unorthodox Mayo man of sorts, born in England and brought up in a rural north Wicklow village ’til I was 11 years of age, before moving to the homeland of Mayo. My father was a native of Achill Island, it was there we spent most of our holidays as kids. It was always Mayo from day one, it was part of who we were and the county team was where I identified my connection to the place that will always be home.
My first memory was the old Salthill in 1984, travelling down with my comrade and chauffeur, my father. This is where it all began , the adventure of the journey down west, the anticipation of seeing the flags out of the car windows and then to the climax of seeing the footballers of Mayo run onto the pitch. Unfortunately we lost out to Galway on that day. My memories of the game itself are not too clear, I was only 6/7 years of age I suppose, but it’s amazing how silly things remain in the head, like only knowing the name of Willie Joe 😀
The years went on and the same journey was taken. ’85 I got to see them lift the Nestor Cup in Hyde Park; that was special but again too young to really take it in . ’87 seems a lot clearer, a really low-scoring game against Galway in Castlebar, but another defeat.
1989 is where it really comes alive for me.
We as a family had moved down home at last, to a rural village in east Mayo, Kilmovee, where my grandmother came from on my mother’s side. The first game against Galway in Tuam. We never won there (at the time) so a draw was a mighty return and we easily did the business in Castlebar in the replay, McHale and Larry with the goals. Next it was the Rossies and another draw, the replay was epic and no Mayo supporter of my age or older will ever forget Jimmy Burke’s goal in extra time. Hyde park erupted into an explosion of green and red; it was just priceless. The semi v Tyrone was of course the first time a lot of Mayo supporters ever seen Mayo win in Croke park in senior championship including father/mother and daughter/son generation. I suppose it was a bit like what winning the All-Ireland would be like now. The weeks leading up to the final were indescribable in terms of excitement – all the towns were decked out, the songs were released. As a child, the memories are of sheer happiness, the crowds at Knock airport to see our heroes off, running after the team coach with my new school mates from Tavrane NS through the thousands of fans singing ‘Willie Joe, Willie Joe’’ – it is just something that will stay with me forever.
What a journey we have had since. The losing of finals down the years is what everyone likes to throw at us and of course it has been disappointing but is there any Mayo supporter out there who would swap all those journeys we have had in 89/96/97/04/06/12/13 for some form of mediocrity like the vast majority of counties experience ?
We are now in a phase where we have reached the last two finals and are about to contest our fourth semi-final on the trot. People are getting uptight about where we are at – have we still a chance or are we burnt out as a unit? There is a sense of supporters being divided on aspects of what should have happened in finals and other issues. The truth is nobody really knows, we can all guess but let’s be real, everyone has one thing in common – we all want the same thing.
So let’s get behind our bucks the next day in Croke park against Kerry, and roar them on. We are favourites with the bookies to beat Kerry in an all Ireland semi-final. Don’t be frightened by it, embrace it. Horan, Buckley, Prendergast and the panel have earned the fucking right to be a top team, now let us act the same, and fill her up with green and red!
Welcoming long-time Mayo GAA fan and one of the most dedicated supporters we’ve ever met, Clíona O’Gara from Charlestown to the Club ’51 hot seat. Cliona sums up below how most of us feel when it comes to following the team, through thick and thin, from winter to summer.
There are days when being a Mayo GAA fan seems like the ultimate punishment for something you thought you didn’t deserve. Those moments after an All-Ireland final defeat when you feel like you’ve done something horrendous in another life to feel such gut-wrenching pain and heartache. That horrible pain you get when looking around Croke Park at the opposition’s fans celebrating, and thinking “this can’t be happening again”. Facing that dreadful journey down the motorway, seeing car flags on the road ahead, meeting other MO reg cars at the toll and everyone giving a sympathetic smile to everyone else. Stopping in Supermac’s in Longford, meeting more grieving fans and dissecting every ounce of the game with a complete stranger. Getting home, torturing yourself by watching the Sunday Game and going to bed thinking of what could have been.
But even though being a Mayo fan has carried heartache on the third Sunday in September, I wouldn’t give it up for the world. We have a lot more good days than bad. I love the feeling when waking up on a cold, January Sunday morning and heading for an FBD game in Ballyhaunis or Ballinlough dressed from head to toe in your winter woollies. You look around and spot the usual 20 people that you know you’re gonna see at the rest of the games in every part of the country. You soon forget about the previous year and what might have been, and focus on what might be, and the blood starts pumping for a new season. The league flies by and before we know it, were wearing short sleeves and anticipating the championship. There’s no feeling like going to a championship game. Hearing the roars of the fans, feeling the shivers run down your spine when the National Anthem is playing, seeing those fans that have come late and cursing them for standing in front of you, but most importantly being there. Being there to watch your team, your county, your lads that you feel like you know personally from following them on twitter to Croker.
Yes, not every day is a good one being a Mayo GAA fan but the good ones are nothing short of great. No, we haven’t landed that ultimate prize,; no, we haven’t seen our boys walk the Hogan stand and lift that cup we desire so much, but we will. In the meantime, we continue to get behind the team that has given us so many hours of enjoyment and entertainment. Mayo are very close to landing that prize and there will be a time when that final whistle will go in Croke Park and we will be All Ireland Senior Champions. We will experience that feeling that I’m pretty sure compares with nothing else for a GAA fan. We will cheer down the motorway, we will forget about our chips in Longford so we can get to Castlebar as quickly as possible and most of all, the journey of heartache over the years will all be forgotten.We won’t hold any grudges.
2014 may just be that year. Maybe.
Here we all are again: for the 4th year in a row preparing ourselves for the trip east to cheer on our boys in an All-Ireland Semi-Final. It’s all very positive. But I’m very cynical as ye know.
It’s great to see us travel in such numbers and we comfortably outnumbered every other county there last week. But some of us tend to forget that we have two outstanding football teams still in action this year. Our minors… What a team. And it’s great to see the support in early for them last week. But if one more person asks me “how did the minors get on?” in the jacks of Croke Park after the minor game… If you cared, you would have been in on time. The pubs will still be there after the game, I promise!
Anyways, with that off my chest, it’s time to get to planning for Sunday week. The hotel is booked, the tickets are sorted, train tickets booked and…
There’s only a bloody train strike!
Well there you go! We’ll have to take the hit and stay the night in the Villa Bella. The rumbles about a possible strike are sure to interrupt the plans of a lot of folk reading this although I do hope it doesn’t affect the numbers travelling. We hate to see anyone stuck so be sure to get stuck into our car pooling section! If you need a lift, post it up on our Facebook page and someone might be kind enough to bring you along (for a fair contribution to fuel and sambos, obviously!). In terms of parking, we’ll follow up with details closer to throw-in but the general rule of thumb is to get in early!
It’s a great time to be a Mayo fan. This excitement never gets old. I’ve spent all day reading articles, message boards, arguing with fellow fans, and watching classic games on YouTube. And there’s still 11 ruddy days to wait! So the overriding message for us has to be this: enjoy it. We are the envy of most other counties in Ireland. Only 4 teams get here every year, 8 including minor, and we have 2 teams representing us.
To stay in touch with the latest updates I would recommend the MayoGAABlog. The content is excellent, some great updates and links to articles in local and national media and some incredibly dubious conversation to boot!
I’d like to wrap this up by wishing the U21 hurlers the very best in their Connacht Under 21 B final in Athleague tomorrow. It would be a very welcome success with our seniors doing the business against Roscommon earlier in the year to win the Connacht title, not to mention the minors’ second appearance in as many years in the All-Ireland minor C final where they look to retain their title. Also, well done to the Mayo Ladies team who qualified for the last 8 last Saturday after defeating Westmeath, and best of luck to them too as they take on All-Ireland Champions Cork in the next stage on Saturday in Tullamore.
Enjoy the build up!
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