From the bog to the blog

In a WhatsApp group I’m in, one man took great pleasure in Mayo’s late win over Roscommon.

“That’s the stuff for them bloggers,” he wrote. I thought that was a tad harsh on poor Willie Joe and his ilk. Or unfair on the Rossies, depending on your outlook.

Of course auto-correct was playing havoc with him and he meant to say boggers. Of course there’s more bog in Mayo than Roscommon but that’s beside the point.

Ten years ago boggers would not have been auto-corrected like that. We did not have smartphones for one. Any engagement with the internet was only done at work or by cranking up your computer at home. The latter was only possible if you had internet at home, which was nowhere near as omnipresent as it is now.

But in his home in Drumcondra, John Gunnigan was getting the wheels oiled for a beast that would become the online meeting spot for Mayo football discussions, the Mayo GAA Blog. In fact, ten years ago you were much more likely to have a chat about Mayo football in the bog than on the blog.

Anyone who spent hours of their childhood doing backbreaking work in the bog won’t lament this change.

No one could have predicted the success the Mayo GAA Blog would become in the ten years which followed. It has become the online equivalent of pulling up a stool in Mick Byrne’s in Castlebar or Inch’s in Ballinrobe of an evening and talking football with like-minded individuals. Nodding heads in agreement or arguing the contrary forcibly but all driven by a passion for the topic at hand – Mayo football.

Of course the proprietor is a hard taskmaster. If you’ve had the online equivalent of too much to drink, you’ll be brought into line and told to observe the rules of this particular house.

Where some online forums are the equivalent of a Sunday in what was the Oxegen musical festival with people struggling to stand up and talking pure gibberish, the blog is a much more refined place where people come to enjoy their chat and know where the line and the door is if they take things too far.

For that’s a huge part of the online sphere now. Some people think they can say what they like online. And, in most cases, they get away with it. Facebook has become a breeding ground for gossip and innuendo, say what you want with little regard for factual accuracy.

The same is true of many GAA forums. It’s to John’s eternal credit that the blog rises above that. I’m sure his family must curse the blog on a daily basis when he interrupts dinner or an outing to go onto the blog and moderate, put people in line and, if it comes to it, calls them a taxi and sends them home for the night.

If they hold their hands up, they might get served the next day.

It’s why so many people go to the blog for often informed and measured commentary. You might not always agree with the comments but they might get you thinking and reflecting on your own viewpoint. That’s the beauty of proper debate. The blog is only occasionally sullied by innuendo and insults – and only until John comes along and cleans up the mess.

There’s no doubt that there are many, many fans of the blog who never comment but enjoy reading the different comments. I largely fall into that category. On busy days when there’s hundreds of comments, you simply cannot read them all and try to get a day’s work done.

So we find ourselves scanning by username. Those who have earned the right to be respected for their views over time are the ones we stop at. It could be Anne-Marie, AndyD, PJ McManus or JP, Diehard, Liam, Catcol or Pebblesmeller, John Cuffe, Hope Springs Eternal, livenhope or Jim Flag to name but a few. We rarely find ourselves agreeing with True Grit but find ourselves drawn to him or her to get a sense of the opposing view. Again, proper debate is the better for a wide range of views.

The contributions of posters from other counties is a very welcome aspect to the blog and underlines how balanced and measured the commentary tends to be. Long may that continue.

Year on year the blog has grown. Part of it has been the growth in online use. Reading comments from some posters who recall Mayo games of the Sixties and Seventies, you suspect some of them are late bloomers to computer usage and this blog must be a treasure to them.

In an era when there are concerns about social isolation, blogs like this have certainly played a part, however small, in allowing people to engage with like-minded folk.

Another reason for the growth has been the success of the Mayo senior team in recent years. Success will always bring growth and while some of us may moan about ‘Johnny come latelys’, there is something magical about a county being completely taken over by the quest for Sam.

The blog has proved a hit for us journalists too. The results archive is a treasure trove for any hack looking to find out when Keith Higgins made his debut or when was the last time Mayo played Kilkenny.

Over the years John has become a valuable contributor to the pages of The Mayo News too and we’re delighted to have him on board. His musings from the vantage point of a fan and a blogger add another layer to our coverage.

He’s been the fulcrum for a lot of new friendships too. Not just on the virtual space that is the blog, but via his informal meet-ups in Bowe’s of Fleet Street on nights before big Mayo games. Work responsibility means I’ve been an infrequent attendee at these gatherings but the one time I did go, I left after a wonderful evening talking football with like-minded strangers.

For facilitating so many new friendships, bringing so many passionate Mayo fans together on the one forum and reinforcing just how ingrained in so many lives the love for Mayo football is, we all owe John a debt.

Here’s to the next ten years and to the moment he goes into the results archive at the end of a year and enters a Mayo win for the third Sunday of September.

18 thoughts on “From the bog to the blog

  1. Ah jeez Ed that would bring a tear to a glass eye, as I said earlier this blog has become our go to place on good days and bad and we’re might grateful for it, our eternal thanks to John for his dedication to the cause, and to all the bloggers who contribute, as the days lengthen we look forward to the journey again for another year, wherever it takes us we in this together, maigheoabu

  2. John Gunnigan. I never knew.
    The analogy of ‘too much drink taken, get a taxi’ is spot on Ed and we’ll put. Ah, the skill of the scribe.
    And to add, because of this site and the Mayo News, the Western etc, we don’t have to rely on Telefis Eireann and the national papers for relevant, accurate analysis…no one selling us anything here, it’s just ourselves and our singular focus.

  3. I thought most people knew by now, joet1480, but Ed was surprised when I told him that his piece this evening marked the first time that my real name was mentioned in a blog post. Well, I kept under the radar for a full decade here so that’s probably long enough!

  4. Well said Ed. We have a treasure with the blog, it lays our souls bare, strips us back to the bone and then permits the flesh to grow again. Long may Mayo and the blog, its fine people and teams flourish.

  5. John, thank you for what you do.

    As I write I’m listening to you and Ciaran and Rob on the Mayo News podcast, and it’s a lovely discussion about how far this place has come, and the nature and consequences of the discussions that take place here.

    You question whether the forum has contributed to an over-reliance on talking; whether we should be doing our talking on the pitch, whether the overall consequences of what has been written here may be negative more than positive.

    I can only speak for myself when I’m grateful as an obsessive football fan to have a place to seek refuge and comfort among my own on days like 2nd October last year, and I say that as someone who lives on home soil. It was even more invaluable when I lived away from home.

    I’m grateful that on the glorious days – and there have been many – we have somewhere to revel in the joy and celebrate them together, regardless of where in the world we’re based.

    I’m grateful for all I have learned about the game here from those far more knowledgeable than I.

    I’m grateful for all I have learned here about the stalwarts of our game and the proud history of our football-mad county.

    I’m grateful that things we say and opinions we offer here are challenged, but in a fundamentally civil manner that enables debate. Mostly.

    I’m grateful that we as supporters get to have our say on issues like management, venues, heaves, finances, jerseys, and everything controversial and have a space to express our opinions and vent our frustrations in a more considered manner than might happen elsewhere.

    I’m grateful that the people that populate this place very frequently make me burst out laughing at my desk, even if I wouldn’t know them on the street.

    I’m grateful most of all for the many great people I have met via this blog, including your good self, while treading the Mayo GAA road, some of whom have become treasured friends, far away from the sidelines.

    What you have achieved here is far more significant than providing a mere discussion forum. You have been instrumental in creating a community and a bond among supporters that is unique and special and meaningful. Long may MayoGaaBlog last.

    Thank you.

  6. Ed.

    An excellent piece. Brilliantly written.

    This place gets better and better.

    John. The moderating of the site is of the highest quality over the last 10 years. I know i have lost the run of meself a few times on here over the years.

    Limerick 2014. Longford 2010 and indeed September 2016.

    Anyway is there anything to be said for saying another owl mass? You know, to mark the 10 years.

  7. Lovely sentiments, Anne-Marie, thanks so much and thanks everyone else too for the kind words. This place would be nothing without all of you and all you contribute to it.

  8. Just like to add my thanks too WJ for all you do here. It really is a brilliant resource, can be a bit too addictive at times though! Met a lot of new friends too, through this blog, which would not have happened otherwise! Thanks again and best of luck for another 10 (and hopefully a couple of Sams!).

  9. Thanks so much to you John for running this blog, to the recent formatting updates by Michale Maye and others, and to all those who comment in professional ways! We are new to all things Mayo GAA, having experienced the community LOVE of the team when we were walking the cemeteries and visiting churches for genealogy clues in Mayo last September between “the draw” and “the final”. After following “the draw” from a pub at the Dublin Airport and being the only Mayo supporters, it was so refreshing to see the community spirit throughout Mayo the following two weeks – the local signs with the players names, the Mayo flags on the alter of many churches, the Mayo flags at the summit of Croagh Patrick and the Green and Red everywhere! We live in Florida and here in the States we do not have that community spirit – and honestly, nor do you see the level of sportsmanship pre-game and post-game by the players in our US sports. In the GAA you see the players working for their love of the game, and in Mayo, we see them training all year and giving everything for their County, their Community and their fans. So glad to be part of that fan base!! Thanks so much to everyone that makes this blog so special!!! Maigh Eo Abu and may September 17th be the day that dreams come true!!!!

  10. Excellent piece there Edwin, you have really summed up brilliantly what John aka WJ has managed to achieve with this Blog. Keep up the great work lads both on here and in the Mayo News, we would be lost without ye!

  11. Congratulations Willie Joe on 10 years. I can honestly say that, in my opinion, your blog is the best thing to come out of social media. Thanks too to the contributors and posters whose quality and reasonableness, almost unanimously, makes it such an enjoyable forum.

  12. I think one of the greatest attributes of the Blog is the fact it shines light into places many would prefer remain in the shadows.

  13. Great synopsis, Edwin.
    Wille Joe, congratulations on the landmark and belated happy birthday to the site. It truly is a refuge for us all. I’d say I’m a bit of a latecomer here, arriving maybe in 2009 or 2010, and only commenting very sporadically until recent weeks. I live and work in Dublin. It’s a bit of a solo run traipsing up and down to Castlebar and wherever else before the show moves to Croker, where I’ll mostly sit in amongst strangers and it can be hit-and-miss how ye got on with them. But the one constant is that shortly after the final whistle Willie Joe will tweet out his thoughts on the game and we can listen to two or three minutes of reaction. I look forward to that. And it can feel like a long wait till the report gets posted and everyone barrels in with their opinions but it’s always worth it – and that’s just match-days! Whether wallowing in the satisfaction of victory or receiving group therapy in defeat or just gossiping over the latest news, this place is home and it’s a house we’re all indebted to you for building and maintaining. Thanks also to all the contributors and commenters who fill the place with colour.
    Couple if points to note on the blog itself which stand out for me. Willie Joe’s writing is always top-notch and clean as a whistle, typo-free. That’s rare online, and quite exceptional for a one-man show.
    Another thing that’s not commented on much – and I think you said earlier on the podcast there’s been nine million page views – is that there’s never been any advertising on the site which for many reasons I think is really just wonderful. More power to ye.
    Thanks too to Rob Murphy for the ever-excellent podcast. Great idea to do a special one for the occasion.

  14. Lovely piece Ed and a fitting tribute to WJ and his work.
    Reading back through some of his musings over the last 10 years brings up some memories. The one that sticks with me (No, not Jimmy Burke tripping himself as he scored into the graveyard end in The Hyde, headbutted the post, swallowed his tongue and nearly choked to death) at the minute is our victory over Donegal two years ago in the quarter final. Driving home that night, the constant line of traffic heading West was unbelievable. I remember going past Ballaghadereen on the by-pass and as far as I could see ahead of me was a constant line of red tail lights. Behind me in the rear view mirror was miles of white headlights. There must have been a convoy of hundreds of vehicles, bumper to bumper, tipping along nicely and all heading West with big happy heads on us. Snuggled in the middle was Corduffs bus with the Mayo team on-board.
    I thought then “we must be f***ing mad!” All that support, all that time and money and miles traveled following our team. I know now, we are f***ing mad, mad for it!” Bring it on. All the joy, heartache and pain that comes with it. Bring it on. Despite the final defeats and the stomach churning pain, followed by raging anger, that comes with it, I want it more now than 89, 96, 96, 97, 04, 06, 12, 13 and 16. Call it thick-headed stubbornness, call it a narcissistic love of self punishment, call it what you want but BRING IT ON.
    What we don’t sometimes realise (and WJs ten year review reminded me of it) is we have already gotten so much from this journey. The ultimate prize? No. Defeats and tears of pain (I’ll never forget my young lad bawling on his way out of Croker in October!), yes. But also victories and tears of joy. Tears of pride. All the money in the universe cannot buy those memories. Those moments, fleeting moments, that get locked away in the memory bank. These are riches in themselves.
    As we prepare to wire into another season I want to thank WJ for all he does in keeping this blog so well maintained. I don’t get on it as much as I used to because of time constraints, damned recession was good for one thing!, but it is always the first port of call for all things Mayo GAA.
    A new year with new hopes so shoulders back, chest out like a hens forehead and we’ll have another rattle at winning the big one. We don’t stop until we do.
    Hon Mayo.

  15. Hego, if you have a season ticket and ever want to join a seating group so that you’re sat with a few other Mayo headers in Croker, keep an eye our our site, we tend to set them up during the league and extend an open invitation. I was that soldier too for years!

    Pebblesmeller you forgot the second ’16 😉

  16. Thanks very much, Anne Marie. I couldn’t seem to get my head around how to do it on the site last season but I will give it another go.

  17. Anne Marie, I’m still totally in denial about that. It’s a survival mechanism. Or so my psychiatrist tells me 🙂

  18. Excellent comments about an excellent blog I am forever telling guys from other counties just how good this blog is. There is no other county with a comparable forum. What I really like about it is how well its moderated. Its populated by really passionate people who sometimes get worked up by whats going on yet there is little abuse hurled out about either our own or indeed the opposition and that is a tremendous credit to you WJ For guys living outside the county like myself it is an invaluable source of information. Of course fair play to our teams as well. They have been worth talking about and reading about in the last ten years also. So once again, well done , congrats and thanks for the massive amount of time and effort you put into this WJ and long may it continue.

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