Belmullet or Benidorm?

The senior county squad held a well-publicised training camp in Belmullet last week. Proud Erris native John Cuffe reflects on the locality the lads got to sample while they were there.

Belmullet JC

Photo: John Cuffe

What is it about the word Mayo and the national papers? The mere mention of it in GAA terms has the scribblers reaching for the cliché dictionary and the funny jokes pamphlet. So when Kerry went to Spain for a spot of training, a quiet week in the press was enlivened by the news that Mayo were heading to Belmullet to fine tune for their forthcoming championship.

And why shouldn’t they? A few months ago they were in deep Florida so they had soaked up considerable vitamin D and deepened the tans. It’s now the turn of Paul Galvan and the Gooch to feel a little heat on the tired limbs and top up their tans. Meanwhile Mayo went to Belmullet but what did they find there I ask?

Well more than likely the exact same as the boys from the Kingdom except that the language spoken was the language of ourselves. The people met were cut from the same cloth and hold the same aspirations as the panel of young men who took the road West in search of the extra edge.

Belmullet, Blacksod, Elly Bay, Erris Head and Carne sand banks are places that would grace the pages of the National Geographic or any travel book in the world. The Mayo panel and management team arrived in Erris on Wednesday and were billeted in the Broadhaven Bay hotel on the edge of the town.

It’s one of a number of new hotels that has opened in the area. There the players had access to a state of the art gym and swimming pool. From there, after having access to top class cuisine, they were bussed out to the two-million GAA complex that Belmullet GAA club opened two years ago. All weather pitches, gyms, boardrooms, dining facilities were put at the disposal of the county team by this progressive Gaeltacht club.

Early morning training sessions on one of the many magnificent beaches that adorn the area were the recipients of thirty young men running on sand and recuperating in the salt water. Sean Boylan took the Meath team on to the sands of Bettystown and the Hill of Tara. No one thought that funny.

As the team trained and availed of the top class facilities in our own county, the word went out. Countless children and the adult kids descended respectfully to observe their heroes. Some day, drive the road from Blacksod to Castlebar and see how long it takes. Now the local people had their team, the Mayo team in their own town, as far west as you can go. Imagine the dreams that the young children had that night.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. The Mayo players visited Blacksod Bay and the local fishermen took them out. They showed them the islands. They allowed them to fish for the specimen fish that teem in the bay. Others jet skied swam and boated. That night they were hosted in Teach John Joe whose host John Gallagher himself gave sterling service in the Green and Red of Mayo. The players were now exposed to fans whom they possibly never ever met before. The bond between those hardy seaboard folk and their football team could have been only strengthened. Next time Mayo players  walk on to a pitch in Croke Park they will now realise how big a county we live in and how far west…west really is.

Teach John Joe, as indeed all the other hostelries in the area, spared no expense or effort in ensuring that the representatives of our county were treated in a manner befitting their status and the esteem they are held in. Amongst the healthy nutritious food the team ate in the area was fresh fish and produce caught and grown in the area and served by the locals.

They visited Carne golf club, one of the world’s most renowned links courses. As they drove the balls into the wild beauty that nestles this course bordered by the nearby Atlantic I have no doubt that the trip to Belmullet will have given the time and the space to reflect and to prepare for the journey that lies ahead of them. Unlike Spain, this time the team were amongst their own people. The meeting of both can only benefit us all.

As is the habit down in Erris, a micro climate exists. The sun shone, the weather held and the tired limbs got a chance to heal. Those that sit in city desks sharpening their pencils and sending emails to their equally bored mates might be better off to take the train west sometime. Get on the Blacksod bus and get off in Belmullet. Visit any of the fine hotels in the area. Go for a pint in Teach John Joes or McDonnell’s AKA the Lobster Pot.

On their return journey they can tell the rest of the country of that secret place that still exists where decency and good manners are the norm. Where a top class team of the stature of Mayo  trained in facilities that equalled if not surpassed the best that Benidorm or any other hotspot might offer. Then they might whisper to others, go there and see for yourselves…you won’t be disappointed.

28 thoughts on “Belmullet or Benidorm?

  1. Hello, Very nice write-up for the Belmullet area and I’m sure that it was good for the Mayo team and hopefully theywill thank you all next September. However,i think you may have overdone the character of the Belmullet native? It did take me over 40 years to get there from Castlebar. We visited Achill, Old Head, Enniscrone for safe swimming and even Mulranny when the hotel had a swimming pool. Just reminiscing too.

  2. John I wasn’t aware you worked for Failte Belmullet and if you don’t, you should – a great piece, nicely put together and if I didn’t already know the place very well, I’d be heading down there first thing in the morning 🙂

  3. Very good article John.

    Having spent a fair bit of my youth in the Easter and summer gaeltachts held in Eachleim every year I know all about the beauty of the area and the welcomeness of its people.

    Hopefully the current squad feel the same now and do realise just how big our magnificent county is and what kind of people they are representing when they wear the red and green

  4. Hard to work for Failte Belmullet up here in Dunboyne but I would always bat for the old sod. We are lucky Mayo McHale, a big county with fine sights

  5. Well written and well said sir, orriginally from the Blacksod area myself but living in Caltra, Co. Galway but Mayo will always be home : )

    BORN & BRED,
    GREEN & RED

  6. Top class article Sir, what a town, what a place, what a community, proud to be from there.. We will invite them back with Sam in there hands this time next year (please God) !

  7. Suvh a great article well articulated And so so true.
    Love Belmullet Live Belmullet.

  8. Hard to believe, in the 25 years I lived in Cbar, I never made it to Belmullet, Clare Island or the Ox Mountains. I have made it to Lahardane for the 15th and I’ve made it to the Foxford Goat Fair-2 very unique Mayo events. I’ve climbed the Reek about 6 times, but never Neiphin. I’ve been to every museum in London, NY and Chicago, but never stepped foot in the Michael Davvitts museum below in Straide even though I visit that cemetery regularly when I’m home.

    it’s amazing what you take for granted when its in your backyard.

  9. Well done to the mayo football team they went to a great spot for training lovely belmulet my home town

  10. I like the hotel in the article. A great pool and a mighty place for food and a pint. Not many like it for the quality and I have been in dozens around the world. It’s not a boutique place, just a great comfortable place with great scenery.

  11. A really well written piece. I think the team will benefit from the camp and the time to reflect on what lies ahead and experience the goodwill and support they have from their county.

  12. Hi All

    Indeed Belmullet and Northwest Mayo deserve all the plaudits but would Knock not be a better option??????

  13. Good man John!
    Btw, I’ve been preoccupied for the past week or so (barely got a chance to see the result of the NFL) but I get from your well written piece, we (Mayo) were ridiculed for going to Bellmullet on a training camp?

  14. John, did you know Conor and Tom Maguire who were on the St. Nathy’s All Ireland Colleges winning team?

  15. Joe Mc, Conor and Tom were neighbours of mine. Brilliant footballers as were the other brothers Eddie and Niall who played on the last Muredachs team that got to a Connacht final back in 1961/62 era. (Maybe they made a final since, open to correction there).

    Eddie played Sigerson and made the Combined Colleges team , keeping the great Sean O Neill from the 11 jersey. Poor Niall passed away in New York over a year ago. As far as i know Tom and Conor live in Sligo and Mayo respectively. That neck of the woods threw up great players but the old county buffs at the time weren’t too keen on the Erris lads.

  16. I heard earlier that the Mayo team had a training session up Pearce steadium this evening? Anyone heading for the challenge fundraiser match between Fermanagh and Mayo up in Brewster Park this Saturday?

  17. citog says:
    April 30, 2013 at 2:37 pm
    Hi All
    Indeed Belmullet and Northwest Mayo deserve all the plaudits but would Knock not be a better option??????

    is there anything to be said for saying another mass?

  18. Anybody going along to the Club Mayo gig tonight, it might be a good chance to discuss tactics with James!!

  19. I have stayed at the Broadhaven a number of times and found it brilliant. One time we stayed one of our kids got sick.The hotel could not be more helpfull. Despite having spent most of the day in the hotel room when we checked out and the hotel did not charge us a cent. The child recovered fully. The gym and pool are very good. Also the golf course is unique. Whilst not the longest or plushest course you will play some of the holes are simply brilliant. Apart from Portmarnock it is the best course I have ever played. The town is also great with some great pubs and restaurants. Well worth a visit even for Mayo people. Just a quick word for my own village of Cong this is also worth visiting – different to Belmullet but wonderful none the less.

  20. John

    Eating lobster , fishing , playing golf , pubs and more.
    What next were they also dancing at the teach cross roads. Great preperation alright for the wind swept Pearse stadium battle and our ability to Put the ball over or under the bar.

    I seem to remember a certain midfield general saying that he didn’t mind players relaxing after all the hard preparation but not when the relaxation seems to be the main focus

    Don’t get me wrong Belmullet is beautiful and an ideal location for a training camp which has facilities second to none. Bonding with fans is also great especially those that have travelled the long hard twisty road to be with the mayo team over the years. But I would have thought a much more low key affair would have served us better nothing wrong with a hard session and a dip afterwards in the great Broad Haven Bay hotel pool.

    Don’t forget that the Belmullet club is not just a straight line from the town to Blacksod it also includes vShraigh, Glencastle, and the beautiful Carramore and Barnatra areas which are equally unique and worthy of any vistors time.

    John nice piece though!

  21. By going there they avoided Indian belly ache, Mexican runs, African Tse Tse fly bites and swamp fever! I have no doubt they stopped off and visited Shraigh, stood outside old McAndrews pub in Glencastle, took photos in Barnatra as they said hello to the Healys and swam across Carramore before visiting Bangor Erris. By now the old lobster has worked through the system and the bonus is …they dont have jet lag.

  22. “Hell is not hot enough,nor eternity long enough for these miscreants”-as an Archbishop of yore once remarked,though I don’t think he was refering to the few days spent away (training twice a day)by our lads!.MO4ever give the set-up a break.They’re doing what they’re doing in the interest of our great county,and for all our enjoyment

  23. Just to get away from Belmullet for a few minutes – Mayo were in Pearse Stadium ,Salthill last night ,Tuesday the 30th of April, for a training session. The gates were wide open – not a closed session. One of the Galway backroom team took up a “vantage” point to observe the proceedings. The two hour training session would have been too much for the observer – he would not have been able to keep up with it.

    By the way the Broadhaven Bay Hotel in Belmullet is the nearest you will ever rget to a home from home. Clare is excellent at the front of house

  24. Thanks John for that. Some coincidence. Conor was in the same class as me; a tough lad.

  25. citog- love it anything to be said for another mass. Sorry nothing to do with Mayo Football but good Fr ted moment

    John nice piece though

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