This article first appeared in this week’s edition of the Mayo News as the ‘On the Road’ piece in the sports supplement – it’s here.
I could, I suppose, say that at this stage the car knows how to drive itself from our house in Dublin down to Castlebar but, of course, self-driving technology isn’t there yet.
With three cross-country trips completed in the last ten days – much of that mileage covered in the dark – it certainly would have made for an easier time on the road for me if the car were guiding itself along. But it wasn’t and so once again I settled in for another long day behind the wheel.
Sunday’s daytrip to the west was, in truth, an easy enough one. With Storm Jorge now blowing itself out on the far side of Scandinavia, the morning was clear and bright, the sky a steely blue and the roads largely empty as they opened up before us.
We crossed a rain-sodden country, with whole fields transformed into lakes either side of Tarmonbarry. The ominous, hugely engorged Shannon flowed with a silent menace through the village that spans the river.
It was impossible not to think of all those close to the Shannon’s overflowing banks whose minds were occupied with far weightier worries than how a game of football might play out that afternoon.
As we pushed ever further into the west we were assailed repeatedly by sudden, heavy showers of rain and sleet. The temperature clock inside the car stayed stubbornly stuck in the low single digits and Nephin’s squat hump had a decent dusting of snow on it.
We knew it was going to be cold out in the open at MacHale Park. It was.
Of course, because we were there so early it took forever for anything to happen. Then, all of a shot, the music started, the sun appeared and the Mayo team ran out onto the field.
For once in a match against Kerry we were playing in our traditional Green and Red, as the team was wearing the once-off Croí jersey for the game. Kerry lined out in blue, a jersey we’ve done well against them in recent times, notably in last year’s League final.
In a torrid opening half, it was Kerry who played all the football. Seven down at the break we faced into the real possibility then of a right hammering but instead a stirring second half comeback saw us lose by just a single point.
On long drives home from games, I find that invariably it’s the performance on the pitch that frames the mood on the journey. Had the second half played out as badly as the first had done for us it would have been a very long, soulful drive back east.
Our uplifting second half display meant, however, that we set off on the homeward leg in reasonably high spirits. The delicious Asian cuisine we’d tucked into at Lana on Linenhall Street before hitting the road no doubt helped us on our way too.
The light starting to fade now, it was difficult to make out Ben Bulben away to the left as we crossed the border once more on the N5, this time taking our leave of the county. A few minutes earlier it had been far easier to notice the incongruous bulk of the Airbus A380 aircraft standing at rest up on the hill at Knock airport.
That giant aircraft’s flying days are, apparently, done. It’s to be broken up at a facility in the airport and its parts taken away.
At half-time against Kerry similar sentiments were surely being voiced about the misfiring Mayo team but those opinions were doubtless dispelled by the team’s stirring second half display. As we drove ever eastwards in the gathering darkness we did so with hopes that we might yet see James Horan’s charges soon take flight once more.