Up Mayo no matter where you go. Isn’t that what they say? I haven’t been doing much hupping for my county this week at all. In fact, it’s been the complete opposite for me. You see, I work in an office that is bombarded with Dubs and work for a website that focuses on all things Dublin.
When writing about the ticket fiasco this week – and we will get back to that, don’t you worry – I had to write it from the view that “disappointed Dubs were left heartbroken” as they were without tickets. Secretly hoping that every ticket that didn’t go into the hands of a Dub was sailing into the postbox or email address of a Green and Red fan.
Dublin Live has an amazing GAA preview show called ‘To The Hill and Back’ hosted by two of the Irish Mirror’s most talented writers. Given the week that was in it, I got the call up to join them for this week’s video.
Two instructions: Go to St. Mark’s GAA club in Tallaght and bring a Mayo jersey.
I’m thinking Tallaght … wearing a Mayo jersey as some of the biggest Blue heads turn up to talk about how they were going to beat us.
I’ll have a bit of that.
I was quizzed on team selection, match-ups, fitness and fatigue. In a room full of Dubs, I was the only Mayo person or so I thought. After we thanked the club for having us, one of the members pointed to the bar manager and said “She’s one of yours too”.
“Where are you from in Mayo?” she asks.
“Ah, you probably wouldn’t know it” is always my answer.
(I come from a village that’s nestled somewhere in between the triangle of Tourmakeady, Killawalla and Westport).
“Try me”, she replies.
Know it? Didn’t she only come from the next village up. Knew my father, mother, extended family and was even a bar person in our local pub and served my parents drinks before she exiled up to Dublin almost 30 years ago. There’s something truly great about that and straight away I felt more at ease in that clubhouse bar, knowing that there was another Mayonian to back me up in any argument that may arise.
One of us is loud, two of us are better but thousands of us are unstoppable.
The Donegal game was electric. I haven’t seen the place like that in years. We rallied behind the team when needed and when that final whistle went, it was an explosion of sound.
Well, when I looked back on The Sunday Game, I realised how loud it was. At the time, I was too busy banging on my chest like a deranged lunatic and trying not to be bowled over by my friends and an auld lad who was watching the game in front of us. He had nobody to hug but one of my friends made sure that he dragged him into the huddle that we were having. It’s a beautiful moment of affection that cannot be beaten.
And the cheers kept going as we spilled out of MacHale Park right up until we watched what would be dubbed The Coma in Omagh.
It had to be Dublin, both Mayo and Dublin fans wanted this to happen and you can imagine that it’s exactly what the GAA’s wildest of dreams looks like. (Promise we’ll get to the tickets soon).
Why Dublin fans wanted it to happen? I can’t speak for all Dubs but from the many I have talked to, they weren’t going to be content with clinching the five-in-a-row without coming up against their old enemies.
In their eyes, they wanted Kerry and Mayo. It didn’t matter in what order but if they were to truly solidify their place as the greatest ever to have played, rather than just sit on par with the four-in-a-row Kerry team of the 70s into 80s, they wanted to do it while settling scores with old rivals.
Why Mayo fans wanted it to happen? We just don’t fear the Dubs. Sure, we could have gotten Tyrone and had a somewhat easier – and I use the word easier lightly – task of getting through. But we don’t like easy, if it was easy we were after, sure we would have done it by now.
If this was a superhero movie, Dublin would be the evil bad guy and Mayo would be the fan favourite who was left for almost certain death mid-way through the story. Everyone knows how film writers would pen this one and it’s the same outcome Mayo fans would hope for Saturday: the hero would rise from the dead and stop the bad guy in their tracks just at the final scene.
We are going into this game the way we would want to go into it, with nobody giving us a prayer. I remember looking at teletext before the ’06 final and reading the preview of the game before scrolling my eyes to the verdict. Mayo. Straight away I knew we were destined to fail that day.
We love the underdog tag and long live the underdog. There’s nobody thinking about an All-Ireland final yet. Hell, there’s nobody even thinking past the first half of the Dublin game yet. We’re not shouting it but we know we can beat the Dubs.
We have one thing over this current magnificent batch of players that nobody else has. They fear us.
We have never once gave them an easy ride in Championship. It’s always been down the wire, with players in fifth gear and calling on the reserve tank.
Sure, they’ll be looking at final records and remembering their medals in their back pocket from those tight encounters. But what about 2012? What about 2006? We can beat Dublin and we can beat them in Croke Park, let’s not forget that.
They haven’t been tested properly once this year with the exception, perhaps, of the first 55 minutes of the Cork game. They’ve slipped in and out of The Coma in Omagh so let’s shock them back into life with the defibrillator and let them know that they’ve met their match. Half of the effort will come from the players but the other half has to come from us.
And that brings us on to the tickets. It’s a farce of a system and this is how farcical it is. I waited in an online queue for five hours on Tuesday. I was number 1000 and something, relatively close to the top or so I thought when I started at 10am. 3pm comes, queue is paused. “No more tickets”.
The GAA Director of Communications is on RTE Radio 1 the next morning saying that it was a “big, big ask of the system” and they didn’t expect there to be such a high demand. For the love and honour. If an alien came down and asked you to explain the last five years of GAA football history and you told him who was playing on Saturday, even they would have the common sense to realise the “demand would be high”.
Fast forward 24 hours, with no prior heads-up from the GAA or any ticketing partner, more go on sale.
This time, I queue at 10am but I’m launched into purchasing them within an hour. My good friend John Brennan had skipped in before me and got a group of us tickets but I still bought a few myself and dished them out to Mayo fans. As I said earlier, for every ticket not heading in the direction of a Jackeen …
It’s completely unfair on the ‘real fans’. I’m talking about the ones who were soaked watching FBD games, frozen watching league games, who travelled to Down, Limerick, Kerry.
I don’t even fall under that category. With my line of work, there’s just some weekends you can’t get off. I wasn’t at the Kerry game, I couldn’t get the Armagh game off. I was at half the league games and one FBD. It’s only right that someone who has been to more games than me deserves first preference when it comes to a game like this and same for me for someone who has been to fewer games than I have.
To those who are going to miss the game, roar loud from whatever electronic device you may be following the game on. To those with a ticket, I don’t want to meet one Mayo person after the game who can talk.
As my housemate and I travelled back up from Mayo at the end of the Bank Holiday, we made sure we had the Mayo flag up with us. Here it is.
Much like the size of the dog, it doesn’t matter about how big the flag is, it’s about where you hang it.
And right proudly high over Dublin town, we hung out that flag of war.