It’s as if we’re all in America for this one

It’s been said countless time already but this truly is a year like no other.

For Mayo supporters, this Championship campaign has certainly been a unique one. While the players have had to cope with all the Covid protocols and the odd experience of contesting high-octane knockout matches behind closed doors, at least they’re directly involved. They get to be there. Supporters, though, have found themselves confined to barracks.

That’s a familiar discipline for Mayo supporters fated to live abroad. They have to love the team from afar, with many emigrants rarely if ever able to attend a game. These fans are, though, often as obsessive in their devotion to the cause as those based in Ireland who follow the team all over the country. Despite this, the county’s huge ex-pat following is often forgotten about.

That fact was brought home forcefully to me the last time Mayo qualified for the final. Shortly before the 2017 decider, Mike Finnerty, Rob Murphy and I took the Mayo News football podcast on tour to London where, in the Oxford Arms in Camden, we packed the place out for a live show.

What struck me most about that night – and, as a former emigrant myself, it did so forcefully – was how the many Mayo supporters we met wanted so much to identify with the team and how, from afar, they were walking every step on the road to the All-Ireland decider.

A lucky few of those we encountered that night would, of course, have been in Croke Park a few weeks later. But most wouldn’t have and, like countless others shouting for Mayo across the world that day, their support for the team during the game would have been shouted out while watching on TV or by listening to the radio commentary.

For one reason or another, I’ve missed plenty of big Mayo games myself down the years, even after I’d started the blog and so felt a greater need than ever to be there. Last year, for example, due to different commitments, I failed to get to four of our Championship matches. (In this year’s knockout format, that’s as many games as we’ve played so far). But, since 1989, I’ve yet to miss a final.

Until now.

Many Mayo supporters will, I know, find it incredibly difficult not to be at Croke Park for this year’s decider. What if, after all these years and all those final losses, we go and win the bloody thing, the very year nobody can be there to witness it and to celebrate it?

For sure, that thought is a hard one. But, you know, people are having to cope with far harder this year. Many will be seated around dinner tables this Christmas contemplating the absence of loved ones and so we’d all do well to keep a sense of perspective about what’s really hard in this life.

This is, after all, only football.

Me? I’m viewing the match as a chance to taste what life is like on the other side of the street. This year, for this final, it’s like we’re all in America.

We’d have loved to be there, would have done anything to be at the game, but it just didn’t happen. Or perhaps the logistical challenges were too great or that hoped-for ticket never materialised. Or that reality simply got in the way.

So, instead, we’ve accepted the next best thing, of watching the game on TV from wherever we are. Our shouts may not carry to Croke Park but our hopes and, yes, our prayers take wing. We’re there in spirit even if we can’t be in body.   

This year, as we all yell like loons at the television once the ball is thrown in at an empty Croke Park, we’ll be able to take comfort that we’re part of a huge global Mayo support losing the run of ourselves in households the world over. Regardless of where in the world we’re marooned on the day we’ll all form part of the same unified diaspora.

All of us shouting for Mayo, all of us hoping beyond hope that this one will be the one. Even if none of us can be there to see it.

This piece was first published in the Mayo News All-Ireland final supplement, which is available here.

45 thoughts on “It’s as if we’re all in America for this one

  1. My Dad in Castlebar wrote this.

    T’was the week before Christmas
    With Mayo set to thrill
    A solemn promise made
    to stay away from the Hill
    Snow on the Reek
    The weather gets worse
    Is this the year
    We get rid of the curse?

    Mrs Cluxton’s son Steve
    The door he slams shut
    Santa appears all covered in soot
    He whispers to Horan
    What a kind man I am
    As he opens his sack
    And hands over Sam

  2. Hello, Very mixed feelings about all the Mayo sentiments. I feel a bit of an impostor. Had the pleasure yesterday on a sunny afternoon of visiting around Kilmeena of the Westport/Newport Road. It was so tranquil, clean air and secluded houses, I pine for. GAA seems alive and well.

    My playing carrier was in an schoolbiy street league or something team and played in McHale Park before smashing my leg. Then I lived for the football team during two years in Boarding School. It was easy to give up interest Mayo football in the late 60’s. Had grown up knowing Henry Kenny etc.

    Then my interest was reignited during the John Maughan era a few years after retuning from England. Some tine ago I brazenly suggested to John Maughan that James Horan’s team were better than ’95.. I was sitting in front of him in Row 303. Faux Pa’s? Great wins under John Maughan too.

    The emigrant does have a longing which footfall satisfies to some extent. Then if the team is winning the nostalgia grows.

    I am relaxed living in Dublin and don’t have the awful pressure to succeed. Still want Mayo to beat Galway etc. Admire the players so much but am a reserved type person and supporter. So you won’t be getting an audio input from me but like reading and listening to all the Chatter.

    A Merry Christmas to you all. Ciaran 2.

  3. I found this blog when I lived in Sydney.

    Reading the articles and the comments felt like a hardwire connection to home. The language was so blatantly and proudly west of Ireland, reminding me where I came from, where I grew up and who I was.

    I was very greatful to find it the whole 8 years I lived there. It made me think how lucky I was to have such an easy way to reconnect. I imagined the millions of other Irish immigrants, who, once they boarded a boat and left Ireland, would never hear from or see home or their community again.

    Well here we are now, with Mayo supporters all over the world, in the same boat, tuning in on Saturday (Sunday am in Sydney). Probably a few hundred thousand of us, watching and roaring and living every moment simultaneously. The destination is meaningless without the journey to it.

    We are blessed with luck to have this.

  4. Forty and odd years ago
    I let my first roar for Mayo
    And though at times my throats gone dry
    I’ll keep on roaring until I die.

    Hon Mayo !
    Go on yea good things !
    Rip in to them !
    Go on !
    Wohoooooooooooo !

  5. The blog was a great source of info and craic for me while I spent the last 8 years abroad. In that time I flew home for every final and a few semis too!
    Ironically the pandemic has afforded me the chance to move home and yet I won’t be able to attend this year.
    Thanks for all the hard work with the blog and the pod!
    Merry Christmas to all.

  6. WJ, this piece made me well up. Better than McStay’s. Brilliant.
    By the way I’ve caught up! I’m ready for the next podcast. Where is it?!?!!! Chop chop 😉

  7. That’s a great piece of Poetry from mayo rebels dad, The old breathing is getting a bit heavier and the butterflies are starting to kick in. We live in uncertain times but also horan and his troops are Bringing lots of unpredictability to croke park which I think will have Dublin worried. I think most people are unsure how mayo will approach the game. Up mayo

  8. True Sinead. The Blogmaster would give any of the sports journalists a run for their money. In fact, many of his pieces that he’s penned, in my opinion are better anything you’ll come across. A great way of taking you to the place. Mind painting if you like.

  9. Lovely piece Willie Joe, and one that rings true for someone who has been an emigrant for half of his life at this stage. I remember well a time (the 1990s) when we had to either ring home to find out the results (never a good announcement in the context of All-Ireland finals) or to wait for the kiosk to open in London to get a match report. There was a GAA highlights package on Sky Sports at the time, but we’d have to wait til the following week to see it.

    How times have changed, and for the better! We can hardly get enough of all things Mayo GAA, to which this blog contributes handsomely.

    Can only imagine how people in Sydney must manage, having to stay up til 4am to see the game live and then (maybe) trundling into work afterwards!

  10. Yes, I know, Seanie, but I didn’t live in a city so there weren’t many Irish pubs around, especially in a town that had been scarred by republican violence during the Troubles.

    I was also a child dependent on my non-Mayo father’s goodwill to bring me anywhere 😉

  11. True @ It means Nothing to me.

    I remember thumbing from Mayo to Dublin with a friend for the 1985 all Ireland semi final.
    Thumbed up the day before. I hadn’t much more than 20 pounds with me. We had a couple of pints in Maynooth the night before the match. The couple of pints and I paid for the tickets in to the game all out of the 20 pounds.
    I emigrated to America between the 1st match and the replay. It was a phone call home that informed me how the replay went. No internet then or any place to see the game.
    I watched the 1989 final in the Irish centre in Philadelphia at 10.30am the day of that match. I can still remember some of it well.
    I always think of those abroad on All Ireland final day.

  12. Jesus Willie Joe, your seriously giving McStay a run for his money there!!!. Very nice article. At the end of the day, i couldn’t give a hoot if im not there to see it (if we win) because nobody will.

    Im over come with nerves and excitement today, its actually mental, we are 2 days from been 70 mins away from the Holy Grail. A few short months ago it looked like we’d be years waiting for a chance again. Ive never savoured a build up so much, no hassle over tickets or travel. This is just bliss. A free shot at the title, no pressure, no shite talk of mileage or ‘last chance saloon’ this is a new team and Saturday is a major building block for the young guns no matter the result. I’d say Galway and Rossie folk would sell their souls to be in our position right now! Hon Mayo!!!!!

  13. Revellino, are you still abroad? In the podcast you sound like you are in the thick of north west mayo or Ireland at least!!!! No taming of the accent.

  14. @Revellino:Yes, times have changed alright, and not necessarily for the better in all respects. An All-Ireland ticket (seated) now costs €90 before travelling, programme or a bite to eat comes into the equation. I often wonder how many families who have attended all of the previous games manage to navigate that particular challenge.

    I have been to three All-Ireland finals involving Mayo in recent years (and was lucky to get my hands on a ticket), but in all honesty some years it has just been too much juggling the expense, getting the time off work, the ticket hunt and everything else. And I imagine it is much more difficult for those based in the US or Oz.

    We are lucky to have GAAGO now, relatively cheap flights, this blog and other supports, but some things are hard to replicate over the waves.

    For those 70 minutes, the local Irish pub becomes our home from home, our sanctuary.

  15. Keiran Donaghey said today on OTB that Mayo need to “bring it to the point of fighting but not fighting….controlled aggression” because he said this is what the Dubs do, they play “on the edge”. That’s exactly it in a nutshell. And in fairness, we’ve always played that way too in the finals against them. We’ll need all of it and then some on Saturday.

  16. Hi,

    Apologies again. The above link was meant to be a Darragh O Shea article on Mayo.
    The gist of it is around Lee Keegan and David Clarke. Might try again but maybe someone else can do it?
    I saw it as a Headline on the front page of Irish Times today.

  17. I watched Eir’s preview of the All Ireland with Joe Brolly and Alan Brogan. Jesus it was the worst preview I’ve ever listened to. It was just a discussion about the Dublin. Its on Eir’s Youtube page if any of ye want to put yourselves through the pain.

  18. @ Sinead. You’re correct. The accent is thick like myself. I returned to Ireland at the end of 1991 after six and a half years in America on a one month visa. The passport checker looked at my visa on the passport at Dublin Airport then looked at me and smiled and said ” you’re welcome home “.

    Before I went abroad I had attended St Jarlaths College.
    Padraic Brogan would have been in my class. He came in for 4th and 5th year and won an All Ireland with the school.

    I mention Jarlaths as I see Kevin Mcstays name mentioned quite a bit. Kevin was in Jarlaths when I went there. I went in in 2nd year and Kevin was in either 4th year or 5th year at the time. I have always loved listening to him on the Sunday Game and analysis at the matches. I would say a real gentleman.

    Pat Holmes and Mark Butler were in the year behind me. It was a football mad school.

    Only 2 or 3 times a year we got to go home. On one of these occasions Pat Holmes and myself decided we would thumb from Tuam together. Eventually a car pulled in to give us a lift. It was none other than John Maughan. John was playing with Mayo at the time and on his way to training in Castlebar. John told us if we were not in a rush he might be able to get one of the other Mayo players to give us a lift the rest of our journey if we didn’t mind waiting for the training to finish. Pat Holmes and myself said no problem.

    Low and behold John Maughan cam over to the wire at the endline of the pitch just before the training game started to ask if either of myself or Pat had training gear with us. Pat Holmes had and John asked him if he would mind joining the training to even up the numbers on the teams. Pat would have been maybe 17 at the time.

    After training we were invited to eat with the team. Imagine. Here I was, a scrawny 17 or 18 year old skitter having dinner with the Mayo squad. I think Willie Joe Padden was sitting next to me.

    After the dinner John Maughan had asked another player would he bring us on the rest of our journey. Eugene Mchale was dropping Larry Finnerty to Moygownagh, so we were down from Castlebar with those 2.

    A few times over the years if I had spotted Pat Holmes in a pub I would start waving him over. He would start laughing and say, I know what story you are going to tell me.

    Longwinded I know, but over the years I think back sometimes about my car journey from Tuam to Castlebar with 2 future Mayo Managers and my dinner with Willie Joe Padden and the Mayo team. All True by the way.

  19. Interesting Revellino. I did think at first you wanted to tell a tale!..
    The above Link is okay for the Darragh O Shea article. You just have to scroll down to get it.
    I am nearly an expert now on what Mayo have to do to win. Load of chancers!
    So looking forward to seeing just what will happen.

  20. I say revelhino should be played at fullback on Saturday. He would have the dub forwards all tied up with stories of his travels. Good man Rev.

  21. I’d say he’d have them tied up with more than his stories. Hoosh them into the middle of next week. They wouldn’t know whether they were coming or going!

  22. Great story Revellino. Loved the poem from a previous thread about the coffin nails. You mustn’t be too far from Knockmore/Xmolina if you got a lift from Eugene Mc Hale.

  23. From previous posts I’m guessing Revellino is maybe from Xmolina/Ardagh.
    He was spotted in Pearls a few times.
    And its a quare hawk that wont ate a chicken………..

  24. Thanks for sharing Revellino! That was a good read. You sound like a man who might exchange stories for a pint or two?

  25. Yeah I remember him talking about Pearls last year or year before and I have ardagh/xmolina in the head too.

  26. Pearls!! Many’s the night I was in it or tingles. Anyone else frequent the Oreana? The crescent? Kielys?? No talk about Mayo football in those days like there is today.

  27. Yea are like a shower of detectives. Good detectives. Yes Pearls and Tingles and Long Necks and Candles. There was a few more I was in too that I cannot recall. And the Georgian.

    I’ve climbed Nephin too a few times Nephin and maybe a pinteen or 2 in Leonard’s in Laherdane afterwards.

    I’m from Crossmolina. I live in Galway. My Mayo flag is out on the wall. I danced on the road with it over my head when putting it up the other morning because the neighbour’s were outside. They dearly hope that Mayo could win on Saturday.

    My woman isn’t from Ireland and she thinks I’m posessed any weekend there is a Mayo game. Posessed I tell yea. The football fairies do get a hold of me. The feckers have me now. Oh them football fairies are awful boyos.

  28. New podcast episode is online! This one’s with Kevin McStay. One more episode to come before the final, that one – featuring loads of voices, fans included – will be up tomorrow.

  29. Ah good man Revellino. A bit of a detective in yourself too I see. Hope you enjoyed the pints in Molly’s .

  30. The Friday before the All Ireland in 2017, I was flying from Sydney home for a few days for the final and stopped off in Abu Dhabi to change flights. I had the Mayo jersey on of course and was waiting at the gate to board the next flight when this fella came up to me (looking just as panicky yet excited as I probably was). He says to me ‘Any chance of a ticket for the game. I’m after flying in from Kenya on way to Dublin and just told the wife the day before about leaving’. Another Mayo lunatic of course!
    It would be nice to be home for this but the main thing is we are in the final and we won’t be there to make up the numbers either!. Will be watching from Australia in the early hour, roaring at the tele.

  31. Brilliant stories from everyone here on the blog I remember having a few pints in the Clock in Ballyhaunis watching Mayo playing when I couldn’t get a ticket , wonderful memories with Adrian and Breda Murray owners of the Clock

  32. clare had their own curse after BIDDY EARLYS blue magic bottle went missing , she said that clare would not win an A.I. until the bottle was found . clare did win , but the bottle was never found. it was made known later that BIDDY had only the loan of the bottle and when she died the fairies took the magic bottle back . all is well that ends well . GOOD LUCK to JAMES , CIERIAN, and TEAM on sat. I AM quietly confidend.

  33. Wonderful stuff there Revelino. Don’t think you would get those lifts now, or the access to the players. Sitting beside Willie Joe if you don’t mind!

  34. Sinead – haven’t and won’t listen to Brolly and co. But that’s exactly what suits us. The last thing we want is the likes of Brolly talking us up, or any other big name pundit for that matter.

    I’m trying to recall a no-hoper win, and the one I recall is Galway beating us in 2016 in the Connaught semifinal. Remember the famous article by Jim Carney in the Tuam Herald beforehand? Something to the effect that Galway football was dead, Aido would beat them on his own, and so on. Mayo’s dominance in Connaught was seen as a real problem. Still, Kevin Walsh wasn’t reading that script; they dogged us, got a lucky goal, and worked like dogs to hold out. Rochy still had to impose his style on the set up, I recall Aido and Tony McEntee shouting at each other on the pitch (McEntee did spend a lot of time on the pitch during his stint with us).

    The point is that any team can be got at. Dessie is a new manager. How will he handle a crisis, make the right calls and so on?

    I’m sure James is burning the midnight oil on these issues – as we blog!

  35. 1st half 2017 final, cluxtons kick outs are in meltdown, there’s a smell of sulphur in the air, Jason Sherlock is doing more running on and off the field to bring messages to “Cluko” than some of the players, he does it one time too many and Chrissy Barret puts him on his arse with a shoulder. If we never win the fecken thing I’ll still treasure memories like that.

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