In the opening weeks of the blog’s existence in early 2007, it was just me talking to myself. I’d read articles about blogs, I knew that the majority of them never became established and died rapidly, that many never attracted any readers at all. That was of no concern to me at the outset. To be honest, I’d probably have been more alarmed than delighted had anyone stumbled upon my guilty little secret in those early days. Instead, I wanted to focus on getting the thing going and proving to myself that I had the capability – and the ongoing interest – in keeping it alive. I was, of course, riddled with self-doubt at the outset. Why was I doing this? Who was I trying to impress? How long would I keep at it before boredom inevitably set in and the enterprise floundered?
But it didn’t flounder. February came and went and early the following month I went to my first match involving Mayo since I’d started the blog. It was an away game against Fermanagh but, because Brewster Park in Enniskillen was closed for redevelopment, the match took place instead at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones. The game was a new departure for me as I was attending it not just as a Mayo supporter but now also as a blogger, a veritable citizen journalist.
I drove up from home to the game on a horribly wet and dreary Sunday morning, a brother of mine and his lads with me on the trip. We had lunch in a pub on the Diamond in the town and then braved the elements on the walk out to the pitch. The rain continued to pelt down all through the game, the entire attendance at which sat huddled in the stand.
With a shock, I realised that, for me, things had now changed completely. Up till then, one of the main reasons I loved following Gaelic football was how, as a supporter, you were able to lose yourself in the drama of the game – in a sense it was like being hypnotised – but I quickly copped on that if I wanted to write in any way lucidly about the game afterwards I’d need a more detached kind of comportment while the action was underway. I hadn’t bargained for that when formulating plans for the blog but the sudden realisation I came to that day proved to be accurate.
As the years have gone by since then, in particular since teaming up with Rob Murphy for the Mayo News football podcast, I’ve found that this sense of detachment has grown, even though I’m now more of a fanatical follower of the team than I’d ever been before I started the blog. There’s an inherent contradiction, I know, in this observation but it’s as if a kind of compartmentalisation has developed inside me, which kicks into gear when the ball is thrown in at a Mayo game. Part aloof onlooker, part devoted enthusiast – a duality I can neither explain nor, to be honest, fully understand.
We won that game, which is neither here nor there now, but at the time it was a nice boost to get a winning start to my new life as a GAA blogger. It made the match report easy to write afterwards – though in those more relaxed times it wasn’t until the following day that I posted the report to the blog. Shortly after I’d finished with the report on the game I posted to the blog a short video that I’d taken at the match, which contained a humorous juxtaposition of a substitution being announced while at the same time a dog that had been ambling across the pitch decided it was time for him to depart too. I thought the incident sufficiently amusing to share it on the blog. Here it is:
But then I did a curious thing. I’d decided to share the video with my brother but instead of emailing him a link to where I had posted the video on YouTube I sent him instead a link to the relevant blog post. Then, almost in a daze, before I was able to stop myself from the act I was about to commit, I quickly posted the same link to the video on the Mayofans.com message board, making it appear like I’d just come across it but also knowing that this would attract attention to the blog’s existence.
Six weeks after I’d started it, the blog was now out there and although I hadn’t yet put a page view counter on it, I knew with certainty that what I’d just done meant that what I was posting to the blog would now be read by others. The viral nature of the internet was already well understood by then and I knew that once a few people saw it, they’d spread the word to others and so on it would go. It was no longer just me and my keyboard, now I was speaking to an audience. A tiny readership it most likely was at that juncture but a readership all the same.
This is another extract from my unfinished book about the Mayo football team, the blog and me.