Mayo, God help us!

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I was sitting in the world’s largest shopping mall, surrounded by people from every corner of the world, speaking a multitude of tongues and all I could think about was a field in North Dublin city. I said to myself: “I don’t care what it takes, but I’ll be in Dublin on the third Sunday in September.”

East Mayo in the early 1980s was grey, in my mind’s eye. Glamour was sadly absent and most summer days had a low sky, glowering and dirty, like sheep’s wool caught on barbed wire. But, whenever I think of the championship back then, I see searingly hot summers days; when I would tramp the hay on the back of a trailer, while the neighbours didn’t so much throw the hay up as forcibly suggest it should make its way up.

While the men sucked on tepid bottles of beer, I would listen to the distorted crackling on the wireless of Mayo’s latest foray into the Championship. In those summer days, buoyed by the disconcerting enthusiasm of the commentator, I thought Mayo would beat anyone. Padden, Kilgallen, Brogan – who could resist them?

Sadly, it being the 80s; Galway and Roscommon could. And did. The few trips back to Castlebar (only home games, mind – what was the point in wasting precious petrol going any further?) sent us home as tattered and forlorn as our crêpe hats with the soggy cardboard peak.

The air of resignation was all pervading; not even the thrill of seeing the lads on TV in 1985 made up for it. Although, to be fair, it helped – the exoticism of men from down the road in colour, with the vainglorious red and green wrapped around their chests, was almost impossible to take.

But, for me and for most of the country, Mayo was a land of rocks and bog; useless and pointless, belonging to another world. Then college arrived and it dawned on me that Mayo was not only as valid, worthwhile and deserving as the rest of the country, but immeasurably more so in most cases.

A summer in New York, where my introduction as a Mayoman to the older emigrants elicited the invariable response “Mayo, God help us!” It was with a jolt that I realised that we had been known for years as a cause for pity – admittedly, more for our desperate battle to survive famines and poverty than our inability to kick straight – but one that seemed wholly fitting.

Then, no more than how an Irish accent became a blessing rather than a curse around the world, so Mayo too became a hipster. Trainloads of boozy Dubs, braying stale jokes as if they had personally crafted them with Brendan Behan, and a blight of bungalows told its own tale.

But still. We discovered that we weren’t the poor baby-aytin’ cousins any more, and put the majority of teams to the sword – or, at the least, coaxed them into imitating our own bad habits. Some stunning victories followed – Kerry ‘96; Tyrone ‘04; Dublin ‘06 and ‘12; only for us to almost inevitably drown publicly. The public evisceration was one thing – the badly hidden confidence (in Donegal’s case) and outright smug assuredness (in Kerry’s) was harder to take. Because they were right. I always knew they were. Hope they weren’t; but that’s all, hoped.

I won’t say this year is different. Just that when the rest of the country say that they want to see long-suffering Mayo finally get their just rewards, they have no idea what it would mean to the people of the county itself.

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This isn’t just a game. This is the most public expression of who we are. We’ve taken the blows and the Brollys and we haven’t backed down. At last, an opportunity to look the country in the eye; and say that we, more than anyone, prove that if at first you don’t succeed…

And when the levee breaks, as it will; I intend to be there, heart swelling and voice croaking, to say I kept the faith.

23 thoughts on “Mayo, God help us!

  1. Awesome article thanks. That’s who we are proud of our county and each other and always remember …THEY NEVER GOT US DOWN!!!

  2. As a long sideline viewer to this brilliant forum , I feel today , two days before the biggest match of our lives I had get off the blocks and thank each and every one of you for the excellent exhilarating reading that has kept me more than entertained for the last few years , I’m a blow in to the northwest married to a die hard Mayo fan , I come from a county that wears Marron & White and it’s not Galway, all I can say the match were both sides met was great craic in our house ! , I like my husband live for the gaa , we travel the length and breath supporting the green and red army , we are currently Enroute to collect Sam , my family reside in the lake county and we are getting ahead of the traffic !!, speaking of traffic just a heads up to you all, we have been sitting in traffic as a result of road works in balinlack, for over 15 mins , it’s a lights system with tail back from the dublin side about 2 miles …. Expect bedlam on Sunday, and that’s before we take to the field , the car is awash with red and green , the poor kids look like smarties in the Back of the car covered in the sacred colours , here’s to the Heros that are Mayo , let’s all play our part , I intend to be hoarse by 5 pm , keep the faith
    Cmon Mayo

  3. Great post,
    Mayo have been a wonderful team this past half decade but they have had too many weaknesses to to get it over the line when the iron was white and ready for the blow. This year I like the cameos certain forwards have played and they have left their sent on the field of play, they have dangerous unpredictability and you can’t buy that.

    The dubs are no fools but they definitely are vulnerable to a sucker punch with the rediculously hype pouring from every mouth and off every print sheet. Are Dublin going to win the best of three?? Absolutely they are and if anyone deludes themselves otherwise they need to reload the crack pipe. But this time is not the second or third this is the First and this is the reason that I think ye have absolutely every chance of catching them. Be within three points at half time and it will be there for ye, do ye have the hurt and plan,, Christ I can feel it here in Kerry,.

    The referee doesn’t live or work in Dublin but I’m sure they have managed to get at least one of the Three Amigos as the fourth official or on the sideline so the Mayo lads will have to be disciplined as the dubs are like a premiership team and to be fair they are generating fortunes for the coffers of the GAA, money talks and buls**t walks…

  4. yea — Mayo God help us, but some times you have to help yourself. If I had a word of

    advice to offer the players it would be this; You can respect the Dublin players. They

    deserve that. But they are no bigger or stronger or fitter than you. So you need to win

    your individual battles. Yes and- maybe even dig out a team mate who is not fully on

    top of it. Life is not fair. You will need to keep focused right to the last minute. You will

    need to keep your head when all about you are losing their`s. You will have to go

    through hell and high water next Sunday to prevail. You may even have to take

    chances youvè never done before in your game. No body has said this is going to be

    easy. Good luck. May God direct you all. But me thinks this time you will have to help

    yourselves.

  5. Nice post evergreen and red, the last sentence is the truest word these players will ever hear. They will have to just help themselves.

  6. The Mayo God help us is supposed to have originated in the first golden era of Mayo football between 1935 and 1937 when Mayo went 57 competitive games without defeat. When teams were asked : Who are you playing and the response was: Mayo, God help us. Unfortunately our history has put a construction of pity on it since the second golden era of the late 1940s and the early 1950s. Let’s hope that the current era will restore the pride of the distant past.
    Incidentally in referencing the 1980s how did you omit the Connacht semi final of 1981 when peerless Willie Nally almost singlehandedly defeated an almost unbackable Galway team fresh from a National League triumph. If he had another forward to assist Jimmy Burke Galway would have been beaten back to Tuam before half time. For me that was one of the most high holy days of Mayo football in the many lean years since 1951. A display of the same steel and defiance on Sunday would hopefully end the famine.

  7. Lookit. Bring the biggest green and red flag you can get. Maybe a 12 foot x 6. Or 24 x 12. Better still 48 foot x 24. Even better again 96 x 48. !!!!

    No point in wasting your money buying them owl wrist band things or them owl things that hang around your neck. Do you think the players will see them ropey things from the pitch if you are in row Z of the Cusack. Remember, God gave ya two hands so a flag in each one.

    Flares with green and red smoke. Green and red balloons. Somebody mentioned bringing a bugle or some sort of horn blowing thing.

    A giant Mayo flag if you are on the Hill and have a few foot soldiers to help you unfurl it. All of this and a 78 minute long roar like some army fella barking out orders.

    Horan has mentioned it. Andy Moran referred to it. Rochford has brought it up. The support or lack of it is noticed by the players. Please please please if you are lucky enough to have a ticket, would you bring colour and noise.

  8. Liosmeadhran,
    Really good piece. No harm to let you loose with the pen. Following and supporting Mayo is not our burden. It’s our heritage, nay, our privilege. It’s our default setting. We know no other way. I’ve been doing it since my late father brought me to my first match in Castlebar in the summer of sixty-nine. Apart from college summers spent navvying in the north-west of England during the late seventies I’ve missed very few games at home or away. I don’t need the Sam Maguire as reward or justification. But, boy, it would be great.
    If it’s not to be, however, well at least I’ve passed the love of red and green on to the next generation. My three daughters have willingly and without coercion grasped the baton and would go to hell and back in support of the team they are so proud to call their own.

  9. Great article and very apt.
    Everyone seems to be saying we have to play the game of our lives. Maybe not! In fact all we have to do is play a little bit better than the Dubs and get one point more than them. That and maybe a bit of luck as well. There’s no guarantee Dublin will be as exhilarating as the hype suggests.
    The most important thing for our lads is to focus on doing the basics really well. All Irelands are generally won by the team that can perform these for the 70+ minutes of the game. Great feats of heroism and athleticism are mostly for storybooks and any player attempting to go this route will almost invariably come unstuck. Like most championship games it’s mostly a hard old grind and not a glamorous show at all. In practice it means very hard work, very few mistakes or daft decisions and keeping the headeen throughout no matter what occurs. Very simple really?

  10. Jim flag, you are right,the players do notice. I got a private message on Facebook from someone whose opinion we would all take heed of but I can’t say who it is now and he confirmed what you say and agrees with what I’m trying to do.

  11. Only started looking at this blog recently. Some great pieces to whet the appetite for Sunday….
    Got lucky enough to get my greasy paws on a ticket and have never looked forward to an all Ireland involving Mayo as much in my life. Something special is brewing here, this one just feels different to previous occasions. Totally written off, drifting out in the bookies, no nailed starting team, no predictable style of play or tactics etc etc.
    Dublin i’ve no doubt feel very confident and have a plan in place to seize the day but everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. The men in blue may be getting some of this (metaphorically or not) very quickly after throw in!!!

  12. Liosmeadhran, I enjoyed your piece and your memories mirror that of my own. A shared history and values is what keeps us all close. Read that piece by Gamechanger10 a few times before Sunday’s big game, there is a real gem in there I believe, see if you can spot it.

  13. Eamon Dunphy on Late Late tonight… ‘Enda Kenny’s not big in Europe..he’s not big in America…he’ll be big in Mayo if they win on Sunday, but that’s not gonna happen’.

  14. Eamon who…what would he know about real football. That piece above is stirring and makes me proud to have that green and red coursing my veins. I too am proud that my daughter is as passionate and more though we live in the wilds of Carlow…she is Mayo to the core and loves this team…Maigheo go doe…

  15. @AxleM are you living in carlow town ? I’m down here too , nice to know there is a few of us floating about a town crowded with dubs haha

  16. Liosmeadhran, what a classy bunch of words …a joy to read! Congratulations. In fact Im dazzled by all the goings on in the site…everyone’s hitting the high spots with their comments.Im cleansed after the Al Porter night in the Linenhall! Some boyo him.
    That usual thump in the chest is back as I think forward to the moment when the final whistle will sound. It will be the end of a terrible era.
    An end to goalies near drowning in the canal.

    An end to long slow lazy red tail light convoys snaking back into the county!
    No more will we hear ‘just not good enough”
    An end to all curses.

    An end to ” Ah! they would nt kick a herrin off a tongs”
    An end to ‘ next year!’
    An end to ’65 f—-n years ! ‘
    An end to sittin behind the canal end goal for a half hour stunned wondering what happened.

    An end to hearts dragging and bumping along on the cobble stones.

    An end to all ifs,buts, maybes, coulds and almosts.
    An end to “Mayo!! They ll never win nauthin” and ‘they just don’t have it’
    And no more ‘here we go agains’!!!!!!!
    Or ‘ me poor father always said’

    On Sun we ll be first to the ball as often as possible and get into our possession as much broken dirty ball as pos.We ll scramble through barbed wires nettles briars and mires to do so and thus will the rest of the story unfold. This is it for this year. Next year it ll be easier having broken that sixty five year old jinx!!!
    Step up Mayo!!! You can do it …heads down, eyes up and away ye go,hup hup, and we ll see ye Monday evening in McHale, decked out in your span new champions outfits!!

  17. Llosmeadhran ye definitely have a talent for writing. Best image for me is Led Zeppelin’s when the levee breaks. All he’ll is going to break loose in Mayo. We can blast that song to Dublin and beyond to the four corners of the earth. I’m going to bottle that and remember right throughout the game the levee is going to break. We the 16th man woman and child gonna make that happen.

  18. Bill Connolly. Was at that 1981 game v Galway. It was the first time I saw Mayo deliver a really big performance in Championship. Willie Nally had an unbelievable first half. Caught everything. He tired in the second half and was replaced by Willie Joe. If memory serves me right Jimmy Burke and Jimmy Lyons got the goals and we won by 2 8 to 1 9. Beat Sligo handily in Conn Final and then my first time in Croker to see Mayo. Despite a reasonable first half, we were hammered by Kerry and failed to score in 2nd half. I don’t think I have missed many Mayo games since and hopefully tomorrow will be present to see history.

  19. What a emotively written article.My dad,Louis Brennan,from Kiltimagh saw Mayo win in 1950 and ’51 and often said he’d never see them win again in his lifetime.Years were spent in London and joining men and children all gathered around a telegraph pole ,acting as an aerial to get the best reception,in Gladstone Park,off Cricklewood Broadway,so as to hear the GAA games on the radio from Ireland on many a Sunday,in the ’70’s.Not to mention the police that would stop by,alarmed at the crowds gathered.Then off to Dollis Hill to celebrate or drown their sorrows.
    The family are now on their way over from Ireland from London,let’s hope it’s our day tomorrow.Lou Brennan

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