úairí Ó Héalaí, the host of the mayofans.com website, wrote a wonderful letter, or psalm, to God before that famous match. He promised never to curse any Mayo player again if Mayo won. Rúairí, originally from Castlebar and now living in Dublin, must now be in the sainthood category!
Curses and blessings emanated across the board after the match. It is too easy to lay blame at the feet of someone else. We are all guilty of being ‘armchair’ experts occasionally. And there is nothing we like more than to take part in the post mortem. The only goal ever scored in the pub was an own goal, usually by putting one’s foot in one’s mouth. The foot would probably be better suited if placed firmly in another part of the anatomy! No one has the right to be judge and jury, even after losing a football match.
Whatever pain and grief we all feel from the sidelines pales into insignificance when it is compared to the depths of disappointment and despair felt by the players, panel and management. When we whiled away nights in front of the box or socialising, these men were wiping beads of sweat and practising discipline. It is easy to argue that it was all in vain but it misses the point. Winning is not a gift. It is so hard-earned that most of us have no concept, mentally, or physically, what it actually entails. Any hurt we felt at the loss of glory last Sunday week can never be measured by the sense of loss suffered by those in the frontline.
Anger should be directed properly. For instance, how many people were willing to pay €2.70 for a can of 7-Up in Jury’s on the Sunday of the All-Ireland? Here’s one who was not and did not. Prompted by the stance taken by another man who was also asked for the exorbitant price, we both returned the cans and asked for our money back. It was not the fault of the young lad who was there to dispense the cans and disposable plastic cups in Jury’s. He actually agreed that we were being ripped off!
On the day, hotel management had security personnel on duty at the front and side doors. Some of them were not schooled in manners as they shouted instructions to people as if we were all a pack of errant dogs. It was sickening to experience, across the road from the hallowed grounds of Croke Park. This is typical rip-off Ireland in operation. We had a saying when working in England: “There is no one to screw an Irishman better than an Irishman.” It was so obvious at Jury’s Hotel outside Croke Park on All-Ireland Sunday. If they were blatantly selfish and greedy in small things like a can of 7-Up, what were they like with other prices?
This is a matter that the powers-that-be in Croke Park should examine. They actually own the hotel and lease it out to Jury’s. If everybody who was ripped off used the energy of their frustration to raise the issue with those responsible for perpetrating the scam, then justice would be best served. Many people would have no energy left to direct it at players and the backroom staff of the Mayo football squad.
No success like failure
To hear some of the criticism being meted out to players was upsetting at best and vulgar at worst. That kind of criticism showed up more about the calibre of the person who was critical rather than the criticised. Our weaknesses can be paraded so easily in public without us even being aware of it. There is no success like failure! The rawness of our nature can surface without us even being too aware of it. After our unjustified rant, the hands of justification rush across to cover the nakedness of our embarrassment.
Fair play to the mothers and fathers who insisted on standing along the roadways of Mayo with their sons and daughters as the team bus trundled its lonely way through a disheartened county. The players preferred not to have a formal homecoming, a decision that must be respected. Yet the raw, young, untarnished emotion of children battled the straitjacket of adult reason. Children wanted to greet their heroes, win lose or draw. A hero is a hero. Their ‘guard of honour’ alongside their parents was the great public testament of pride in the players and management. Perhaps that public display of affection and support added to the depth of despair experienced by the players and management as they witnessed the faithful stand in line along the N5.
Hopefully, in days to come, the memory of the lines of loyal supporters will serve to remind the players and management that people still believe in them. People still support them. Let Mickey Moran keep telling his men that people still believe in them. Faith.
The loser now will be later to win
It is so easy to be a fair weather supporter of any cause. Anyone can latch on to success. The real supporter is s/he who supports those who sometimes get beaten. The Mayo team lost their last match. That does not make them losers. Losing one match does not make a losing team. We should be proud of what this team and management have done for us all over the summer months. Is there anyone out there who still does not smile at the memory of the Dublin match? This was not only the match of the championship, but also the best match over several years. This team put a spring in our step all summer. Granted, the last match made us all sink deeply into the depths of depression, but we do not belong there. Neither does the Mayo team. And no one has any right to drive them there.
Heroes are allowed to have a bad day, even a bad day of such significance as losing the All-Ireland Final. The day will come when the Sam Maguire cup will wind its way across the Shannon. Oh that those who spent so much energy on making that possible – whenever it will be – will be around to share in its glory. There are so many who deserve an All-Ireland winning medal, to name more than a few - Joe Corcoran, Mick Higgins, Willie Joe Padden, Liam McHale and David Brady, (who should know what a wonderful game he had on Sunday). There are others in management like John O’Mahony and John Maughan. Neither can the Paddy Muldoons, Seán Feeneys, James Waldrons or John Prentys be forgotten. When the day comes they will all be raised up among the pantheon of immortals, alongside the teams, panels and management of 1936, ‘50 and ’51.
Rúairí Ó’Héalaí will have to script a Psalm of waiting, a prayer for the journey. In the meantime those who have over-voiced their frustration can pray: “If You O Lord should mark our guilt, who would survive? But with You is found forgiveness, for this we revere You.”
It is time, not just to learn the Psalms, but to live them.