On Sunday, we will take part in our 6th successive All-Ireland Football Semi-Final. That is truly remarkable, especially when you consider the last season we didn’t make the last 4. That year was 2010 after we lost to Sligo and Longford within a couple of weeks to put an end to a pretty awful campaign. I don’t think anybody leaving Pearse Park that day believed 6 consecutive semi-finals was even remotely possible, but here we are.
This time, we are looking forward to a match-up with Tipperary. This is one of the rarest pairings in Championship history. In fact, we have only played them 3 times: 2002, 1922 and 1919. And while our history with them is a relatively small one, it is not to say it isn’t a remarkable one. With 2002 being a relatively recent encounter, it’s easy to remember what went down. For information on the 1919 and 1922 games I had to dust down the old research hat from my college days. I ventured to the Castlebar Library and delved into their fantastic microfilm collections of both the Mayo News and the Connaught Telegraph. To compliment this, I had another read of James Laffey’s absolutely fantastic The Road to ’51. The research that went into his work must have been immense and it resulted in a most wonderful story of Mayo football through the ages. I’d recommend it to not only Mayo fans, but historians and Irish history enthusiasts also. If you take anything from this post, let it be that you go and get a copy of this book.
The last time we met Tipp was in the in the 2002 Championship. It was a 4th Round Qualifier and it took place in Cusack Park, Ennis. 2002 was the closest Tipp have come to a Munster title in many a year, bringing Cork to a replay after finishing level in Thurles. Cork ran out comfortable winners in the replay in Pairc Ui Caoimh, winning by a margin of 1-23 to 0-7. That condemned Tipp to a showdown with ourselves just 7 days later. We had just overcome the Rossies and Limerick in the qualifiers in Castlebar and Hyde Park respectively after Galway had knocked us out of Connacht. I didn’t make the journey to the Tipp game myself, for reasons that I can’t remember, but I do remember sitting in the living room at home listening to it on the radio with my brother. I can’t quite remember what station it was, but it wasn’t Mid West, because some madman was commentating. It was great craic listening to it and, fortunately, we ran out 0-21 to 1-14 winners. We went on to lose to Cork in the Quarter Final by 1-16 to 1-10, but, if memory serves, that was an even more comfortable win for the Rebels than the scoreline may suggest. There are some snaps of our game v Tipp here.
The team and scorers that day can be found on the excellent MayoGaaBlog results archive here.
P Burke; K Mortimer, D Heaney, P Coyne; N Connelly, A Roche, A Higgins; D Tiernan, D Brady (0-4); C McManamon (0-1), T Mortimer (0-2), J Gill (0-1, free); S Carolan (0-3), B Maloney (0-1), J Horan (0-5, three frees). Subs: J Nallen for Roche (inj 38 mins); C McDonald (0-4, two frees) for Gill (41 mins); M McNicholas for Tiernan (58 mins); R Connelly (64 mins) for K Mortimer S Fitzmaurice for McManamon (68 mins).
On the comments section on our Facebook page, Mike Gallagher shared this brilliant footage with us.
You have to venture back another few years for our next nearest clash with the men from Munster. 80 years, in fact, where we took them in in the 1920 All-Ireland Football Semi-Final. If the maths don’t seem to quite add up there, it’s because they don’t. We played out our 1920 All-Ireland Semi-Final in May 1922. It wasn’t uncommon for the Championship to get backed up like that back in the day, and it’s easy to understand why considering the War of Independence was ongoing. Mayo won Connacht in 1920 after beating Sligo in the final by 2-3 to 1-4 in Castlerea in front of just 2,000 people. That game took place on 22nd August 1920, while Tipp’s journey through Munster was much more fragmented. They played Clare in a Quarter Final in June 1920. That game ended in a draw and the replay was played in the following August. The semi-final and final, against Waterford and Kerry respectively, took place in February and April 1922. Both Ulster and Leinster were played out by August 1920 where Cavan and Dublin emerged, and they took each other on in the All-Ireland Semi-Final in September 1920. Dublin had to wait until our Semi-Final Clash with Tipp in 1922.
Mayo lost the game by 1-5 to 1-0 in front of a Croke Park crowd of 13,000-14,0000 according to estimates published in the Connaught Telegraph on 13/05/1922. The Mayo News (18/05/1922) put that estimate between 15,000 and 17,000. Either way, it was, at the time, a hell of a journey for Mayo and Tipp fans alike. The two papers published a near identical match report, in which they bemoaned Mayo’s incapability in front of goal throughout the game. There was only a single point scored in the second half, by Tipp, in a game that was marred by a number of stoppages and a strong breeze which blew towards the “Cloniffe goal”, where Hill ’16 stands today. That was all she wrote for our 1920 Championship campaign. Tipperary went on to win the Championship, beating Dublin in the final in their first meeting after the Bloody Sunday massacre on 21 November 1920. It was rumoured that Dublin were caught cold by a battle hardened Tipperary team, as Dublin were unhappy at the gap of 2 years between their semi-final and their final. And Tomas O’Se reckons Kerry have it hard waiting a few weeks. The cheek!
You only have to go back a couple more years to get to our next encounter but, of course, it’s not as straight forward as that! The year is 1919. The Championship is 1918. Again, it’s the semi-final stage. Tipp were Munster Champions for the first time since 1904 (eh, that is to say, the 1902 Munster Championship). My head hurts typing this, but alas I’ll truck on! We had beaten Galway in the Connacht Final at some stage in 1918, and we took on Tipp in mid-January 1919. It’s hard to fathom an All-Ireland Semi-Final in the depths of January, but these were strange times indeed, and it seemed that playing and finishing a Championship in that Championship’s year was incredibly rare! James Laffey mentions that the 1918 Championship was largely fragmented by the outbreak of a deadly flu in Ireland, the now infamous “Spanish Flu” epidemic that ravaged the country. Sadly, it claimed hundreds of victims in Mayo and more across the country.
The Connaught Telegraph (18/01/1919) reported that the game took place in front of “several thousand spectators”. The Mayo News estimated that the crowd was in and around the 4,000 mark. It was reported that both teams we understrength and that, while the football wasn’t the most attractive, the contest itself was a good one. We lost this one by a single, last-minute point. The final score 2-2 to 1-4 in Tipp’s favour. There’s no shame in a defeat like that, considering the County Board were actually uncertain as to whether they could field a team in the days leading up to the game.
But the drama didn’t end there! In the same issue of The Mayo News (18/01/1919), there was a strongly worded letter that was addressed to the editor of the Irish Independent.
Sir, – On behalf of the Mayo football team, I wish to protest against the partiality displayed by the referee towards Tipperary in Sunday’s match at Croke Park. It was evident from the start of the game that his sympathies were with Tipperary, as was shown time and again by the storm of protest from neutral spectators with regards to his decisions. I now wish to issue, through the medium of your columns, a challenge to Tipperary to meet Mayo again, at a time and place to be fixed by the Central Council for any charitable object to be decided by the Central Council, preferably for the dependants of the Irish interned prisoners. For a fair, honourable and impartial referee, may I suggest the name Mr. Dunphy, Abbeyleix.
Secretary, Mayo County Board; G.A.A., Fleming’s Hotel, Gardiner’s Place, Dublin.
I’ll bet any money that that ref was from Meath.
It doesn’t look as if Tipp took the bait on this one, because we assume they knew they were wrong and were, frankly, just too scared to take us on in a replay that we would have inevitably won. Add that to Galway’s theft of our All-Ireland title in 1925, that brings our real tally to 5.
We were also due to play them in 1922 for the 1921 All-Ireland Championship Semi-Final, but we received a walk-over, as tensions were high during the Civil War. Mayo actually agreed to reschedule the fixture after Tipperary had withdrawn, but a few days before the new date, Tipp had to, once again, concede the fixture. In the leadup to that game, we claimed the Connacht title by beating Roscommon by 0-24 to 0-1 in the first round, Galway in the semi-final and overcoming the Rossies in the final. Go ahead, read that again. Yep, we beat Roscommon twice in Connacht that year, and nobody seems to really know why! We lost the All-Ireland Final well that year to Dublin on a scoreline of 1-9 to 0-2.
Pic: Taken from James Laffey’s Road to 51. As outlined in the original caption, it is unclear as to why we were wearing Green and White jersies, but I’d love to get my hands on one of these. The picture is just too faint to make out the crest design, too. But this is a great image of a Mayo team from a very turbulent time in Mayo, and Irish, history.
So that is the extent of our history with Tipperary in Championship football. Most of it was nestled in the period 1918 to 1922, which was, easily, modern Ireland’s most turbulent period, suffering a flu outbreak, a War of Independence and a bloody Civil War, which led to the scheduling maze that I outlined above.
In summary, our history with Tipperary in the Championship:
- 1918 All-Ireland Semi-Final, played in January 1919. Lost 2-2 to 1-4
- 1920 All-Ireland Semi-Final, played in May 1922. Lost 1-5 to 1-0
- 1921 All-Ireland Semi-Final, scheduled to be played in April 1922. Mayo receive walkover
- 2002 All-Ireland Football Championship Qualifiers, Round 4, played in December 2004. Won 0-21 to 1-14 (of course, this game was played on time, but it would have been mad if this really happened!)
So, it’s quite clear, we owe Tipp, big time, for that horrible injustice in 1919! That’s the real one that got away. No prizes for guessing what match report will be stuck up in our dressing room wall this Sunday.