I’ve tried to like Galway GAA.
Some of my best friends support the Tribesmen, Herself is from the ‘real home’ of Galway football and one of the first unique things she told me about herself was that Ja Fallon used to be her postman.
I even find myself in weird situations where personal reasons (i.e. shouting on Galway or being in the dog house for a week) mean that I’m left cheering on Galway when they’re not playing a team in Green and Red. I try my best and in fairness, she has always returned the favour under the same circumstances.
I roared on from Pearse Stadium as Galway handed the Rossies the easiest Connacht title of all time. I looked at Herself and felt nothing but complete heartbreak for her.
Jesus Christ, throwing away a game that you felt your team should have won? I could write a book on it at this stage so it was no wonder that I was completely devastated for her.
Well, almost completely devastated.
Because there’s always going to be that 1% in me that despises Galway and I know for a fact that if I was to ask her the same question, I’d get the same answer.
She cheered on Mayo in 2016 and 2017 to the point where you’d have thought that she was Mick Barrett’s twin. The signs of a great actress because she has no problems dropping in the sly dig from those failed trips to Croker when I mention anything about Mayo being better than her beloved county.
And the road goes both ways.
It’s easy to say that there’s a fierce rivalry between two relatively successful and neighboring counties; Cork-Kerry and Dublin-Meath for example.
But when it comes to Mayo-Galway, the term rivalry is cranked up a notch. Each person from either county has their own reasons for disliking the other and mine is as childish as they come.
With the help of the Mayo GAA Blog results archive, I am able to pinpoint the exact date but as for my reasons why this date is so important. I don’t need to refresh my memory.
Galway are after beating Mayo in our own back yard by the slimmest of margins. It’s the backdoor for us and for a young Darragh, it’s my first taste of defeat.
As my mother and I walk back to the car, distraught, three young Galway girls walk slowly in front of us with their jerseys on and flags flying proudly. As they stroll, they sing ‘Galway are the best in the west, woohoo’ several times in some sort of melodic way.
I’ve been called many things in my life, some absolutely vile, but I honestly don’t think any of the remarks have made me as cross as what I heard that day – something that wasn’t even pointed in my direction.
Those girls are probably in their mid 20s now.
They could be married, have children, be lawyers, doctors, politicians, be the most respected people in the country. Jesus, one of them could have even been Herself.
They probably stopped singing that childish rhyme after two years. Maybe that was the first and last day they ever sung it but in my head they never stopped singing it and in my head, they’re still the childish young girls celebrating a Galway win.
Any time we play each other and the Galway supporters begin to cheer, I am automatically transported back to that day and it honestly makes my blood boil.
And I remember going home and telling my father about my traumatic ordeal and he basically replied and told me to get over it – “if we had won, you would have probably sang ‘Mayo, Mayooooo’ “.
He was right.
Because even from an early age, bragging rights between the two counties is bred into you as a supporter.
I was out one night recently with my friend Eoghan who grew up in Clonbur. A place where if you positioned your foot in the right spot, your heel would be in Galway but your toe would be in Mayo.
Eoghan’s heel was in Galway. In fact, his whole foot was in Galway. Eoghan is the type of supporter who would rather have no foot at all than a working one that stood a centimetre inside a Mayo postcode.
Because he’s old enough to remember Mayo knocking Galway out in the first round of the Connacht Championship in 1997. Barely old enough but just enough to remember the pain not necessarily that he felt but the vibes that he got from his GAA-mad family who spent a summer in the cold.
His memories of ’98 are better again but still hazy and as for ’01, he can recall the exact movements of his Galway feet.
“We went for a spin after the homecoming with the Galway flags hanging out the window. Once we crossed the Mayo border, my father turned to me and my brother and told us to shout louder than we had ever done before.”
They had saved their car horn for crossing the border and by God, were we going to hear the Galway roar.
It’s just as petty as me holding a 17-year grudge against a group of young girls and I love it and him for it.
My little cousin was born to GAA-mad parents – Galway father, Mayo mother. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean that the rivalry stops. In fact, it gets worse and even more pettier.
To the point where my little cousin would be dressed head-to-toe in Mayo gear by his mam only to be redressed in the opposite colours once she had gone out the door.
His dad’s family bought him a new Galway GAA jacket for Christmas, I made him stand on the crest and jump up and down on it so I could send a photo to daddy. The cousin was amused – because he got to jump up and down, not knowing why – his daddy was not because he knew the exact reasons behind it.
And it’s the petty stuff like that, that makes the rivalry so intense, so raw and so box-office.
After Galway lost this year’s Connacht final, I put up a tweet that said it was inevitable that we would draw them in Round 4. It was written in the stars as far as I was concerned.
If we weren’t going to find the fairytale final, we were destined for the dog battle. It had to be Galway, it had to be the Gaelic Grounds and it’s going to be die dog or shite the licence. We need this win over Galway now more than ever.
In my time on this earth, there has always been a noticeable power shift between the two counties. Early 00s – Galway, mid 00s – Mayo, late 00s – Galway, early 2010s – Mayo, mid to late 2010s – Galway.
I remember vividly the hammering we gave them in Pearse Stadium in 2013 – a real low point for Galway football. I remember Donie Vaughan walking it into an empty net and the sheer joy of really kicking the dog while it was down. Kicking it hard and making sure that it was unable to get up for the next couple of years at least.
If we lose on Saturday, we’ll receive a similar blow no matter how big or small the margin is. At senior level alone, we’ll have lost to Galway eight times in a row in all competitions since 2016.
And an even worst stat, it would be our 15th loss in 15 games against Galway at Senior, U21 and Minor/U17 level combined. Not acceptable.
When you look at those lost games at Senior level, they’re normally decided by a kick or two of a ball and Saturday is going to be no different.
You don’t need to fire up your squad or your supporters for a game like this but if you were to say anything, it would be that if you land on the right side of that kick of a ball, not only have you nabbed that last Super 8 spot, but you’re also exiling your most bitter and hated rivals to a summer of no football coupled with no hurling.
No GAA for Galway: wouldn’t it be just the ideal way to kickstart a Mayo fan’s summer?
If that is the case, I’ve already decided that I’ll be choosing my new Tinder profile pictures on the journey home (nearly three years together, sure it was good while it lasted!)
My other friend Eoin is driving up and down from Dublin and has kindly offered me a seat. A Galway-born man forced to live and educate himself in Mayo, his own individual petty reason to hate the county even more. Sure, we all have one.
On second thoughts, maybe getting a car journey with him isn’t the best idea, no matter what the scoreline is at the end.
Any lifts going?