Going viral

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.

29 thoughts on “Going viral

  1. Good stuff WJ .. cases not going down as quick as we all would like … No guarantee League will start as planned. However at this stage most of us know someone who has been seriously ill or has died from Covid so football not necessarily a priority at the moment

  2. Yet another wonderfully crafted extract. Can’t wait to read the whole thing.

  3. Excellent stuff WJ. It’s fascinating to read some of your first posts on the blog in the early days. It must give you a great sense of satisfaction and pride to see where it has now come. It’s a unique endeavour and credit to you. There’s no better subject in the world to write about. It’s got everything.

    The content of the final chapter remains uncertain. Not to put a dampener on things but as I said after the ’20 final, I’m deeply concerned about where we’re at. Since ’89 we’ve been in 12 finals with no win. 12 finals! It’s inconceivable. It’s shocking in the extreme. For me it all boils down to one main thing: we’ve never had the spark in the last quarter. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes we’ve started out okay, but have tended to disemprove as the game progresses. All of our big name players, bar Lee Keegan, have failed to do something a little special, especially in the second half. That’s a fact, and a damning one at that. We have to be honest about this. I don’t know why this is, but it’s a problem. Did we have the talent to win over the past 32 years? Absolutely 100% yes. There can be no doubt, on several occasions in fact.

    I don’t know too much about NFL however Tom Brady comes to mind to help illustrate what we’re missing. It seems to me that the reason he’s the greatest of all time is not merely his physical skill-set, but his brain. Reading the game, reading the opposition, adapting, then conquering. In GAA, Dublin do this. Not everyone can have a Tom Brady, but Dublin achieve what he achieves as a collective.

    Like Brady, Dublin can start off poorly, but they figure it out as the game progresses and more often than not they finish strong. They figure it out. We’re the opposite. This needs to be James Horan’s focus. We have the talent, we’ve always had. But the above element is still missing. Consider some of the average enough teams (ie Meath ’96, Kerry ’97, Cork ’10, Kerry ’14) who’ve won the All Ireland since ’89, yet we’re still at the bottom of the hill. It’s infuriating.

    We need to be a ‘collective’ in the second half, to somehow get that courage to drive it home when it matters. Easier said than done, I know, but when you look back and disect it all, this is where we’re lacking bigtime. Of course there are no guarantees we’ll even be in a final in the near future, but we’ve every reason to hope. If and when we do get there, let’s finally learn from the past.

  4. Liberal – great post and yes Lee always added that magic (the regret for us is that stupid black card dished out to him – the unfairness of it). The sad part is I feel we are as far away as ever to the holy grail.

  5. Liberal Role, I disagree with your comment regarding big name players  “All of our big name players, bar Lee Keegan, have failed to do something a little special, especially in the second half. That’s a fact, and a damning one at that” Cillian O Connor has delivered time and time again in finals, scoring goal into Hill16 when he had no right to score, last minute point to bring a game to a replay. Andy Moran has delivered, remember him scoring goals to bring Mayo back into games. It’s wrong to say players are not delivering, problem is the team as a whole fade in the final quarter, that’s mainly down to the quality of the bench available. There are signs that’s improving with the quality of young players we are now producing.

  6. Hope the bench does improve Mayomad, but its hard to reproduce the quality we’ve had over the past 10 years. Hope the youngsters make the grade.

    Crucially, we have had the Dubs on the rack mid-match in 2013 and 2016 and arguably should have won without the need for a major impact from the bench on those occasions at least. So the chances were there, but we couldn’t push on. Good teams shouldn’t just rely on impact from the bench. We had the quality in our starting 15, ample quality, but we were missing the spark of game-changing magic, ie a Sean Cavanagh, a Brian Dooher, a Michael Murphy moment etc. We had players as good as these guys in my opinion. We had the firepower to gain considerable leads before the need for a bench but we missed our chances and i just think it’s important to highlight where we were lacking. Our management contributed to this on a number of occasions by poor decision making on the line.

  7. It’s too simplistic to say our players haven’t done anything special in the 2nd half. As mayomad said, plenty of them have. An even bigger issue is the amount of times we concede an early goal. Giving ourselves a mountain to climb from the start.

    Mayofan – why do you say we’re as far away as ever? We’re in a far better position now than the end of the 2018 season for example. Coming out of Newbridge that day really felt like the end of an era.

  8. Liberal role, mayo have made mistakes in games like Wide ball says conceding early goals etc. And yes we were lacking in certain areas over the years, the bench being one, how many times have we lost tight games where the opposition brought on a player who scored 2-3 points to win the game. I was really highlighting your comment regarding players not performing in second half which was wrong.
    Regarding the bench, walking out of Pearse Park in Longford 2010 there there seemed no future ahead for Mayo football, no crop of players coming but within 2 years we were in AL final. I do believe we have players coming through that can make a difference, will it be enough? Time will tell, but we are in a far better place than 2010

  9. As I’ve said before, the starting full forwards and half forwards have not contributed enough to the scoreboard from open play in the 2nd half of our finals since 89. It’s there in the statistics. It’s there in black and white. It’s there in the match reports.

    When the game was in the melting pot the scores dried up. Granted, some of the finals were over at half time anyway and it was a case of just going through the motions for the 2nd half. (2006) (2004).

    However, nearly all of them were up for grabs with 20 minutes left. The half back line (Keegan) for example would keep us in touch with a goal but the front men were found wanting.

    This doesn’t happen in Kerry and Dublin teams. Why?

  10. A small bit of reality for all from one that was at All Mayo finals since 1989.

    1989 final, Mayo were beaten in the final 5 minutes, our corner back got roasted and Cork hit maybe 3 or 4 points from play.
    1996, beaten in last 5 minutes both days.
    1997, started poor, too many switches when 1 player had to go off injured, yet the game was there for the taking.
    2004 and 2006, well beaten.
    2012, lost it in the first 10 minutes, 2 early Donegal goals.
    2013, lost it in 3rd quarter.
    2016 1st day, just real unlucky.
    2017, lost it in last minutes.
    2020, attack and midfield beaten in last 15 minutes.

  11. Surely we have to look at managerial decisions in all these games.It seems to me we have done crazy stuff. Taking Alan Freeman off after 20 mins in 2013??? Never explained as far as I have heard.
    Not covering Donaghy at FF in 2014 first game when Kerry were buried or replay??.
    What about the 3 quarter in 2020 why did we not push on with an extra man.
    Playing Cillian injured in 2013
    Goalkeeper change in 2016?
    Mentioned above the complete change of the team in 97 when Flanagan got injured

  12. @Liberal role in the tie, -I agree with you about Lee Keegan, in my view the best player Mayo has produced, and when you come to judge Mayo players All Ireland finals have to be the ultimate measuring stick, concidering how many All Ireland finals we have contested. But however, I think by any measures, Andy Moran produced plenty very special stuff in a number of All Ireland finals, whether coming on as a Sub, or Starting,.. I think Paddy Durcan, Kieth Higgins, Chris Barrett, , Brendan Harrison, Kevin McLoughlin, David Clarke and Colm Boyle have all produced very big games in All Ireland finals, plural.. In last December All Ireland final, both O’Connor brothers had exceptional games, Diarmuid had the better of the duel for the first 3 quarters of the game with one of the best Midfielders ever to have played the modern game of Gaelic Football, the immaculate Brian Fenton, (oddly Diarmuid didn’t even get an All Star nomination) and Cillian was superb however he had to drop back further as Dublin took a greater control of the match as the second half went on, not Cillians fault but you would like to see him being able to stay in the Full Forward line.. You are right, the final quater in the main has been a big problem for Mayo, the 2016 drawn All Ireland final being the exception to that rule, we finished very strongly, after coming back from 5 points down going in at halftime.. Cillian nailed some equalizer.. And if the Ref has his eyes working correctly he might have seen the ball being handled on the ground following a short kickout for the last kickout of the game, giving Cillian what would have been a gimme for a sharpshooter like himself. Another problem for Mayo in All Ireland finals is some players have not produced the performance nessary in order for Mayo to achieve the win, and the wrong players have been substituted, most famously like Alan Freeman in 2013 , and certain other higher profile players staying on the pitch, despite not delivering (plural in All Ireland finals) and we have had a few of those down the years as well.. Not their fault but certainly the sideline has to take responsibility for several decisions!

  13. Did Alan Freeman not perform in 2013…….he went into that game after winning us the semi really standing up taking frees etc…….. I think he was MOTM if I am not wrong. Everyone in Dublin was worried about him he had a slow start but a player can often have a slow start and things can change quick especially in that position then he was gone.
    I can never remember a guy getting pulled so soon.
    I dont think we had better on the bench either that year. I also remember that the Dublin backs were staying very tight when he was on. I thought they felt more Freedom to push forward after he was taken off and Dublin got back on terms with us then.
    Also Cillian was carrying a big shoulder injury that year from memory he had little impact. If he had to go off who would have taken frees.

  14. Leantimes
    Sorry!! on a second reading of your post it seems you are making my point about Alan Freeman in 2013. Shoulda had that reading before going on my rant!.

  15. most of Mayo’s defeats in All Ireland Finals can be put down to poor decisions on the line by Management , some of then may be because of interference with Management by County Board Officials wanting certain players on the team.

  16. Culmore, yes management have made mistakes is the past, but thats the nature of sport. if you lose then the decisions made come into question but if you win those same decisions are considered master strokes. I think its unfair to suggest defeats are down to management, are players not equally at fault. Management are not kicking 3-4 balls a game into keepers hands, scoring own goals, picking up needless red cards, kicking stupid wides etc etc.
    Regarding your claim about County Board Officials, thats just your opinion, there is no evidence thats happening.

  17. Hard to disagree with most of the points above that posters make.

    I think its a conversation that’s impossible not to have given its 12 finals (10, with 2 replays) in 32 years without a win. Bar 2004 and ’06 i believe we had the talent to get over the line on all other occasions. Every time we have a series of losses together there’s the excuse of a golden era for either Kerry or Dublin.

  18. Or @ Liberal Role should their be two ways to look at it. 38 years from 51 to 89 with no final appearance.

    While we haven’t won it since 51 our consistency in reaching the big day in the past 32 years is remarkable. Outside a handful of counties, who wouldn’t envy the finals appearances we have made.

    We could have scuttled away and buried our heads after 3 or 4 finals defeats but our never give in mentality has seen us in the finals regularly and long may it continue. We just have to keep on going and some fine day we will no doubt lift Sam again.

  19. @Paddyjoejohntom…..brutal design, looks like they got a child to design it. It’s like a miss-mash of many poor designs from the past….pinstripes, red sleeves, and what’s with the collar? Wish they would just go back to classic green jersey with a red band, or a modern version of that.

  20. I hear you Revellino, our resilience is commendable. It’s time to win though, because the talent is there and always has been. What if we’re in another 12 finals with the same result? Scary thought, but it could happen could it not?

  21. Our final record is pathetic….absolutely pathetic. Don’t get me wrong I love our team and players. We are resilient in that we keep coming back but we have had great players and teams so why wouldn’t we keep coming back?

    I’d argue it’s much easier for one of our players to keep at it knowing your nearly there than say a player from Leitrim or any Leinster team where Dublin wallop them out the gate every year.

    The novelty of getting to finals has long worn off. There is always something with us in finals, fights, sending off, changing keeper, own goals, hit posts, conceding early goals…you name it we have found a way.

    If we have had the players which I get the feeling most believe then it’s a mental self inflicted issue somewhere. It’s long overdue we just go and win it.

  22. Unfortunately @ Liberal Role anything is possible.

    We could go another 38 years without getting to a final. God forbid, but after 50 and 51 would anyone in the country have said we wouldn’t be seen back in a final for almost 4 decades.

    @Yew_tree. I suppose you couldn’t look at 10 losses and argue that our record is good. It might however be unfair just to package it up as 10 losses and post it at that. The greatest performances ever by a Mayo team were given in some of these games.

    To play at such a high level with some brilliant final performances, well there is body and soul in playing your best on the biggest stage.

    Every team starts at base camp every year. We have reached the summit on many occasions we just haven’t planted the Mayo flag there for a while.

  23. In all fairness Willie Joe(John), you have done trojan work over the years to get this blog to where it is and should be so proud of what you’ve achieved. You’re like the pied piper, a real charismatic individual who has attracted so many followers. You have a way with words and around championship time, always for me anyhow you whet the appetite for the battle ahead that weekend. Its lovely to look in every now and then to the blog and read the articles and the very insightful thoughts of the Mayo faithful. There are some very passionate and knowledgeable people on here and long may it last. I really miss having the live action though. At this stage with the proposed 20th February 2021 start to the league we would have in normal times(frustratingly alien to us now) have at least played two if not three of Westmeath, Meath and Down with potentially taking on Cork or Kildare to get back to the top table. I wonder how it would have gone? By the way I’ll certainly purchase the book when it comes out. Looking forward to returning to a somewhat normal life and until then please take care everyone.

  24. This bemoaning of our failure in finals and the blaming of management for it is getting a bit wearing? Can we change the tune for a while? It is also worth asking if those management people were not the same as those who got us to five finals in the past ten years? Is it not amazing that those who got it so right in getting to those finals should get it so wrong in the finals?
    Has anybody considered that we have been somewhat unfortunate in meeting probably the best team to have ever played the game. The team with the most resources ever, both regards players and otherwise? Can anybody seriously say that we have not come off badly regards referees in our efforts? Can anybody suggest incidents which favoured Mayo in the same way that the Shane Enright incident in 2014 favoured Kerry? The way the John Small handtrip on Andy Moran was ignored? The way Mayo players were manhandled for the closing Dublin kickout in, was it 2017, with no action taken?
    I have mentioned in the past how Galway were lucky to meet Kildare in 1998. A Kildare team who never managed to get it up to get to a final afterwards. And in 2001 meeting a Meath team carried away with their own publicity after their win over Kerry in the semifinal? Again a Meath team which went into freefall afterwards. The measure of a team is how it gets back from a final defeat.
    AS I said, give it a break on the bemoaning. Celebrate a great team, All Ireland or no All Ireland, and look forward to more of it.

  25. At Andy D, true the Dubs are great, have it all but here are a few decisions made by their management that won them All Irelands.
    2011, the hit on the Kerry playmaker, O Sullivan, and the placing of their subs when they came on, ie Mcmenamin.

    2013, exploited Mayo’s weakness down the middle ( this was evident in the semi v Tyrone)

    2016, replay v Mayo, brought on subs, ie McCauley to midfield and Costello, McCauley busted forward and fed Costello for his cross field run and put 3 points over. In both games the Dubs attacked Mayo’s right flank.

    2017, the Dubs changed most of their forwards late into the game, they were instructed to hold and hassle the tired Mayo defenders, thus pining Mayo in for the last minutes. Also the introduction and placing of both Connolly and McMenamin, Mayo forgot about Connolly, he was left as a loose Dublin playmaker around the middle of the pitch and fed McMenamin, Mayo didn’t cop onto it, as the matchups were working on the main Dublin threats, but Gavin knew this.

    2019, Dubs upped the pace after the half time break, caught Mayo on the hop.

    2020, the Dubs exploited Mayo pace, at midfield and right up the middle, again this was evident in the semi final.

    True the Dubs are exceptional athletes, have all the advantages of being able to train without travelling for hours, have loads of facilities etc, but for each final, different tactics were employed by a very shrewd management.
    They even managed to break down the packed defence styles of Tryone and Donegal.

  26. Mayo 88 – it’s easy to bring on the Costellos, McMenamons etc when you have them on the bench. Mayo didn’t have that luxury. To stay in these games and stay compeditive Mayo were always forced to start their strongest teams. If Mayo or Ky had beaten Dublin by 1-2 points in any of these games- which they could easily have done – there would be questions asked of the Dublin management as to why some of these players were not brought on earlier or started in these games. When you win a game by a point – everything the management do is right. When you lose a game by a point – everything the management do is wrong. Fine margins.

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