I got back to the capital yesterday evening after a long and action-packed few days in the west. Between the cycling in all that rain and wind on Saturday and then the magical display the lads put on to clinch the Connacht five-in-a-row the following day it sure was a weekend to remember.
What made Sunday all the more special for me personally was how, for a change, I started and finished the day within the county as this is such a rare occurrence for me. Leaving Westport early on Sunday morning and seeing the town bedecked in colour, as were places likes Bohola, Kiltimagh and Ballyhaunis and then out along the N61 on the road to Roscommon, was uplifting and a sight to be treasured, all the more so because it’s not something I’d normally see as I hare down from Dublin for a game.
It was even better after the match. I loitered around on the pitch for ages where I met up with loads of people (including liveinhope – thanks again for sorting out the small lad with a ticket in the seated area) knowing that I only had a short hop back to the home place ahead of me afterwards and not the usual long trek east. And then all the colour again on the way back to the county and that glorious sunwashed evening. Pure magic.
As I was chatting away on the undulating Hyde Park turf, my little fella – proudly kitted out in his treasured 2015 model away jersey – disappeared off hunting for autographs and ended up with most of the players’ signatures on his programme. Looking at the players patiently doing their stuff with the admiring hordes around them it was impossible not to be deeply impressed with them as individuals and as a group as a whole. They truly are a credit to themselves, their families and their communities and, as others have said, we need to treasure the special memories these young men have given us on such a consistent basis over the last five years.
While the rest of us were luxuriating lazily after the full-time whistle the lads from the Mayo News were busy recording their post-match podcast, an audio extravaganza which, I have to concede, puts my own humble in-the-moment audio offerings into the shade. It’s a great listen and it’s here.
Edwin McGreal in the Mayo News (which has a truckload of coverage today on the big match) credits Aidan O’Shea with having a hand in 6-15 of our total on Sunday. It was fitting, then, that Aido managed to pip Monaghan’s Conor McManus in the popular vote for the GAA’s Player of the Week. Details on that vote are here.
The nationals still have some stuff today on us. The Irish Independent has a piece with Alan Dillon (the Irish Examiner has a similar one – here) and the Indo also has a piece on Seamus O’Shea, stating that the Breaffy midfielder is a doubt for the All-Ireland quarter-final due to the groin injury that resulted in his early withdrawal from the fray last Sunday. The quotes from Seamie appear to be the same as those we’ve already seen so perhaps it’s a bit alarmist to say that he’s a doubt for the next game but I guess we’ll know more nearer the time.
Arrangements for TV coverage of our quarter-final are also becoming clearer and County Board Chairman Mike Connelly isn’t impressed that Sky have exclusive live rights to the game, as this piece in the Connaught Telegraph confirms. This should be no surprise to anyone, though – the quarter-final featuring the Connacht champions was flagged as a Sky exclusive ages ago so I can’t see how it can now be termed as a bombshell. It will, of course, be a disappointment for those who can’t go and who want to see the game but the rights and wrongs of putting big matches exclusively on pay-TV have been well aired by now so – a bit like the decision to play the Connacht final in Hyde Park – there’s little point in ploughing up that particular ground all over again.
On the subject of the All-Ireland quarter-final, I guess now’s as good a time as any for me to come clean on the matter and declare that I won’t be there in Croke Park for it either. Our summer plans have been all over the shop organisation-wise this year (for a variety of unrelated issues) and the only relatively clear fortnight we could book something for includes August 8th. As a result, it’ll be the first All-Ireland series match we’ve played in since the 2005 quarter-final that I won’t be at, though I do expect to be watching it from afar on the day.
Before that one, the county has another All-Ireland series contest to sink its teeth into, which is the Junior All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny (yes, you did read that correctly) this coming Saturday at O’Connor Park in Tullamore where the throw-in is set for 2pm. Daniel Carey has a preview of this match in the Mayo News today (paper and digital versions) where he explains how the Cats cut a swathe through the British Junior championship, accounting for Lancashire, Gloucestershire and then the whole of Scotland to earn the right to face Seán McLoughlin’s charges in Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final. Best of luck to our lads in that one.