Ten years, ten posts

The final part of the blog’s tenth birthday celebrations is a retrospective on how the Mayo GAA story has been covered here for the last decade.

Ten years of chronicling this story from my perspective has involved the creation of a whole pile of posts – 2,722 by me to be exact, as well as 177 guest pieces – in turn spawning thousands upon thousands of comments (74,619 at the last count). Words, words – so many words.

In putting together a retrospective on ten years of the blog, the notion came to me that the best way to do this might be by letting these posts speak for themselves. Not all of them – though browse away at your heart’s content – but instead a sample, one for each year of the blog’s existence.

The ten I’ve picked for this purpose aren’t what I’d think are the ten best pieces I’ve written here, nor are they necessarily the most read nor can I claim that they were the ones best received. But they do stand as contemporaneous cameos of the last ten years of the evolving Mayo GAA story, one that is, in my case, intertwined with the story of the blog’s development.

Most, though not all, of the posts I’ve chosen focus on matches. Boiled down to its essence, an obsession about Mayo GAA is all about the action on the field. Here, then, is my pick of ten posts from the ten years I’ve spent at the keyboard, and in the stands, on the blog.

2007: this was where it all began. It was at a different web address (as I was using Google’s Blogger platform back then), it wasn’t even called the Mayo GAA Blog at that stage, as it started life instead as a place called Green and Red. But it was on the first day of February in 2007 that I put the first stake in the ground and I did so here.

2008: the county got to Croke Park in 2007, first for the League final and then, later on that year, for the ladies All-Ireland final. We lost both. But the first time I took my blogging alter ego to Croke Park on All-Ireland final day came in September 2008. There, on the day that Tyrone won a memorable senior final against Kerry, our minors came within a fingertip of capturing the Tom Markham Cup in the minor decider. The thoughts I penned on that drawn final with Tyrone are here.

2009: it was three years before I got to write about a Connacht final win but it finally happened in July 2009. Not before some last-minute dramatics, though, when Michael Meehan goaled late on to level the match for the Tribesmen, only for Peadar Gardiner to snatch victory for us in sensational fashion deep in injury time. When I eventually calmed down afterwards, I wrote about it all here.

2010: a bleak year for us, one that saw us endure the ignominy of Round 1 qualifier defeat to Longford before the month of July had even begun. Further indignity seemed on the horizon a few months later as the search for a new Mayo manager neared its conclusion. Then, late in the day, James Horan declared his candidacy and my unabashed plea for him to be appointed to the job is here.

2011: nobody gave us a chance of beating Cork in the quarters in 2011. Joe Brolly was patronisingly dismissive of our chances and even the famed Mayo support wasn’t much in evidence at Croke Park that wet and wonderful afternoon on which James Horan’s charges announced their arrival on the national scene. I gushed about it all afterwards here.

2012: I’d been there for the All-Ireland final defeats of 1989, 1996, 1997, 2004 and 2006 but up until this I’d never had to go home, compose my thoughts and write a piece for public consumption about it. It hurt like hell to do this and you can read it here.

2013: it wasn’t just the sultry mid-twenties temperatures that made 2013 All-Ireland final day so strange and other worldly. We lost – yet again – in the senior final and the anguish of doing so overshadowed completely the transitory joy we’d all experienced earlier in the afternoon as the minors swept to victory in their final over Tyrone. I said then that this victory would increase in importance for us as time went by and I think that the passage of time since has shown this to be true. What it felt like on the day itself is recorded here.

2014: there’s pain, there’s real pain and then there’s Limerick. Even now, I shudder at it all. I’m not sure how I managed to get anything at all down in writing after it was over but I did, clacking manically on the keyboard as we made our disconsolate way back up the N7. God, it was ghastly and you can relive it here.

2015: beating Dublin in the semi-final back in 2012 was a big day for us but the way we came back from the dead to snatch a draw in the 2015 semi was something else entirely. With ten minutes to go we looked dead and buried but somehow we summoned from within us the ability to rise. We nearly bloody beat them at the finish and the blog was fairly rocking that night and all the next day as well. My match report on that one is here.

2016: another All-Ireland final, this one a two-part one, as the lads emulated their predecessors from twenty years ago, though, sadly, ending up by sharing the same fate, losing out in the replay by a single point. But 2016 did see another All-Ireland title won by the county, with the U21s sweeping to victory in memorable fashion down in Ennis at the end of April. I happily knocked back the best part of a bottle of rather nice red wine later that night as I captured my thoughts a great Mayo day. What I wrote then is here.   

That’s the lot – ten years, loads of memories from each of them. I had a notion when thinking about the blog’s tenth birthday that I’d run this retrospective series for weeks or even months but the more I thought about it, the more I realised this was an idea that simply wouldn’t fly.

While sporting events that have taken place in the past are nice to reminisce about, the real magic of sport is the undiscovered promise of what lies ahead. It’s only right, then, to wrap up this retrospective in one go, then box it all away and clear the decks ahead of Saturday’s League opener.

The challenge that awaits: that’s where our focus needs to be now. Enough of looking back – time to look forward to what 2017 might hold for us.

48 thoughts on “Ten years, ten posts

  1. Read that 2011 article just now. Ready to tackle the day now. A real wild unleash the Mayo man to that article 🙂

  2. I’ve only read the first one so far but looking forward to getting into the rest after work. God we thought we had a long list of all Ireland defeats in 2007. Who would have thought that we could manage another 3 in the next 10 years. Agh!! But I’d still take those defeats rather than have nothing. The fun, the hope and the excitement of the last 6 years. Proud of our lads. I think I’ll be able to make a whole day out of this post.

  3. 2011 was one of the great days in Croke Park. The crowd that day was absolutely pathetic. 22k between ourselves, limerick, Cork and Kerry. And a scattering of neutrals and stragglers thrown in

    Brolly predicted cork would “annihilate” us that day. Many mayo people predicted the same. I nearly felt stupid telling people I was travelling to the match such was the negative reaction I got!

    A friend of mine always says it started when Aidan nailed Noel O’Leary. And gazed down at him. “I’m not afraid of you, now get up and we’ll see what happens next”

    22 minutes in I think it was. The rebirth of Mayo football!

  4. It sure was, Mark! Another element in the rebirth occurred that day too – our final sub introduced was Lee Keegan, who came on for Richie Feeney in injury time. That was Lee’s first championship appearance for us, though his full championship debut didn’t happen until the following’s year Connacht semi-final against Leitrim.

  5. Very unusual to make your championship debut in an All-Ireland Quarter Final that was hanging in the balance! Was it a case of us having a lot of injuries, or was it just that this new fresh faced guy who had never played for Mayo at any level was raising eyebrows at training?

    Massive kudos to James Horan and his team on that one.


  6. Lee only came on as final sub in injury time that day, Mark – the result was in the bag by then so I think it was just a case of giving him a quick run-out. Trevor Mortimer (playing half-back) got injured early on against Kerry in the semi and Lee replaced him, playing very well (and scoring a point) in the process. The rest is history.

  7. God that day in 2011 was sweet. So, so sweet. It was the start of much bigger things for us and it felt exactly like that. I didn’t know a tenth of the Mayo crew that I know now and as was typical at the time, remember making my way across the city solo to that game on the No. 16 bus. An oul fella started laughing and shaking his head when he saw me getting on. He said “at least you’ll get the day out anyway”. And what a day it was. I was sitting beside an elderly gent from Kerry and he was every bit as delighted as I was!

    “Did I forget to say: fuck you, Joe Brolly?” 😀

  8. Plenty of emotions there. Some great memories and some poignant ones too.

    Watched the 2011 match at work with my Mayo boss and nearly went through the TV with pride!
    Reading about 2013 triumph and the optimism we had after the great minor victory, the mention of Darragh Doherty’s goal, a bright future…
    2014 relay from Electric Picnic I shared earphones with a dear friend who just under a year ago left us so suddenly

    It puts fire in the belly, revs us up for another tilt and a reminder to embrace what we had, what we have and what we can do in the future. We might aswell enjoy the ride because we don’t know what’s around the corner..

    Maigh Eo Abú

  9. I remember that photo from Electric Picnic Banm – it was such a great capture of a moment in time – and I’m so sorry to hear about your friend.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments – enjoy the journey, appreciate what we have and milk the good days for all they’re worth.

  10. Banm, was that picture from Elec Picnic of you and your pal?

    Sorry to hear about your loss 🙁

  11. 2011 v Cork is up there with 2006 v Dublin as my favourite day in Croker.
    We were no hopers, even among a lot of our own people. We had a bad start and I’m sure Brolly was chuckling to himself at soft, naive Mayo!
    Boys became men that day, and they laid down a marker – this was the start of a new era for Mayo football.
    The pints went down very well and very easy that evening 🙂

  12. I think Cork 2011 could only be eclipsed by winning the whole damn thing. Very special day. I was in the Davin with Dad and there were two teenage bucks about 15 seats away. We were the only four people in our section and could easily chat away at different junctures in the game. By the second half we were screeching across at each other and then at full-time there was this sort of daft group hug thing with everyone delirious.
    I do remember going back to my own place afterwards and having no one really to talk to about it, and reading Willie Joe’s report about four or five times – just lapping it up. It’s just an outstanding bit of writing that nailed the shit out of what we’d all been through, so much so that it itself was a notable memory from that day.

  13. Brilliant memories WJ and further evidence of how blessed we are to have this wonderful resource, it’s an absolute godsend for people like me who live outside the county – a place to go to drown our collective sorrows and to celebrate those great days out.

    Cork 2011 could become the Mayo version of the GPO. I put my hand up and admit that i wasn’t there, one of the very few Croker days I’ve missed.

    My favourite memory would be the 2012 semi-final win over the Dubs and the way The Green and Red of Mayo rang around Croker after that great victory. 2006 was a similarly great day against the Dubs but it’s just outside the scope of this blog.

    Limerick will always rankle as will the final losses, particularly the two to the Dubs as both were very winnable.

  14. I remember I made a very bullish post on Facebook in advance of the 2011 Cork game, Spillane the clown had said that mayo football had “Junk Status”. We had escaped from London and then played two games in awful conditions against Galway and the Rossies but it was clear to me that we were going the right direction. It was clear to another member of this blog Mayomark who texted me at the final whistle “I knew it , I knew it , I was right and I love it when I am right ” ( or something along those raving lines ) and sure he was right !

    Some journey , it has been amazing , we owe the players and the various managers a large debt for all the joy they have brought us. Unfortunately we cannot give them what they want, they’ll have to go out and take that for themselves in 2017.

    And Willie Joe may your quill never run dry.

  15. No, JP, Trevor started that game (and I’ve just realised now checking the match report on it that he finished it too) – Lee actually came on for Richie Feeney, midway through the second half. Funny how your mind lodges incorrect facts in your head: I always thought Lee came on early for Trevor in that one.

    Just for you, All the Way, I took a small bit of video in the Hogan Stand right after the final whistle sounded in the 2012 semi-final (it’s here). Enjoy!

  16. So many occasions this Mayo team has given us over the years, it’s almost impossible to identify a clean winner. Each time, either the joy was amplified or the pain numbed by the descriptive posts and the informed comments. But one of my favourite posts was immediately after that awful day in Longford in June 2010. That day WJ, you did not hold back, you said what needed to be said and you nailed it.

  17. I read the article earlier about our minor All-Ireland defeat in 2008. I can still almost picture it in my head now when we had the ball in a very advanced position but we made a mess of it and Tyrone came down the field to get the equaliser and they went on to win the replay. It was a real hard luck story for Mayo that day and you know what, for some of those players, they have continued in that vain since then. Players like Robbie Hennelly and Kevin Keane etc.

    On the other hand in 2013 our minors did manage to beat Tyrone and they then backed that up last year with the U21 win. So their story has been one of good things happening since the 2013 break-through. It will be interesting to see if the good luck story continues into the senior ranks for these players.

    While on the other hand you’d wonder if Aidan O’Shea etc. had won in 2008, would they have found it easier to get over the line in later years when playing for the U21s and the seniors. It’s something to think about anyway as some of those minors from 2013 graduate into our senior team in the coming years.

  18. Thanks WJ – what a service !! and what a memory to revisit and a tribe to belong to, stirs the blood all over again. Oh for one more rendition on the 17th of September !!

  19. Trevor was an injury doubt and the talk was Lee would step in but clearly Trevor ended up cleared. Alright, ya funny with things lodging incorrectly.

  20. 2011, I was there but my Cork neighbour said he would wait for the semi-final. He hasn’t been to Croker since!

  21. Thanks, Bohola – I was torn between that one (which is here) and the one about James’ appointment for 2010. The Longford one might have been more appropriate (if only to emphasise just how far we’ve come since then) but I’ve always felt that a decisive turning point came with James’ appointment. No more than Waterloo, the outcome in relation to the manager’s appointment then was a bit of a close-run thing – three days or so beforehand it looked a racing certainty that Tommy Lyons would get the job.

  22. Great detail in those yearly blogs Willie Joe. Takes me back to the actual matches. I have a proposition for all bloggers on this site. It is, that when Mayo finally win the All-Ireland all will meet in person in Castlebar for the home coming. I find this site a great source for info as i’m based here in Dublin, not too far from yourself Willie Joe !.

  23. The good, the bad and the ugly (yes limerick take a stand!) all there WJ and all kept alive by this life support system fondly known as ‘themayogaablog’. It continues to be a monumental journey that we have happily shared over those ten years and more! Another highlight for me was that day we refused to back down against Kerry in the league semi final in croke park 2012 (2-15 to 1-17) colm Boyle scored a goal that day of sheer grit and determination, beating our old foes felt like an important step up for the team and management!

  24. Great site and very knowledgable posters.

    Aside can someone confirm if Mayo v Monaghan is live sat evening? According to my sky planners it’s not and it’s deferred coverage.

  25. 2011 was one sweet day for sure. The fact that there was only 23000 souls from 4 counties tells its own tale. Winning Sam would be the only thing that tops that. We’ve become used to challenging at this stage. Winning it is the next step.

  26. Brilliant memories, well some brilliant and some distressing as I read through those reports. 2011 really was brilliant and did I rub it in to those Mayo people who stayed at home before jumping on the bandwagon later. 2014 in Limerick was the worst I was utterly distraught not just because we lost and the ref was worse than brutal, but then JH retired and to rub in the salt Donegal beat the dubs the following day I am convinced we would have won the final that year. In fairness I didnt expect to be back in semis and finals so quickly but fair play to the team, theyre a resilient bunch something like the supporters. And so it all starts again on Saturday.

  27. I read all the posts until late last night.what memories we’re privledged to have.
    Being transported back to Limerick in 2014 brought a tear again not for myself but for those young men who gave it everything they had in them and the injustices dished out to them is still heartbreaking. The claw back in semi’s to level with Dubs in 2015 and my memory of Andy jumping in the air with clenched fist. Joy to behold!!But being in Ennis with my young lad last April to see our 21’s jump to glory made my heart skip a beat. Pure joy.Cant wait to experience that feeling in Croke Park and we will. Oct 1st last a day to forget. Makes me too too sad again not for myself but for those terrific guys who’s commitment to keep coming back is just incredible.
    As I said before W.J.this is a terrific blog a place we can all as Mayo people be ourselves and express feelings and facts and heal without cynicism.it would be v difficult to heal and move onn if all we had was m.breheny. e.m’gee, j bloody brolly to put up with.Mayo forever.
    Thank you so much.

  28. Congratulations on 10 years, Willie Joe. It has now become our lifeblood.

    I’m worried about the match next Saturday. I was in Clones last year and we just about came through with a win. Diarmuid O Connor’s goal was vital and his driving runs crucial. However I felt that we were been badly out-muscled at centrefield until Seamus O Shea’s arrival. He brought the necessary ballast and drive to push on. We neither have Seamus nor his brother next Saturday and maybe Diarmuid too. Its going to be tough. Monaghan are a hardy team with two exceptional forwards in Mc Manus and Hughes. Our backline is short Lee Keegan and Brendan Harrison and of course Cafferkey and Keane.

    This therefore is a serious challenge and an examination of our strength in depth. Some players are going to have to step up whether established players like Boyle, who had an excellent game in Clones or some of the new lads. It is also a chance to put in place the excellent sweeper system that worked so well in the big games last year. Lets not make it easy for anybody.

    It should be fascinating and I can’t wait. However I think the poll is a bit too optimistic.

  29. Conor Loftus scored the first goal. Diarmuid got the second.After a long solo run, he toe poked it into the goal.

  30. That resume of the 2011 QF brought back memories of a family wedding with nearly everybody glued to a TV in the hotel watching that second half – and only a minority of those there were from Mayo. It is the last Mayo chaampionship game I missed and one of only a few in the paast 40 years. Please God there’s a few more years in me yet – there certainly are in Mayo.
    I’ve said it before but few recognise that this Mayo team is unequalled in modern times for their committment in coming back, year after year, despite their disappointments. And I don’t think they are done yet.

  31. What I think we could see this weekend is Power and experience coming off the bench in the final twenty minutes. Something we probably need to develop tactically. Monaghan are tough and strong buy they’re never the most pacey team late on.

  32. Cheers lads.

    On our great memories, yes we really have had great days. The travel, the build up, pints, craic…it’s all part of the experience.

    BUT….my Galway cousin still talks about 1998 and the pure elation and joy they experienced. He does not think he will ever have s better day and few days after again…he includes his wedding day in that 😉

    I really we hope we all get to experience that feeling someday soon.

  33. It’s been all great. For an auld buck like me to go to a Mayo match and know we will definitely turn up and have a right hard go at winning instead of years ago when the worry was how much we were going to hammered by. 2011 against Cork was a big day for me too after the experience in Longford a year previously. And of course Limerick still makes me angry. I look forward to the day when we beat the shyte out of a Kerry team in a final in Croke Park……….and then do it again the following year!

  34. I know what you mean about that league semi win over Kerry Nally_Stand, that’s when i really thought we were on our way. I know it was only the league, but there was something about the sheer grit and will to win that I hadn’t seen before.
    I watched that in a small quiet pub in some village in Donegal, along with 22 other lunatic Mayo lads (we were on our way back from a stag do) and 1 poor old Kerry lad. As is the Kerry way, he couldn’t see anything but a comprehensive Kerry win.
    The owner of that pub made more in those 4 hours than he had in the previous 6 months.

    Eir Sport and Premier Sports really need to sort their websites out.
    Premier Sports has the Down Fermanagh game listed as live, Eir Sport 1 has Laois Louth and Eir Sport 2 has Down Fermanagh.
    Eir Sport 1 has our game at 21.45.

  35. Nally Stand that league semi vs. Kerry in Croker to this day remains one of my favourite days in a Mayo jersey. Once again it signified the new mentality that came with this team.

  36. We shouldn’t have gone to Limerick in 2014. We should have stood our ground even if it meant forfeiting the game and giving Kerry a bye to the final.

    We went though and look what happened us. Refusing to play and dealing with the consequences of that decision could hardly have been any worse than what we got by going.

    “Mayo will go where they’re told”.

    Remember that comment from that clown in Croke Park at the time. Anyway i know its water under the bridge but seeing as we are looking back at the last 10 years, its a stand out event and deserves its own place in the hall of fame (or shame).

    Anyway, onwards towards the Monaghan game.

  37. Folks, Eir Sports seems to be causing a LOT of confusion (I know it had me bamboozled). 🙂

    LIVE 7pm
    Eir Sport 1 Laois v Louth
    Eir Sport 2 Down v Fermanagh
    Eir Sport 2HD Mayo v Monaghan

    Deferred coverage 9.30
    Eir Sports 1 Mayo v Monaghan

    Sky Channel
    423 Eir Sports 1
    424 Eir Sports 2
    460 Eir Sports 2HD
    428 Premier Sports

    Sorry don’t know the channels for other platforms.

  38. A fantastic lookback Willie Joe. Happy Birthday and thank you.

    Your way with words is magical and you can put in prose exactly how we all feel, but just cannot expressed.

    I stopped at the 2014 article. For however long I breath I can wish Cormac Reilly nothing but bad luck. Vindictive robbery from a Meath man that ruined the legacy of James Horan.

    Roll on 2017 and a tough start tomorrow.

  39. Thanks for that Mayo Mick. They don’t have the HD channel listings on their website, so couldn’t see that.
    I would have assumed Eir Sport 2HD would show exactly the same as Eir Sport 2, just in HD!

  40. Congratulations on ten years Willie Joe your blog is a credit to you we are blessed to have it

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