I love procrastinating. In the run up to Christmas I had exams galore to study for and assignments by the score to finish off. Instead of doing something remotely academic with my time, I turned my attention completely to something else.
I am currently doing a Masters in Journalism in NUIG and 60% of one of our modules (broadcasting) is allocated to constructing a 30-minute radio documentary. The topic was wide open and of course, no surprise, I decided to document the rise and fall of Mayo GAA but to get the marks for a catchy headline it was renamed “To win just once – the curse of Mayo”. Therefore, in my head, it felt more logical to begin the interviewing process for the documentary rather than study Media Law and pen that 2,000 word essay that had been on the back burner since November.
So over the course of a couple of weeks, I drove around the county of Mayo and even ventured as far as Galway and Dublin to conduct these interviews. The trip to Dublin happened to coincide with the Christmas shopping, two birds, one stone and all that craic!
I thought finding people would prove incredibly hard. When you talk about Mayo GAA, you talk about lost finals, missed chances, curses and 65 rolling into 66 years of hurt. I was apprehensive about who would actually want to talk to me about that. But then, I realised, when you talk about lost finals and missed chances, you have to mention amazing journeys and matches that led you to that moments.
When you mention the notion of a curse you either intrigue or irritate and regardless of whether you believe or don’t (I’d just like to clarify that I don’t), everyone has their own story or opinion to tell on the matter. And when you mention the 65/66 years of hurt, you have to revert back to our last victories in ’50 and ’51 and the great achievement that is winning a back-to-back All-Ireland in a team that featured some of the greatest players of all time.
As I said, I love procrastinating and nearly a full month had passed before I decided to start transcribing my interviews down on paper to try and concoct a documentary. Thus far, I have only managed to chalk down two full interviews from ear to paper. They were with Michael Gallagher of the Western People and David Clarke. Other names whose recordings have been stored away in my Dropbox but have not yet been re-listened to are Martin Carney, John O’Mahony, James Nallen, David Brady and, of course, two men that will go down in Mayo GAA history – Paddy Prendergast and Padraig Carney.
The prospect of interviewing David Clarke was daunting but the man is a gentleman. His goalkeeping panache is completely unique and eccentric and he thanked his role model Peter Schmeichel for this style.
“Getting to the ball first, at any cost” – that’s his motive, and what a great motive to have as a ‘keeper. It’s no surprise that the best of forwards find it hard to get past him, he towered above me as I met him at the front door with an outstretched hand, twice the size of mine.
He stated his disappointment about the replay and rightly so but it wasn’t something he dwelled on for too long, once the decision was made, it was made and he got on with it. His attitude is amazing, he was on call for the replay and went in with the mind-set that he would be getting some game time. He was ready to jump in at any stage and that was something which he had to do. If that was anyone else, they may have sat on the bench sulking but he is a team player and any decision that is made, he understands it’s for the best of the team.
It was a cold December’s morning that I interviewed him but he admitted that he was already doing some personal training in the build-up to the coming year. Any notions of the loss were out of his head and although 2016 may have still been there, 2017 was firmly on his mind.
Michael Gallagher was one of the first people I interviewed. He is a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to Mayo GAA and was a huge help in sourcing possible interviewees. He talked about witnessing his first Mayo match against “foreign opposition”, that’s what his young self, thought of Dublin and reminisced about his idol Willie Joe (the footballer, not the blogger!) climbing into the skies to collect the ball.
Michael is the perfect man for a documentary. His vocabulary and structure of words mixed with his insight and one-liners make for fantastic and easy listening. Some of his quotes stuck in my head over the Christmas. He stated that not a day passes where he doesn’t think about Mayo winning the All-Ireland which, although may seem funny out of season, is probably something that reigns heavy on our minds all year round.
His finishing lines were heart-warming and excited me to continue interviewing more and more people, hearing their stories and association with Mayo GAA.
I wonder what it would feel like to be standing in Croke Park, with the final whistle looming and just knowing that we were seconds away from the Promised Land. However, reaching that final destination would mean that our journey to the Promised Land would be over and some say that the journey is just as good, if not better than the final destination. We’re blessed as Mayo fans to be a part of this fabulous journey but we’re ready for that final destination.
As I chalk down the other interviews in the coming weeks, I will report back with more quips and quotes but for now the magical journey which Michael referred to above starts again this weekend. Mayo face NUIG in MacHale Park on at 2pm tomorrow afternoon and by all means if you can get yourself down there, do. There are a handful of Mayo men on the NUIG squad who may find themselves knocking on the green and red door after. And as for Mayo, it is a time to discover our next Cillian O’Connor or Aidan O’ Shea or Keith Higgins.
Sure, it’s only the FBD league and no-one will be able to pinpoint how this match will serve us in terms of the summer but you might leave MacHale Park with a player’s name on your lips whom you never heard of before this. That’s what’s great about the FBD league: we don’t want to see the big names, we want to see the up and coming ones who are going to look at the big names and say ‘I want your place’.
It was at this time last year that I wrote my first guest piece on this renowned and fantastic blog. I can’t thank Willie Joe enough for letting me use this platform and it is one we should all cherish. It allows us to come together, no matter where we are in the world and inform, rant, rave and support the Green and Red.
New Year, same aim. In the words of Jagger/Richards, Start Me Up.