Tom’s coming back, Keith’s heading off + 1983 remembered

It might be the season of mists, mellow fruitfulness and little in the way of football, but the Mayo News has a good crop of football stories to lighten up this dull old November day.

Edwin McGreal has an interview from Australia with Tom Parsons, who was of course the county’s sole representative on the Irish squad for that lovey-dovey-kiss-and-make-up-and-no-belting-till-next-time carry-on with the Aussies. Tom was disappointed with his performance in the first test (no need to be, Tom – it was all a pile of makey-uppey nonsense) but, from a Mayo perspective, the good news is that he confirmed he has no interest in pursuing a career in Aussie Rules and is already looking forward to 2009 with the Green and Red.  So are we, Tom.  He’s still U21 next year, of course, so he’s likely to see plenty of inter-county action in 2009, not to mention all those other third-level and club commitments he’ll be facing as well.  Our Tom’s likely to be a busy boy in 2009, then.

In contrast, Keith Higgins will be taking it a bit easier (and not before time too) next year.  Mike Finnerty reports that Keith is heading off Down Under later this week as part of “a gang of us from Ballyhaunis, Tooreen and Aghamore” (is Australia ready for such an influx?) but that, like Tom, he’s not doing so to sell his soul to Aussie Rules.  Instead, he’s planning to be back in April, just in time to make the junket to New York the following month.  Global recession notwithstanding, it’s a good idea for him to head off and see a bit of the world (I did the same myself – not to Oz, I confined myself to the Continent – many years ago and can heartily recommend the experience) and he could probably do with a break from football and hurling for a while.  It’ll also mean that Johnno will have to try out other options at the back during the league, a process which, hopefully, will yield better results than the similar experiments that were undertaken over the course of the last two NFL campaigns.

Finally, also on the topic of Johnno, Daniel Carey has a great interview with Brian Kilkelly about the 1983 U21 team which The Deputy (leading an eight-man selection team) led to All-Ireland glory.  That 1983 campaign still ranks as my all-time favourite as a Mayo supporter and reading Brian’s recollections about it brings all those old memories back to the surface again.

Myself and The Brother followed them right through that campaign (I don’t recall being at the first round match against Leitrim but we were definitely at every one after that) and it was a hell of a ride. They thumped Sligo in the Connacht semi and destroyed Roscommon in the final before taking out Kerry down in Ennis in the All-Ireland semi.  They should have closed the deal the first day against Derry up in Carrick in the final but a last-minute goal from Damien Barton earned the Oak Leaf county a second chance.  Up in Irvinestown, we looked in trouble until Sean Maher’s bullet of a goal sparked a revival and five late points saw the lads cruise to victory.

They were a wonderful team – with the likes of Gabriel Irwin, Peter Forde, John Maughan, Sean Maher, Ger Geraghty, Padraig Brogan, Kevin McStay and Noel Durcan, as well as Brian Kilkelly in their ranks – and it’s such a pity that players of this calibre didn’t get to add senior All-Ireland medals to the U21 ones that they won in such style that year.

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