You could wax lyrical about what the rivalry between Mayo and Galway is and I have done this in the past for this blog.
But nothing sums it up better than what I was told in a pub in Liverpool at the start of this year, when the next game on the horizon was a crucial League relegation battle for Mayo in Tuam or Pearse Stadium.
Myself and a very good friend of mine, Eoghan, who I’ve known for over a decade and share very good memories with, are drinking with a gang of lads in a pub which we coined HQ – The Richmond Pub on Williamson Street, a sort of base of ours when we fly to the land of the Scousers and we do frequently.
They say you should never discuss politics when you’re drinking with your friends or even at all and football should be added to that list too.
I’ve spoken about Eoghan before on the blog. He grew up in Clonbur, a man born so close to the Mayo border but who couldn’t distance himself further away from the county.
He has a hatred for Mayo that runs deeper than the roots of the oldest of trees. I had the misfortune of asking him, jokingly, if he would wish an All-Ireland for Mayo if it meant bringing joy to me and his other close Mayo friends.
Eoghan placed down his pint of Carling on the table where we sat, words passionately begin to flow from his maroon-mad mouth, forming sentences that William Shakespeare could only wish he had used in a sonnet.
We were both drunk so I don’t remember exactly what was said. I know drunken minds speak sober words and he’d have no problem repeating any of this to me in the cold light of day either!
But I do remember the last thing he said before immediately reverting back to whatever we had been talking about before we were at loggerheads.
He spoke of the joy it had given him over the years not seeing Mayo win an All-Ireland and how he wished that they never would, before uttering a play of words on a famous Bobby Sands quote.
Addressing my future kids watching Mayo lose in All-Ireland finals in years to come, he said:
“The tears of your children will be the laughter of mine”.
I was speechless and while I was left stuck for words, he just goes “Carling?”, and I think my mouth was still open by the time he came back with the drink.
Me and him have promised to issue no low blows or uncalled for comments before, during or after this game. It’ll be painful enough for whoever the losing party is without it – just knowing you have the bragging rights for another year.
My missus comes from a similar background filled with pure hate for Mayo football that has only eased in the household since we started going out. But it never goes away.
There’ll be digs all this week and over the weekend in the lead-up to the game and one or two remarks on Sunday night and Monday that’ll probably leave us frosty for a day or two before half-arsed congratulations are thrown out to the winners.
And before anyone says that the hatred has gone away from me, by hell it hasn’t. You talk about euphoria, nothing beats the feeling of beating Galway especially in their own patch. That feeling and sense of footballing order had escaped me for years during the golden Mayo period of 2011-2015.
Galway weren’t rivals anymore back then, they were just a child that you put to bed before worrying about actual proper work that faced you in the weeks ahead. And then they started making a mockery of our fortress, coming down to MacHale Park and beating us again and again.
It’s one thing to be knocked out of Connacht, it’s one thing to be knocked out by Galway, but to lose to them at home and watch them march onto Connacht finals? That doesn’t and shouldn’t sit well ever.
We were riding on a crest of a wave when we came crashing down in 2016, ’17 and ’18. Only one score separated us in each of those games whether it be a point or a goal. They showed no respect to and didn’t fear the second best team in the country and had no problem throwing us on our arse and letting us know about it.
Because similar to John O’Mahony’s team of 98, they were bitter about Mayo’s success – let’s knock these f****** off their perch if you will. And despite our runs in the Championship, they did and have. No Connacht title in five years and no win over them until last year.
And it was that tense game in Limerick where I really remembered the feeling of what beating Galway was like. I went with herself and we sat side-by-side.
My bum came off the seat more and more as James Carr weaved his way through a sea of Maroon and by the time he had clattered the net I was standing up and sprawled across our two seats.
As I flipped my seat back into position, I was met with a rolled-up programme that was pointing at my neck like a robber holding a shopkeeper at knifepoint.
I had so much built-up excitement that I couldn’t wait to let out at full-time. I waited until she was out of sight before I wheeled away in celebration – similar to when Del Boy and Rodney discover their old watch is worth £6.2m and they count down from three before losing the plot.
Before lockdown I bought an 80s Mayo Jersey from a great website called Órga Retrowear. I’ve worn it in the house every game we’ve played so far in this ‘new’ season. Three wins and one loss, I still don’t know whether it’s good luck or not but I will don it once again on Sunday.
It’s tight enough fit though and wouldn’t suit the normal beer belly I would have if pubs were open but at the moment, it doesn’t look half bad on me!
The last outing the jersey got wasn’t as tense as I thought it would. Roscommon never got out of the blocks, they never lived up to the hype and the expectation that they could be one of the top four teams in Ireland. They didn’t lay a hand on Mayo, never looked like they could pull the early deficit back.
As a result, we played out the whole game in second gear once we started pulling away but we’d still recorded some great stats by full-time.
Another clean sheet for the ‘keeper and his back 6, another impressive display by the youngsters who really proved that they are looking to cement their place in this team for the next decade and, as for Cillian O’Connor, he looked like a man who could really prove the difference on Sunday.
A born leader who this year has notched up 2-18 in total – half from placed balls and the other half from play. He’s really turning back the years and is still only 28! In a game that goes into the melting pot, he’s the perfect example of who you want in your team as he’s showed us for years on end.
Andy Moran described him as Mayo’s most underrated player, that he instantaneously changed the squad when he was introduced as London were minutes away from knocking Mayo out in 2011.
And he wouldn’t be afraid to channel his inner David Brady, a reference I’ll explain in a bit, to show his marker what’s what, something that’s badly needed in a tense rivalry game.
I’ve been excited about this game since the full-time whistle went on Sunday. The build-up has been the same as always. Buy the Mayo News, the Western People, listen to the Mayo News football podcast and Off The Ball and the GAA Hour and soak up as many previews and predictions as possible before the time for talking is over.
But my favourite had to be RTÉ’s Scannal programme which highlighted the infamous Meath v Mayo final replay in 1996. Without winding the tale on that one, one thing I noticed during one of the flashbacks was how David Brady dealt with his marker.
I posted the video on Twitter. Here it is:
I got such a laugh out of it but I can’t imagine his opposing number was giggling as much on the day. You can only imagine the amount of times Brady would have done that to Kevin Walsh, Joe Bergin or Michael Donnellan in a Connacht final.
You’d hope to see a few nibbles like this on Sunday but one thing you won’t see but you’ll miss on Sunday is the roar of a full Pearse Stadium coming from both sets of supporters when the scores go flying over.
I don’t believe the “Galway are unprepared” or “we’ve already hammered them in the League.” And don’t get me wrong I would love to be proved wrong.
But in my opinion, Galway are one of the best teams in Ireland. They are in the top eight in a normal season, are currently in the top five and a win on Sunday would see them launch into the big four.
Padraic Joyce is going to have them at match sharpness come Sunday regardless of game time. Similar to O’Mahony in 1998, he’s going to remind them day-in, day-out of Mayo’s scorching of their arses and use it as firepower.
If I was a betting man, I’d even go as far as saying that it could be the first game to go to extra-time and penalties in what would be the cruelest of ends for the losing team.
But I hope it doesn’t come to that. We have the firepower to beat them and to in fact blow them off the pitch, but that’s if they don’t show up.
If they do show up, they’re going to play exactly like how we play. Strong, attack-minded, hunting for goal chances and they’ll be fronted by a fit Shane Walsh raring to go who. I believe he’ll be Keegan’s problem for the day and that’s the last man Walsh is going to want to see coming up shaking his hand.
It’s a hard one to call – I’m going with Mayo by 1-3 points but as I said, I wouldn’t be surprised if lads were placing balls on the spot after 90 minutes.
Either way, someone’s tears are going to produce someone else’s laughter on Sunday. I pray God it’s another day of smiles for Mayo.