What’s your favourite colour?

Sunday’s All-Ireland was, of course, just the latest big match to be played by the county. Here’s first time guest contributor Ruanejos who looks back at the defining matches that have taken place in his time as a Mayo supporter. 

Mayo flag 2013 AIF

“What’s your favourite colour?” So asks the gatekeeper in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Any knight who hesitates is thrown into the canyon below whereas those sure in their conviction are permitted to pass.  Well I’m sure of mine as I’m sure are most people reading this and I can remember the exact hour it happened as if it were yesterday.

Our minor team were playing Dublin in the 1978 final. I think I was brought to the first match that year where I think they put up a score of 10-11 on an unfortunate Leitrim and I have a very vague memory of them playing Kerry in the semi-final but the final is the game that changed everything.

There was a heavy mist all that day in Croker and they slugged it out with a Dublin team dotted with future senior All-Ireland winners. However coming down the stretch Dublin had forged themselves a five-point lead. Things looked bleak from the Western perspective .

But then Mayo brought on big Tom Byrne for Jimmy Lyons. I don’t know was it tactical or because Lyons was injured (my mother met him in Castlebar casualty the following evening and says she never saw someone more black and blue who didn’t come out of a car crash!) but the pendulum started to swing Mayo’s way and a fabulous solo run by Kieran O’Malley yielded a goal followed by two plays where the ball just ended up in big Tom’s hands and he dispatched two killer bullets to the back of Dublin’s net.

I was nine and charged by the emotional attachment of seeing my cousin captain the team, I cried. Then the phone rang. It was Granny. Had I seen the game, she asked. “I believe!” I answered with more tears.  Green and Red became my favourite colour there and then and it still is!

Later, on the old brown Nordmende we watched Kerry dismantle Dublin after the ‘greatest freak of all time’ goals as described by O’Hehir and on Monday the great Con Houlihan would comment on ‘Paddy Cullen the Housewife’ but he also found space for lines praising our heroes on the back page of the Evening Press.

So that seminal Sunday I really began the journey of the Mayo football pilgrim. The next two years Dermot Earley broke my heart.  How lucky were the Rossies that he came to them when his family moved from a house not two miles from me! How proud am I that our army carried this great warrior from his last battlefield.

A chink of light appeared in ‘81 and we beat the heavy favourites Galway in Castlebar. I was with my Uncle. God rest him – how he would be enjoying this past week if he were here. We beat them that day on the back of the best display of fielding I ever saw by Wille Nally. The sun shone and we won. Later that summer the dark cloud that is Kerry rained on the ‘81 parade, thunderstorm style.

I can’t remember being at any match in ‘85. We watched the semi-final in disbelief as we came back to draw with Dublin but the replay was an anti-climax as we listened silage pit-side to Dublin’s victory punctuated by Brogan’s belter. By ‘89 I was mobile and drove to Roscommon in the company of Sixpointsup to witness an epic Connaught Final. We punctured on the way but there was plenty more  drama to come as we saw Jimmy Burke ‘pass out the ball as it flew to the net’ as my passenger always describes it.  A garage man would later ascribe my puncture to ‘doing handbrake turns’. I don’t think my father believed him.

By 1990 I was in London and holidays were always planned with big games in mind. The ‘92 Donegal semi-final was disappointing but the ‘93 Cork edition was pit of the stomach sore. But brighter times arrived and in ‘96 I was happily reading Mayo match reports. And in August we were back in Croker with Kerry. I can still remember the sun on our faces as we greeted the final whistle having seen Mayo dismantle Kerry. There’s a great line from American sport where a commentator says ‘I don’t believe what I just saw’ and that pretty much sums up what I felt just then – it was that big a deal to beat Kerry.

But some weeks later I would feel very different and that quote would still be relevant. I’ll always remember sitting beside a Meath child and when they pegged it back to 5 points him saying ‘Here they come’. And happily for him they did. I didn’t make the replay, watching it with my Meath flatmate who happened to be Martin O’Connell’s cousin in a Greenford pub. It was a long walk home, Chinese in hand, and a long winter too.

And in ’97 back they came, and so did I for the semi-final against Offaly.  We socialised in the Portobello and met neighbours and slightly the worse for wear brought the early Sunday papers and takeaways back to Sixpointsup’s flat nearby. And then sat watching the news as my brother sitting in a chair by the door and slightly the worse for wear uttered the unforgettable line ‘Dead as a Dodi’.  We all laughed.

Sunday was cold and wet and Mayo took Offaly apart as we all expected.  But four weeks later Sheridan’s hammer went and Fitzy broke his teammate’s leg and our hearts in a one-man show. A new flatmate’s father was a selector of that Kerry team, but not a month later her mother was dead. Two final defeats suddenly didn’t seem all that bad.

Since then we have lost two more to a great Kerry team and another two to teams more or less our equals. And with the arrival of the qualifiers we’ve played teams we never saw for years like Cavan, Fermanagh, Tipperary and Westmeath, hearing new accents and strange sayings. We have fallen and risen as is the cycle of all things and although we didn’t find the Holy Grail on Sunday I have come to realise that when we do, it is not the end of our Green and Red journey but merely a punctuation mark, because we will continue on following our team, cheering their deeds, sharing our stories and meeting our friends (and how nice it was to meet some people from here last Saturday night in Bowe’s pub). Perhaps Beckett summed up the ups and downs of a Green and Red follower best when he wrote:

‘I must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

So on I’ll go and days will always be brighter for seeing my favourite colour.  Mayo Go Deo!

30 thoughts on “What’s your favourite colour?

  1. Thank you for writing that as well as the video link. It cheered me up immensely after the weekends result. I was 10 when we played Dublin in 78 and it had the same effect on myself (and a few others I’d wager). I’m a Kiltimagh man myself and I watched the game from a crack in my fingers with my hands over my eyes, my heart pounding, barely able to breathe. When our local lad Tom came on and cracked in the first I was rolling on the floor in ecstasy, when the second one went in I did a lap around the house screaming with joy. yep, I believed,, still do. 🙂

  2. This has been the longest most depressing week of my life, I can’t seem to raise a laugh at all. I know it will pass and the blood will rise again but sweet Jesus, this defeat is the worst.
    Some of the players surfacing on Twitter in the last 24 hours. Whilst they are very disappointed there seems to be a collective belief that this thing can be won and they will redouble their efforts for next year.
    Early reports are, sorry WJ I know you don’t like rumours and neither do I but this is from a rock solid source, that everyone is in for one more year. It can’t be left like this anyway, we are way better than what we showed on Sunday. Way better.
    The black card will suit us, we should get to another AI semi and we have a tough league fixture list with away trips to Tyrone, Kerry and Kildare to try a few new faces/tactics/give experience to promising fringe players.
    Hon Mayo.

  3. Nice bit of video footage there from 1978. Did ya see all the Dubs climbing over the wall getting into the Hill for nothing? Did ya see that old boy dressed in black (possibly an owl priest or Bishop or something) begrudgingly handing over the trophy to the Mayo captain?. He didn’t want to let go of it and raised it up himself instead. What a shite-hawk.

  4. Brings back so many memories Joe. But jaysus we should have won this one.

    Tonight’s list of the Dublin injuries at the end.

    Rory O’Carroll – concussion
    Jonny cooper – concussion and other injuries
    Michael Darragh McCauley – Broken toe
    Cian O’Sullivan – Suspected cruceate
    O’Gara – Hamstring

  5. There will be lots of both Anne Marie – we just need one of the good ones on a September Sunday !

    Going back to Con and the last lines of his piece – ‘The mistake that gave Mayo victory came at the Canal End too. There was a gremlin down there who did not like Dublin. And he was humming to himself “What a day for being in Goal “. ‘

    Was just thinking all the finals wins I’ve seen or seen footage of we had been playing into the canal in the 2nd half – ’74 u-21, 2000 league, this years minors, ’78 minors.

    Cant remember which way ’85 minors were facing. anyways just a stupid thought.

  6. Didn’t realise O’Sullivan has a suspected cruciate -Feel for the guy – its a horrible injury for any player.

  7. What’s the mayo injury list?
    It certainly can’t be left at that, I would hope that they will stick together and win Sam after the effort so far. A break and regroup with a few lessons learned. For players and management alike, lessons have to be learned from
    This defeat.

  8. See that giant green n red flag in the top photo ?………….I lost the run of myself dreaming at the AIF that when we won, it’d be cut into a million 2mm X 2mm blessed ‘relics’ for the Mayo diaspora around the world !!!!!!………….Dream on !!!!

  9. Nice piece Ruanejos !!………I was with the two Lyons brothers in SJC Tuam………Both lovely players

  10. Lovely piece….were are of almost the same vintage, and I was at a lot of those same games.

    Were many on here up in Irvinestown for the ’83 U21 replay? I think it was the first time I was ever in the North and we were shitting it. In todays terms it would be like going to th Gaza Strip to watch a game. There was a lot of holy water sprinkled for that trip-LOL

    In the 1989 replay in Hyde Park, good oul Mickey Kerins awarded the Rossies 2 very dubious penalties. The second one came almost on the stroke of full time to give them a 1 point lead. Irwin took a quick kickout and Mayo went right down the field and scored a goal, which Mickey then disallowed (kinda like Freemans effort against Tyrone) I was right behind the goal when Jimmy Burke “bundled” the ball over the line and we went completely mad and invaded the pitch for good measure

    1981 game against Kerry….Mayo didnt score in the second half. We had an elderly aunt of my fathers home visiting from England staying with. My brother let out a tirade of “fs, bs, and maybe even a few c’s” he got grounded for the rest of the summer-LOL

    Happy and innocent times…thanks for the memories

  11. Good piece Joe, some good memories…did we ever think we’d still be waiting for Sam though.

  12. Great piece Joe! Regarding the Roscommon game in 1989, supporters of both teams left the Hyde at different stages having given up on their team. And regarding the ref that day I was always convinced that Mickey Kerins had it in for us. (Some Sligo lads with one Connacht medal in their pockets seem to resent Mayo!)

    Whitey above refers to the U21 final in 1983. I was at the first match in Carrick and was broken by the way Derry drew it, last minute goal from a free I think. I was too young to be allowed cross the border for the replay!

  13. I was in Irvinestown in ’83 for the u21final and was talkin to ‘both’ captains in the CW last w/end-Eddie Gibbons and the legend that is Ger Geraghty(still lookin fit enough to give you the last 20 minutes!).By coincidence I also had a chat with the big man from ’78, Tom B.Days like in 78,83,85,06 as well as league victories all over the country,etched in the memory bank forever with plenty of room left for more from the wonderful green and red.We’re in this for the long haul and we,like some, did not

  14. ……..get on at the previous station,and by God we ain’t getting off at the next..as the song goes,we’re ‘goin to the end of the line’.Mayo forever and a day.

  15. Lovely Joe really lovely but Pebblesmeller for the first time in 5 days I’ve a pep in my step with that news about everyone staying for one more year oh please let that be true it just can’t be left like this. mistakes by all involved but I really feel this team and management can do it pity Kevin O Neill going with u21s he would be great to have in the back room team or maybe Donie could convince a Kerry lad to come on board we need winners in that back room team and experience of winning on All Ireland Sunday just wish they would announce something soon I know they all need time but I just can’t move on until I hear something concrete !!! And I don’t for one minute think we were outmuscled if we were Dublin would have won by a lot more just thought we could have been better at rattling
    Them because of their discipline record also maybe we need a new ‘head’ man their belief in themselves was gone for the last 20mins

  16. I too was in Irvinestown in 1983, along with The Brother and PJ – we went on a bus from Claremorris as I recall and, as Whitey has said, it was a bit like getting into Gaza (or going across the Iron Curtain – which I did once, a few years after that) for it. I can still recall the hush that descended in the bus when the UDR, armed to the teeth, came on the bus at the border. Different times, for sure.

    That match in Irvinestown was something else. Derry were a good side, who’d snatched a draw in Carrick with a last-second goal direct from a 14-yard free (see, it can be done!) and when they got a goal to pull ahead early in the second half in the replay we looked in a bit of bother. But then Sean Maher nearly burst the net with a cracking goal for us and a flurry of points after that saw us home. They were a fantastic team and, along with the ’85 minors, provided much of the backbone for what came later at senior level.

  17. another lovely piece, the site would be derelict if we had won we would be still on the beer, many thanks willie joe and guests for the great work this week.

  18. Great piece there.

    While nothing can completely heal the pain of Sunday, this site has certainly helped.
    Thanks lads and lassies, it’s been a cathartic experience reading through some of the posts. The general positivity has been a pleasant surprise.

    Hopefully it’s true that the players are all willing to give it one more lash, as this will be at odds with what I heard immediately after the game.
    We all (players, management, supporters) just need time to clear the heads and give the pain a chance to subside. No point making rash decisions while emotions are still so raw.

    One thing, if there is to be one more go at this, the lessons from this year must be learned (and there are quite a few lessons to be learnt).
    Mistakes were made by all. The management and players need a proper clear the air session – no baggage can be carried into next year, or we’re all just wasting our time.

  19. I remember the UDR coming on the bus as well and asking “anything to declare?” “Only the Cup!” was the reply from one ould fella down the back.

  20. WJ not many of the winning 85 minor team played much senior championship football. Michael Fitzmaurice and Kevin Byrne are the only 2 I can think of, Greg Maher and MJ Mullen might have played 1 or 2 games. As is often the case with All Ireland winning minor teams, many players don’t make the senior grade.

  21. I was in Carrick that pissy wet day and watched the game from under a palm bush at one end of the pitch. I was in irvinestown too and had the unique if unflattering distinction of getting lost in Tubbercurry of all places on the way home. (They had just put in the by pass around the town……….that and a few auld pints and a mighty amount of football talk).
    Ah them was the days………….misery warmed up by the auld bit of success.

    But let’s never forget these are great days for Mayo football despite the setback on Sunday. And I cannot wait for the FBD to start! I always HOPED our day would come and often dreamed about what it would be like. I no longer hope…….. Now I KNOW it will come and I can wait a bitten longer….no bother. It’s just like having to wait an extra half hour for your dinner and you starving with the hunger……..it tastes twice as nice when it does come.

  22. Keep the Faith, Greg Maher certainly played a few games for Mayo, 2 being the ’89 All Ireland semi and final! From looking at WJ’s archive he also played in the ’91 Connacht Championship. Very good player on his day.

  23. Keep waking up in a cold sweat and McLoghlin has just given the ball away again and big Bernard Brogan is tearing down the pitch. This one hurts too much, we have to get back next year and see the tables turned. Great piece to remind us how many great days Mayo have given us and many more to come.

  24. Recurring dream .. 2 points down ,clock running down ,free in front of posts, ball driven in low mad skirmish, ball ends up in back of net .. Ref blows up and Mayo are all Ireland champions .. Lads and lassies I haven’t got over this .. So frustrating .. Next September seems a long way off .. Of course we will be back .. But no divine right to win this .. Each year is different .. If the players can keep the faith and motivation they have my total respect .. Not sure how they keep it going .. But my instinct is that we had two real chances in last 2 years to win this thing .. Wouldn’t bet that this has some inevitability .. You grab it or it slips away .. Fact is we didn’t grab it last two years .. Please God we get another shot !

  25. Carracastle

    You’ll drive yourself mad. It’s over, we lost. We weren’t sharp enough against a team we should have beaten.
    The only fix is to make certain if jh stays in charge that he has a proper system in place to spot early trends in the game. Not a halfhearted effort neither, do what the professional teams in other sports do all the time. We were beaten to every kick out by dubs from cluxtons kicks in the second half, and never changed our method to suit. My wife, from a hurling county was high in the cusack stand, she was saying right after the game that the Dublin keeper was picking out his teammates like there was no Mayo players on the field. A woman that rarely watches sports could tell me that and our management could not make the changes needed during the game to address the issue, or maybe they could not see it.
    From here on, in the very first league game they should have 2 pairs of spotters in the stands relaying information on who’s doing what, or trends occurring in the game and relaying it to the sideline. Give ourselves the advantage in any way we can get it.

  26. Devastated,another all ireland in the palm of our hand gone.Proud of the team and Jh.Frig the curse backs were outstanding missed way to many scoring chances.As johny logan said,whats another year .

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