This is heaven, this is hell, this is Mayo

Fellow Mayo fans and readers, I’m sorry.

Why am I sorry? I’ve neglected the blog for the past while and I’ve also neglected Mayo GAA for the last couple of months.

Moving to Dublin threw me off guard and starting for JOE.ie has been a hard and testing experience. When I come home after spending the whole day or night looking at a screen, writing, it’s the last thing I want to do.

That’s why I’ve been absent from the blog.

As for Mayo GAA, working weekends is essential in this job and the luck of the draw did not pull in my favour over the months of June and July. I had to resort to watching the Green and Red on a television screen in my office.

(For the Cork game, that screen in the office was reduced to my laptop screen and a dodgy YouTube link. Cheers Sky Sports).

Even visits to the Motherland (to visit the mother and the land) have been few and far between. Walking the streets of Dublin breaks my heart because you might be lucky to see one Mayo flag or jersey in the week.

You couldn’t imagine my delight when I found out I was off for the Roscommon game.

It was special for me, not only was I following Mayo back in Croker again, but I was following my county properly again for the first time since May. Not being able to do so in the months since honestly broke my heart.

As I joined the sea of green and red walking down Jones’ Road, I remembered the last time I had stepped foot here. That was on 1st October last year, walking up that same path with the sky full of blue flames but my eyes full of tears.

I hadn’t thought about it much since. Why would you?

But as our group of friends joined the rest of the Mayo parade, I thought about it for a brief second, held back a tear and moved into 2017.

Office-bound for the Derry, Clare and Cork games, the first and the last were absolutely unbearable. You see, losing a lead, drawing a game and winning in extra-time is not something that any Mayo person’s heart takes well.

So having to do it twice in the space of a few weeks, in an office surrounded by professional journalists was not an easy task.

In the final moments of those games, I wanted to pick up every laptop, desk and chair in the place and fling it across the room, re-arrange them again only to do the same a few minutes later in extra-time.

I don’t hold emotions well when it comes to Mayo. I’m sure you’re the same, so there is no need for me to tell you what it’s like.

When Keegan’s goal hit the back of the net, I had to pinch myself to see if I was alive. This is heaven, this is hell, this is Mayo.

Is it Mayo if we don’t blow the seven-point lead? Is it Mayo if we don’t do the famous comeback, is it Mayo if we don’t do the great escape?

The Harry Houdinis of the football world.

Written off in June, semi-finalists in August – how is that honestly possible?

Has any team in any sport been kicked, punched and knocked so many times and got straight back up?

Same date, different year, same result. Knocked out in the province by Galway and the Rossies become Connacht Champions.

The mighty Mayo take the exit off the motorway and go the back route, the bog road, with the green grass in the middle of the path. It’s so narrow that there’s only room for one car to pass but Mayo plough on through no matter the traffic. The question is, though – how badly damaged is the car?

We’ve clocked up so many miles on this championship back road that poor old Betsy shouldn’t be chugging still, but she is, and will continue to do so for as long as she can.

And if the head gasket blows against Kerry and the wheels burst, that car has served us well.

Seven successive All-Ireland semi-finals in the last seven years, this team owes us absolutely nothing.

And we the fans owe them absolutely nothing either. Our support is immense. When we win, it’s the best feeling in the world and when times get tough, we bond together over the simplistic chant of Mayo, Mayo.

When sung by itself, it sounds stupid, when roared on by thousands of fans, it would pick any man off the ground and give him that extra bit of reserve fuel in the tank.

I was standing in the Hill for the first game and for the replay against Roscommon. My girlfriend is a nurse and I should have got her to check my blood pressure for both.

I didn’t know what to do with myself in the replay. We’re comfortably winning? I can actually enjoy this game? I don’t like this feeling, it’s alien.

After hammering the Rossies on Sunday, I promised myself something and every Mayo fan should do the same.

No expectations, no hope, just support.

If we win this All-Ireland, we deserve to win it hands down. But if we don’t, we can’t even be the slightest bit mad, because I don’t know about you but I for one, would rather have had a summer like this that ends in heartbreak every year than not experience it at all.

Nobody expected us to get to the final last year and nobody expects us to get to the final this year. But, we’re Mayo, we don’t follow social norms, we don’t do what people expect, we do things the hard way, the Mayo way.

And if we win an All-Ireland in 2017, it will be the Mayo-est win of all.

47 thoughts on “This is heaven, this is hell, this is Mayo

  1. Can’t agree with you more Darragh. Just a better way of saying what I was thinking myself. Hope you’re off for the Kerry game.

  2. Great post…. sums up perfectly what being a Mayo GAA supporter is. And i had a thought yesterday….. win lose or draw Sunday week (or thereafter) Guess What….. next Jan/Feb itll b business as usual back supporting our beloved Green and Red.

  3. great post well stated i agree with you what wonderful words of wisdom .We are Mayo and we will follow this great team of ours all the way.
    Up Mayo

  4. Well said Darragh. This summer has been a rollercoaster of emotions, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. Everyone has written them off. So proud of the team they really have given us everything. It would be fantastic for them to go on. They have a steel about them that keeps giving hope. As for the support its been great to be part of it, 16th man so important. MaighEo Abu.

  5. Ah this is a great post. Reading at my desk in Galway laughing away. It’s when you read articles like this you realise that every Mayo person experiences the same emotions.

    The silent nod or wince across a few rows to a Mayo stranger. We’re in this together alright.

  6. Can only echo those sentiments. This team has given me so much joy and pleasure. Losing All Irelands is disappointing; being whipped by mediocre teams in early rounds is soul-destroying. This has not happened for the best part of a decade but I remember the bad old days – the 1970s when we didn’t even manage a Connaught title; 1981 and 1993 when it was made painfully clear how far off the pace of the top teams we were; 1980 and 1982 Connaught Final drubbings. There really are the good old days.

  7. You summed it all up very Darragh there, fair play to you :-). Keep up the good work.

  8. Great stuff Darragh.

    You’re bang on about the heartbreak. Sure it hurts, deeply. But I’d rather that than being from a county that never experiences any of these big day roller-coaster emotions, good or bad.

    A friend of mine is from Longford. Anytime I get down about Mayo losing or I’m biting my nails in worry before a big game in Croker, he pulls me up. “Sure don’t you know how fucking lucky you are to even have these days following your team?! I’d give anything for my county to be in your place. So just enjoy it”.

    As for our supporters, well they’re just on a different level. I’m not saying this in a self congratulatory way either. Being exiled, I only get back for the odd game. This is a massive slap on the back for all of you that have followed this team home and away through the years.
    This year has been seen the support rise to a different level. Not so much in numbers, but in noise and full on actual “support”.
    It’s been incredible to watch and listen to and has made those of us not there immensely proud.
    The players and manager have repeatedly mentioned it this year. That’s not by chance. The support really does drive on the players and they clearly appreciate it. I’d even go so far as to say that without this incredible support, we wouldn’t have this game with Kerry to look forward to.
    The players have a huge task on Sunday week and they’ll need us there for them. I know we won’t let them down and I know they won’t let us down.

  9. Thanks Darragh!!…not used to being so full of emotion at this hour…we all feel it but you expressed perfectly.

  10. A great read Darragh..A tweet of yours has been in my head since the Cork game..”Mayo GAA I love you and I hate you.You make me happy and you make my stomach fall out my arse.”Really summed up my feelings that day!!What a Summer so far…

  11. Betsy is out of the NCT centre – the mechanics are baffled. They know a car that has this much mileage on the clock shouldn’t be road worthy, but you know something, like a fine wine she’s getting better with age. Just a very well oiled machine. They issue the pass certificate and Betsy revs her way to Croker – 5th gear will do! The old dog for the hard road – Hon Mayo!!!!

  12. well done Darragh – this team just keeps on giving. and its supporters too!
    what an experience to be a Mayo supporter….that which does not kill us makes us stronger .. or something like that

  13. Nice piece Darragh.When you talk about preferring a long summer with heartbreak than without a long summer.I agree with you there.Isn’t it better to hav loved and lost than to never have loved at all ? .

  14. Ah ‘…. The Black and Red of Mayo, I can see it still,…. Spillane and Brolly wrote us off,…. They taught we were over the Hill’…’ We will beat the famous Blue of Kerry,.. It doesn’t really matter what colour is the Jersey ‘… The Kingdom might think that we are Down,.. over whom they never tasted Championship Victory… Tight match’s and extra time, sure that was Mayo’s desire ,… to prepare to defeat the Kingdom,… That’s our unquenchable fire… The’ Star’s are all aligned … And their definitely in our favour…. For the Black and Green and Red of Mayo, it will be a day savor!

  15. Well written Daragh. Yes, the emotions run high but what can we do but support the teams and live with the results. I live abroad and am currently on a break in Mayo, I watched two young nephews play with their club, take it from me, there is no worry about the future of Mayo football. The stuff they were doing and scoring from distance was very good. Trickery galore, jinking and weaving and shooting with the outside of the boot for scores.

  16. Last time Kerry played a team in black and red in the championship (Down) they got their assessment whipped.

  17. Great post Darragh. I personally think this years journey will end next Sunday, but I certainly hope it doesn’t!. Theirs an old saying in a movie…”the greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world he doesn’t exist”. That’s what’s going through my head when I read all this talk of Donnaghy, Donaghy, and more Donaghy!!. It’s Geaney and JOD who have the real power to destroy us. Their pace movement and skill could kill us. Their well capable of winning their own ball out in front, turning quick and bang over the bar. Fitzmaurice would only love us to spend days trying to stop Donnaghy, and forget about the other two. We need to pack the defense and not let them win ball out in front. High ball we could actually deal with easier, but good diagonal low ball will be devastating. I personally think Kerry won’t start Donnaghy at all. We need to be wise to this and have at least 3/4 game plans at the ready.

  18. Betsy must be a Toyota Carina they go on forever. Great piece Darragh, well done keep the faith and and the chin up

  19. Ahh tis a lot of emotion and sentimental shite been talked(me too). But it cant be helped , its our culture but its probably a weakness , wish I could articulate what I mean better but the pattin on the back needs to stop now. All ireland champions will be remembered by others nobody else.

    We need to be really cute here and supporters need to get on deegans case from the first bad decision .

  20. Don’t think that works with Deegan, Sean. Half the Hogan stand rose in unison with roars and raised hands when John Small took down Andy. Probably the clearest black card since the rule was introduced. Didn’t make a blind bit of difference. Not sure our pundits in the media will have that much influence either.

  21. Super writing Darragh… fair play to you. It’s hard to capture a knotted gut but you just put your finger on it… it’s like the pleasant pain off a physio massage. We are still standing and by God the Mayo fans are still alive… every man woman and dog in Mayo knows their heart is good cause we are still alive. I have no idea how this one will go. Perhaps on paper it should be Kerry BUT someone mentioned the old passion desire determination bit of Mayo. That’s what made Roy Keane a standout player in his day. It’s the one thing I admire more than talent…raw passion. Thank God Mayo have this in spade fulls. We will need it and I believe… I really believe we can not be beaten. Fire in my belly and I’ll be in Italy for the game…bloody hell. Please don’t let it be a replay…win it straight and get ready for shock and awe!! Maigheo go deo

  22. Good point Sean Burke. At the U21 semi last year in Tullamore, a terrible decision went against Diarmaid. Loud booing from Mayo supporters. A Monaghan man beside me said, ‘yez’ll get everything from here on in’. He was right. We got quite a few dodgy decisions after that.

  23. For the love of God can we not just focus on the momentus task that faces our lads in taking on this seriously strong Kerry team next weekend and stop this nonsense of scribing stuff with references to winning the All Ireland. All that matters is Kerry, arguably the best team in the country right now and what it is going to take to somehow out fight, out play and out wit them in 9 days time.

  24. We will beat Kerry, we just need to practice a few new moves for Dublin ànd not show our hand too much against Kerry

  25. Agree with 45, we need to focus on what is in front of us. We don’t have a great history against them in championship and need to ensure we come out on top. Kerry are wonderful exponents of the black arts. Enright as escaped with yellows when blacks and reds were the proper options on several occasions. Watching them against Galway, O Donoghue was doing his best to provoke his man, and indeed succeed in getting his man yellow carded. These lads are masters and need to managed carefully

  26. Great piece Darragh. Tears in my eyes reading it.
    We just have to keep on supporting them no matter what happens. Whatever about M Deegan I’m just praying that God will be with them next Sun to give us the game of the championship. They are determined this year.
    By the way folks Marty Morrissey is speaking at Knock novena next week bout Spirituality in Sport. May be the start of a great week in Sport for all us passionate Mayo followers.

  27. Head down stay going!… Your spot on there!.. Enright is an interesting character, he’s a big and powerful defender,… . Never seen him up the field much adding to the attack , but he’s an out and out stopper, he doesn’t like it much,when he is ran at hard all the same, I don’t think I ever seen any running player in the game getting past him,.. He’s has been lucky in the past, with many strange reffing decisions going in his favour, reminds me of Liam Harnen of Meath… Don’t know how he was allowed to stay on the pitch following a horrendous foul during the Galway match,… I think he might be lucky to stay on the pitch if Mayo run straight and hard at the centre of the Kerry defence, but with Enright in the middle, any player will be lucky if they are able to do it twice …. And he’s not the only one with these traits in this in the Kerry team!

  28. I think Kerry’s main tactic in terms of fouls over the last couple of years is the clamping of opposition runners around the middle of the pitch. Clamping but making sure not to pull down.

  29. Agree fully with Sean Burke and 45 on this one. If we don’t beat kerry this year was a failure. Simple as that. We are now a top team so we should stop acting like wide eyed kids happy to be at the top table

  30. Couldn’t agree more on Enright. Nasty piece of work who tried everything to take Cillian out in the Limerick game. Rather than complaining about him we should strive to emulate him. The most dangerous kerry player is Moran. Deal with him and we are in with a real chance. Aidan is not the man for this job and should be in the forwards apart from kick outs. We need to find an Enright for Geaney also. Noticed that Donaghy grabs the shorts of his marker rather than the jersey when a ball is played in. Lots of Vaseline rubbed into shorts needed here!

  31. Think the side line have a massive test for this game.we have the players but to get the most out of them all for 70 plus will be crucial.
    Midfield do we start are two best or hold one back for second half.
    Who takes on Murphy there’s no point putting a tall player on him or its frees all day long for Kerry.
    Think diarmuid should pick up Walsh for this game would like Aidan put in on griffin for the start and cillian out at 11 on Crowley.
    Full back should be harry on geany ,donie on big arse,Lee on O’Donahue for the start.
    Honestly looking through the 2 teams we have the upper hand if we are cute enough to play ball and not get sucked in to some of their shite.
    Kerry will try there hard man shite as they did in extra time in limerick,we can’t get sucked in this time.
    I’m going for a Mayo win because I think they have matured and have the experience to take Kerry down this year.

  32. I’d like to see our belly aching about the ref wound down now. It’s doing us no favours at all and sounds like we’re getting excuses in early.

    I don’t really buy this sh’te of influencing him through the media either. I thought the Dubs made total fools of themselves last year.

    Now maybe it sowed a seed of doubt but it’s simply not something I want to see Mayo engaging in.

  33. When Galway played Kerry their runners down the middle were taken out of the game at all costs—we should do the same.

  34. Maybe rock.
    But its no harm to let him know we are on to him.
    Maybe when deegan acts like a professional the fans might show respect.
    Can’t see it happening.

  35. I’d do the opposite and fill him with sanctimonious shite about being a top referee etc.

    If we do request that our media commentators peddle a consistent line, they should quite simply state that the efforts to influence referees performance is out of order and should be sanctioned by HQ if it continues.

  36. We will be underdogs no doubt. I give us a 60/40 shot to be honest. Deegan will give them everything. But then again they always get the calls. They will probably have a bit too much for us but it will be tight. But we are there and we have a fighting chance. Up Mayo

  37. There were 2 balls on the field towards the end of the Final replay last year and Deegan kick one over the Dublin crossbar. Thought that was very cheeky at the time, like “look how easy it is”.

    He did overturn a free against us at the sideline, in the Clare game this year after a double save on our goal line.

    At the end of the day it’s fair play that everyone is after. Preconceived ideas have no place on the field of play.

  38. Fitzmaurice on Deegan (from today’s Examiner):. “At this stage of the championship, you would expect that you are getting the best referees, and the most experienced ones. We’re focusing on ourselves.”

    Rochford on Deegan (ditto): “a highly experienced referee, so that’s fine”.

  39. Hope any Mayo fan pondering about making the journey to Croker next Sunday 20th August does so.It will be a tough task to beat Kerry so we are going to need to bring massive support and fill croker with Green and Red.When we are against the tide at times next week ,when for example Kerry score goals we need to be chanting on the lads not silent.I always find Mayo play at there best when the atmosphere of a match is high like the 2nd half of the drawn game v Kerry 2014 and drawn game v Dublin last year.when games are low in atmosphere like semi v Tipp last year we struggle.So calling all Mayo fans to bring there colour and voice to the game next week and hopfully we defeat the aristocrats of Gaelic football.This could also be the last time we get to see this great Mayo team as a group hopefully not!

  40. how do you think next sunday will go still have that feeling mayo will beat kerry they have nothing to lose while kerry do what do ye think

  41. Brilliant article
    Took a break from posting and reading on here for last few days myself
    Needed it !
    I’ve definitely enjoyed the 2 qualifier runs as much as some of our other summers. Trips to new venues and unfamiliar teams.
    Ennis a particular favourite.
    And here we are again. In a semi final again.
    It’s been a weird summer…………I think it is going to get weirder…….Mayo are going to beat Kerry

  42. Will be a sell out with massive Mayo support. This is a huge game for this team. Very up and down this year. Roscommon game should not be taken as a measure of our form, they were woeful. We need a huge performance all round to beat Kerry.

  43. Lots of defeatism shrouded in optimism and passion. (End of an era and all that)
    We are here by rights
    We are the match for any team
    While there should be a plan for their forwards and runners from deep we equally have enough lads everywhere to give some of their young lads bad dreams
    Believe
    We are here, and we are here to stay

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