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.
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!
It’s August, and we are back to a familiar scene. Our opponents were confirmed on Saturday evening after Sligo were parked up by Cork.
When Cork emerged under the leadership of Brian Cuthbert, they looked to have prowess. They had a steady league performance, and with Kerry looking at sixes and sevens in the league, it looked from early on like they were the Munster team to watch. That theory was quickly demolished after the Kingdom destroyed them in the Munster Final by 12 points. And in a flash, Cork were banished to the dreaded qualifiers. They arrived in Tullamore on Saturday for a date with Sligo. Cuthbert made six changes from their Kerry hiding and unveiled a significantly revised game plan. A game plan that is now the new wave of vogue in Gaelic Football: overpopulate the opposition’s defence and stay there. This new wave was originally designed by Jim McGuinness and now, just like tight jerseys, it’s pretty much the new black!
At times on Saturday Cork played with only one player in the opposing half of the field. This style of defensive football was used on Sligo but in reality it was being introduced for their quarter final meeting with Mayo. But they have a lot of work to do before they perfect this style. On Saturday it worked for a while, then they drifted off course and looked unsure of themselves. Colm O Neill and Paul Kerrigan, seasoned players, were their star attractions; they looked sharp and up for the challenge. O’Neill finished with 10 points and will inevitably be a handful for the Mayo full-back line on Sunday, but with Keith Higgins now firmly back there, he’ll have the measure of the rebel. With the way the game is going now, it’ll be an interesting competition for Mayo, to see how they cope with the defensive approach. Fintan Goold started from the bench but replaced debutant, 20 year old, Ian Maguire and would look to have made enough of an impression to start on Sunday. Cork are jittery though, and tend to fall away when pressure is applied.
Mayo have never had a great record against Cork in championship. Horan’s men have looked slow to get going so far, maybe they are just warming up to this stage or maybe they are beginning to tire. Sunday will tell a tale. Big performances will be needed by every Mayo player. Will Mayo counteract the defensive trap? Will they need to?
James Horan’s men have shown heart and determination when needed in their Connacht Championship, let’s hope this continues through on Sunday.
We made it. It’s semi final time. And both semis should serve up two tasty treats.
Cork having beaten Dublin already this season in Croke Park will be hoping to emulate the same result. But I’m sure the current league Champions will have something to say about that.Our big focus will throw in at 2, and after last weekend’s encounter I cannot wait. Derry come to the party with an impressive league campaign under their belt. They have evolved this season, and some will say they have become more united since the departure of Eoin Bradley. The younger brother of Paddy has opted to play soccer with Colerine FC for the spring.
I watched Derry’s first league game against Tyrone on TV and they were very impressive; they drew, but were unfortunate in the end not to win having come from eight points down to draw level. It was, of course their first Div 1 game in four years. Monday mornings I usually chat to two male work colleagues and we review the weekend’s sporting events, casually of course! After the opening round of the league we discussed the games and I mentioned that I thought Derry were a team to watch this season (I still do), and one of the lads, dismissed me with a laugh. I haven’t spoken to him about the games since and no, not because I took the huff!
We’ve come to the business end of the season now. Derry proved a poor opposition for Mayo last weekend, but it was clever from Brian McIver. He knew they were through and figured Mayo were going to meet them again this weekend. So his starting 15 got a week off to prepare and got an up close look at Mayo for free. They play passionately and very much as a unit. They have a number of standout players on the team this year, Mark Lynch at centre forward continues to flourish, he scored 1-6 from play last weekend against Kildare, he’s hard marked and attacks right through the middle so it’ll be interesting to see how Donal Vaughan, who also likes to attack, will cope with that. This season they look to operate with a two man full forward line consisting of 6 foot 4 Keelan O’Boyle, a UUJ student, and Emmet McGuckin, who scored a cracking goal in Castlebar, is small but good in the air and very powerful. How the Mayo defenders will cope with these two will be something to keep an eye on.
Last weekend James Horan gave Aidan O Shea and Jason Gibbons a rest day so a big performance will be needed from them to take on the might of Fergal Doherty and Patsy Bradley. Mayo are the highest scorers in the league so far followed closely by Derry who are playing quite a similar type of football to James Horan’s men. Their centre back adapts the same attacking role as Vaughan, so this may allow Keith Higgins and the Mayo half forward line some space to get scores. They have relied on outscoring their opponents throughout the league so this one should keep the scoreboard operator busy. Mayo will have to improve on their scoring as they are racking up quite a lot of wides this season, an area they will have to sharpen up in as they proceed towards the Connacht Championship and beyond. Cillian O’Connor has slotted back into his role as chief free-taker after his break through injury, and top scorer of the league for the county, Kevin McLoughlin (1-24) will hope to continue on from where he left off against Dublin.
This one will be hard to call. It’ll be a cracker, full of scores and open honest football from both sides. Because of their experience at this stage, I think Mayo will edge this one.
It’s starting to feel like the summer is truly upon us, what with all these trips to Croke Park so early in the year. The weekend is just around the corner too and with it comes the anticipation of another cracking day of football in the capital as Mayo take on Derry in the first of the Allianz National Football League semi-finals.
Mayo v Derry throws in at 2pm and it’s set to be a very different game from the lacklustre occasion we witnessed in MacHale Park last Sunday, given that Derry will most likely bring their first team this time. For those of you who are truly insatiable, Dublin take on Cork in the second semi which throws in at 4pm – a fixture that will hold all the more interest for us should the first game go our way.
In what is fast becoming a familiar pre-match tradition, Club ’51 will be convening across the road in the Jury’s Croke Park Hotel from 12pm. Come join us, say hello and have a cupán tae or a pint before the game. If the day is fine, look for us out the back where you’ll see the flags!
This is the first knockout game of the year, so we’re expecting a high turnout and a good atmosphere, and Club ’51 will be continuing our quest to turn Croke Park into a Sea of Green and Red – but we need your help! If you’re making the trip, be sure and bring a flag and let’s get some colour into those stands.
And most important of all, let’s stand tall and get behind our team on Sunday. It’s up to us, in the crowd to create the atmosphere, so let’s play our part and make ourselves heard – especially if things aren’t going our way. So stock up on the honey and lemon, raise your voices and let’s bring back the Mayo Roar.
See you all on Sunday -Maigh Eo Abú!