An Cailín Rua
BEING afforded a platform in a print publication is a responsibility I take very seriously (despite my tendency to push deadline boundaries to their limits at times!). For the past three years it has been a privilege to meet the challenge of taking a topic and crafting an opinion piece that is considered, fair, and accurately researched, for subsequent publication in this newspaper.
Writing an opinion column requires some time and headspace to work through the process, before you ever put fingers to a keyboard. Sometimes, I mull on a topic for days, considering its merit and trying to figure out where I stand on it. It’s all part of the fun of writing, and represents an excellent opportunity to broaden your own horizons and educate yourself by reading and critically analysing current affairs and the opinions of others. Then, there is the editing process. Refining and cutting out unnecessary words so that the message fits within the allocated space is the most challenging – and fun - part of all.
Sometimes, however, there are times when you hit a wall and for whatever reason, inspiration doesn’t flow. Over the course of a normal week you might be struck by ideas and jot them down in a notebook or on the phone. This week has not been one of those weeks. And there is a reason that some of you may find understandable. There is simply no space in my head at present to think about anything other than football, and what lies ahead of us next Sunday.
It’s probably a bit of a cop-out. Elsewhere in this paper, I’ve already had the opportunity to indulge myself by talking about the Mayo fan journey to date. There are plenty of other topics I could be exploring here. The controversy surrounding George Hook’s regressive, misogynistic views on rape. The resignation of Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, and the questions it raises for An Garda Síochana. Whether Roosters or Kerr’s Pinks make better chips. But alas, all I can contemplate at this point in time is the tactical rabbit that Stephen Rochford may pull out of his bobble hat next Sunday, whether or not Mayo will retain enough possession to frustrate the Dubs for an hour and a half, or whether Jim Gavin will break the habit of a career and say anything mildly interesting during the run-up.
While this year’s run-up has been relatively low-key, it’s starting to heat up. Social media is getting busier with match chat. While not without its downsides, it’s one of the places where you can share in the excitement of the build-up with Mayo comrades all over the world as well as engage with some of the best sporting minds in the country. That level of access to and conversation with people you might previously only have admired from afar is one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about twitter. The writer Michael Foley is probably best-known for his excellent ‘Kings of September’, which details how Offaly as underdogs scuppered Kerry’s five in a row dream in 1982. During an exchange at the weekend, he asked me whether any Mayo fan ever thought of maybe not investing as much as in the last six finals. Whether, in his words, we’d “not dye a duck, just turn up?”
I can’t imagine that any of us would. We are still reckless with our hearts when it comes to this love affair, and Foley expressed his incredulity. “I’d have thought a county would generally get more cautious with every beating”, he said. “Not so!”
Wherever you venture this week, the conversations you’ll overhear are all match-related. A comment made on last week’s Mayo News Sport podcast from London about our identity as Mayo people being tied up in our football rings true. We are so heavily invested that it has become an obsession; yet still, a means of escapism.
On that note, we have 51 other weeks to contemplate the realities and banalities of life and form nuanced opinions. This week is about one thing only. And in true opinion column style, I’m nailing my colours firmly to the mast. Sam is coming west this weekend!