I can’t avoid it. Everywhere I turn I see it, I hear it and most of all I’m beginning to feel it.
I got my haircut in Kelly’s in Castlebar the day after the All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary. The hairstylist and I discussed the atmosphere of both the game and the county as a whole. We both agreed that it didn’t feel like we were in a final at all.
Nobody seemed pumped. Everyone was ecstatic, happy, joyful and all the rest but nobody seemed pumped and after the display of football we’d witnessed the day before, nobody seemed optimistic.
I waited and waited for the hype and mania around the county to start. I thought maybe once September comes, that’s when we’ll see the bunting, banners, flags and jerseys aplenty and the constant talk of tickets and travelling. As if there was a certain date in September where the ‘All- Ireland preparation’ scheme gets under way.
As I drove up to my college orientation on the 1st of September I noticed something which started it all off for me. Leaving at the unreasonable time of half-six in order to beat the Galway traffic, a feat which I still have not managed, I was stood to a halt somewhere in between Ballinrobe and Headford.
I turned to my left and there I saw it, a field which had a sign “Up Mayo” incorporated in big letters into the grass. I thought I was sleep deprived, the traffic moved on a small bit and as I came to a halt again, Sam Maguire was staring back at me. The trophy too had its place in the field.
Returning home that evening with a less tired mind than on my way up, I passed the same field again but this time was met with “Mayo For Sam”, a sign that was invisible to my view on the way up apparently. I laughed and just thought we’re a crazy bunch in Mayo. Painting sheep, painting cars, painting houses – we’ll paint anything in green and red.
I was amazed to see the support that Mayo have got up in Galway. Petrol stations, shops and houses have taken our flag and amalgamated it with their own. The two flags stand together proudly in support of each other: you wouldn’t have gotten that back when we met in June!
I have failed to find a house in Galway yet, so a good two or three hours of my day is spent in the car commuting. If you are stopped in traffic in the city centre, you can identify at least three cars with some Mayo attire on them or in them. Flags being the obvious spots but that’s no fun, you want to see the discreet wristband which rests comfortably on the gear stick, or the cotton plaits that dangle down around the rear-view mirror.
I have a very small green and red teddy bear which sticks on my back window. I was near the Headford Road shopping centre and this car started violently flashing me. As she pulled into the lane beside me and rolled down her window, I was ready for some stern words to be exchanged. Instead she shouted “I love your teddy, I hope we do it!” She nearly crashed into the car in front of her in fits of laughter when she heard it was called Ciaran Mac Junior!
Assignments and essential readings for college have been put on the back burner. I couldn’t stomach a 13-page read on an article about Media Law in Ireland. I returned home Tuesday evening last to find that the mothership had done her weekly paper shop. The Western People and Mayo News both lay in front of me. Thirteen pages of Media Law? No thanks! 130-odd pages on the All-Ireland final? I’ll take that, thank you.
The hype is here and not a minute too soon. You can’t avoid it, why would you want to? I went to the library in the hope of completing some of my college assignments before the big day. There was a fella wearing a Mayo training top in front of me as I sat down and almost instantaneously I began writing this article instead.
Photo: Irish Examiner
Sure even the alter in Westport church has been redecorated in Mayo colours in the lead-up to this game. Which reminds me, I’d want to get myself down there and say a few prayers before Sunday.