As we turn our faces towards the summer and the promise of the Championship, we welcome another guest contributor to the site. Sarah McKirdy hails from the south of the county, dangerously close to Galway, but her allegiance is unquestionable! Here Sarah writes about being a Mayo supporter and what it means to her.
“The best thing to come out of Galway is the road to Mayo.”
When you come from a part of the County of Mayo where you are surrounded by the Black River as it winds its way from Shrule into the great Loch Corrib, and more especially when you are surrounded by County Galway and Galway People, it lends itself to people on both sides being very “one eyed”. Such is the case with this poor Writer. From my earliest memories, the battle for glory was mainly played out between the two counties. It was the sixties and Galway were in full flight. Beating Galway was our All-Ireland, no thoughts of Croke Park, no county jersey, no flags and no bunting, we would paint the goal posts red and green (usually two young ash trees ) and we were made up. Mayo God help us and Galway glad to get us.
The glamorous games …
Much has changed since those days – and yet maybe not. The passion is still there, enough so to make pride in our County burn in our hearts, to make the stuff running in our veins vivid red but with a smattering of green, to raise our voices in song with our adopted anthem The Green and Red of Mayo, to be there when we are winning and when we are losing, triumph and disaster, we have met those two impostors and treated them the same. The love of our County, our native place, and to recognise that herein are our roots, our heritage, our alma mater may go some way to explaining the Mayo mindset. People are very often amazed by the continued loyal following of the Mayo GAA Senior Team by such a vast number of people. Anyone who witnessed the game in Cork in 2013 in the NFL can attest to this, but us Mayo Natives are not surprised at all. Sure where else would we be?
I have travelled the length and breadth of the Country in support of my team, I probably could have paid off the mortgage by now had I stayed at home, but that was never an option. My travelling companion through most of this campaign has now been to thirty (yes ,30) Connacht Finals, and our quest continues. We have the most marvellous memories of places we’ve been, people we’ve met and games we’ve watched. I wouldn’t change or swap one minute of any of it.
.. and the not-so glamorous games.
On one occasion we headed to Ennis, where our Under 21s were playing the All-Ireland Final against Cork. We landed in good time and parked the car in a housing estate, ready for the speedy exit, or so we thought. When we returned to the car, the All-Ireland secured and the singing at several decibels above the reasonable, a lady from a nearby house had a pot of tea and of course the few custard creams waiting for us. Now we had never met this lady before in our lives, but her generosity of spirit is something that will stay with us forever and is often spoken of. “Ah sure ye have a long trip back to Mayo’’, she said.
In the last couple of years we have experienced the very best of times and maybe the worst of times but the passion is still there. I saw it again in a new guise last week in MacHale Park with the emergence of Club ’51, passionate supporters banding together and bonding together in support of Mayo Football. I’ve seen it over many years in all shapes and forms, parents taking their young children to matches, the old and the young, the great and the good coming together with a common cause.
It’s heartwarming, it’s uplifting, it makes us what we are.
We are MAYO.
(Photos: Michael Maye)
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!
In her first post for Club ’51, our very own Knockmore correspondent Laurita Blewitt previews Sunday’s game, and casts her eye forward to what might lie ahead …..
I’ll be honest, when I saw the Derry team on Twitter last night, I checked it twice. 14 changes from last weekends win over Kildare. I know they are through to the semi finals, but I was looking forward to seeing these two sides meet. They both have been the scoring kingpins of the Division 1.
Mayo’s Mikey Sweeney in action against Derry, James Stephen’s Park Ballina, NFL February 2009. (pic: Sportsfile)
I tweeted that either Derry have a squad as big as Dublin, or this one will be a cakewalk for Horan’s men. But Brian McIver has proved his shrewdness this season so far. He’s been building this squad up since he took over in 2012 and having secured their first trip to Croke Park this year, he’s now just looking for options. The only player to get the nod from last weekend is Emmet McGuckin, who moves from full forward to midfield to partner Niall Holly.
It’s fair to say Mayo should win this handy enough – sure 99% of this Derry team have had little or no run out this season yet. And if they do, they will probably face the Northerners again next weekend. But this is where the challenge arrives. It will suit Derry to just fulfill the fixture, while Mayo show their full hand and only meet the opposing side’s reserves.
In four weeks time, the Mayo squad, along with a cargo of Mayo supporters will hit for the Bronx. So James Horan and Co. will want to get into the semi finals to increase game time for the likes of Cillian O’Connor, Donal Vaughan and Jason Gibbons. Not so much in preparation for New York, but more so beyond that.
It’s show time now and shaky league openers and FBD games are a distant memory. It’s all about one thing, and from Sunday on it starts. A Division 1 league semi, a possibility of reaching the final and a trip to New York is the perfect precursor to what, we all hope, will be a long, and dare I say it, a sparkling silver summer season.
Remember to bring plenty of colour and flags on Sunday!
It’s Wednesday, and we’re heading towards the better half of the week, meaning it’s time once again to lift the heads and start looking forward to the weekend’s GAA action. This Sunday sees Mayo welcome Derry to Elverys MacHale Park in the final round of the Allianz National Football League, at the later throw-in time of 3pm.
Mayo are in a promising position, with a win against second-placed Derry guaranteeing us a spot in the semi-finals on April 13th. Two intriguing deciders lie ahead, with Dublin travelling away (for a change) to Tyrone, but it’s Castlebar on which we’ll be focusing and in a practice run for the championship days ahead, Club ’51 will be ramping the campaign up a notch and starting to make ourselves seen and heard.
Sunday will see us moving out of the stand and onto the terraces for the first time, and will be basing ourselves beside the media tower (on the bacon factory side). This will allow us to congregate in one area, regardless of what time we arrive at – something that has, up to this point been difficult in the stand.
We’re combining forces with the formidable Sea of Green and Red campaign, a phenomenon which started a great conversation over on MayoGAABlog in the run-up to the Tyrone game last year and resulted in a visibly increased level of colour in Croke Park. The Sea of Green and Red campaign just appealed to anyone attending the game to bring a flag. It was that simple, and it worked! We want to start bringing that level of colour to all Mayo games this year, starting next Sunday – but we need your help.
Thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of some of the readers and contributors to this sitev (thank you!), Club ’51 have started to build a collection of iconic flags and banners, which we hope will become a feature at Mayo games, not just this year, but for many years to come. On Sunday, we’ll be debuting another bunch of these, which we hope you’ll spot in the ground, as well as a couple of larger flags that have kindly been donated to the cause. We really appreciate your contributions and hope you’ll like how we’ve used them.
What can you do?
- You could bring your own flag – yes, it’s that simple. Big or small, plain or patterned, as long as it’s green and red and someone’s waving it. If you’re bringing little ones, get them to help – they love it! It might be “only the league”, but why not?
- Wear your colours – hats, scarves, headbands, they all add up.
- Help us to cheer! You don’t need to do a banshee on it, but it’s amazing the difference a chant or a cheer can make to the atmosphere. If things aren’t going the way we’d like – that’s when the 16th man is needed the most. So join the rallying cry and let’s get behind our team and cheer them on to a place in the sem-final.
- We like noise, but please, if you’re bringing something noisy be considerate of those around you – no-one wants to be deafened. And if it’s a vuvuzela, leave it at home.)
- JOIN US on the terraces! This is group effort and everyone is welcome – the more the merrier. We’ll be easy to spot, we don’t bite (much), you’ll have a great view of the game and we can guarantee you’ll have a bit of craic while you’re there (though you might need waterproofs!) We’re not aiming to become another Hill ’16 – far from it – but if you’ve ever felt self-conscious shouting at a game while getting daggers from the refined people surrounding you, this is the place for you.
We’re delighted to see the level of support behind the Mayo team this year, and Club ’51 is really taking off. We have a lot of exciting plans in the pipeline for the year ahead, but we need help to get them off the ground. So if you’d like to become involved in any way, be that writing or taking photos for the website, contributing ideas, sponsoring us some prizes or flags (we’ve some more competitions coming up, including one for the smaller folks), helping to organise events and meet-ups or simply standing with us to cheer on the team on match days (the most important thing of all), then get in touch via the contact form.
See you on Sunday- Maigh Eo Abú!