I’ve been meaning to give this one another mention before now but I got sucked into the pre-Christmas vortex over the last few days and I’m only now starting to see a clear path towards the big day itself. Better late than never, I guess.
I’d also planned to do a proper review of this ahead of Christmas – this being James Laffey’s book Will Galway Beat Mayo? – but all this running around over the past week and more means that I’m still working my way through it. Which, by the way, I’m quite happy to do, as this is a book that deserves to be consumed at a leisurely pace.
The core topic of the book is, as the title suggests, the 1960s rivalry between ourselves and the neighbours but its arc takes in way more than this. In footballing terms it starts way back in the Twenties, moving at a fair gallop through the decades until it reaches those shuddering clashes between the two counties in the Sixties.
Along the way, James stitches into his developing story many of the great characters – from both sides of the fence – of the era. One of James’ great attributes as a writer is his journalistic nose for a good story and, from the bit I’ve read so far, there are plenty of good yarns recounted between the covers here.
In collecting so many first-hand accounts, James has also performed a valuable service in preserving these voices for posterity. The sad passing recently of Joe Corcoran underscores this point, as Joe features extensively in the book and it was to James that the Ardnaree maestro gave his final interview.
The book also ranges well beyond football, touching on themes of rural depopulation and emigration, which loomed so large in those decades right across the west of Ireland. As such, it often reads as a social history of the times, one where big Gaelic football matches provides rare flashes of glamour and excitement.
Much of that period is brought vividly to life by the dozens of photographs the book includes, many of which are being published for the first time. It’s worth buying for the pictures alone.
Those of you still dashing around like headless chickens wondering what on earth you might get for the Mayo GAA nut who’s near and dear to you could do a whole load worse than picking up a copy of this cracking book. But, in truth, you don’t need an excuse like Christmas to go out and get it – anyone who is vaguely interested in the world of Mayo GAA should have a copy on their bookshelves.
“Will Galway Beat Mayo?” is available in all local bookshops in Mayo and Galway, as well as at Dubray on Grafton Street in Dublin and online at www.mayobooks.ie.