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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
PS: 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!