PRECIOUS METAL Former Mayo footballer Joe Staunton (RIP) from Louisburgh is pictured holding the Celtic Cross he won in 1951. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
An Open Letter to the Mayo team
HERE we go again. Another September and we rest our dream on your young shoulders. It’s a lot for you to carry on All-Ireland Final Day. But if we can’t trust you, where else can we turn. We’re squeezing the ticket of a lifelong journey into your safe hands for you to get us a travel pass so as we can live a dream.
Who are we? We’re the woman serving the meal at a wedding in the Castlecourt. We’re the kid playing in the schoolyard. We’re the girls on the B shift in Baxter. The exiles in London or Long Island. The five Ballinrobe lads who took off one morning for Australia.
The patient in hospital wearing her Mayo neckband. We’re the mother who worries daily about the price of the school books or the uniform. We’re the fly by nights, the chancers, the sleeveens, and the all right sort of an ‘auld character’.
We’re the singletons, the married, the divorced, the widowers and the widowed. We’re the dreamers and believers and the legends of the road. We’re Mayo.
You’re the gift we inherited when dad brought us to see you play. It’s the Sunday of childhood that has become every day of our life since. From high infants you were there.
We were Morley and Prendergast in sixth class. In secondary school you were with us too. Tickeen and Joeeen. We were you wearing our Mayo socks in Presentation College Headford. No replica jerseys then. It was years later we proudly adorned ourselves in Larry’s (McEllin) famous shirt.
You were there playing gooseberry when we fell in love. If she had no heed in football she was ditched. Didn’t matter a damn if she had a dowry and road frontage. Ours was a different kind of love. Monday’s when we woke with our football hearts broken.
You were there when the kids were born. We passed on the baton on. The easiest gospel we ever preached. All the roaring getting them up for Mass we could have saved ourselves if the priest wore red and green vestments. They are mothers themselves now. In the car with us now on this crusade. Full driving license too. The next generation in the back. Too big a stack to be strapped in the baby seat either. A growing reminder that precious time is slipping away.
Because of you we have to put an extra set of tyres and tax the car most years.
Never had a right holiday either. Wouldn’t know Lanzarote from Pavarotti.
Met a woman once who was going to Cornwall. “Ah lovely,” I said by way of saying something. “Were you ever there?” she asked. “No” I replied, feeling a right idiot.
Didn’t bother asking her was she in Scotstown on a cold crisp January Sunday in 1996, the day Kenny Mortimer was sent off. We burdened Kenny and his brothers with this dream too. Left it on Noel Connelly’s shoulder also. Others too like Ronaldson, Geraghty, the genius Ciaran McDonald, Willie Joe and McStay. They were worthy of our hopes and aspirations. Their want was ours.
You’re the reason we clutched at straws in the gale. 1985 when Mayo and Monaghan were in the All-Ireland semi-finals and some pleb told us Old Moore’s predicted two M’s would meet in the All-Ireland. We scoured every page for confirmation, but two M’s for the Maam Cross Fair was as near as we got.
We just want from you one September Sunday when an unimaginable world unfolds.
Small things will do us thereafter. A night around Christmas when the family are gathered. A warm fire and we watching the video of Mayo winning the All-Ireland Final of 2013. Hair still standing on the napes of our necks.
We’ll get a nice picture too standing between Donal, Kenneth, Mickey and Colm holding the Sam Maguire. For the coffin. Our jersey strewn on the lid beside it and the congregation singing our Mayo anthem “The Green and Red of Mayo” when they wheel us out. That’s what we’re living a lifetime for. You’re carrying us on your shoulders now. In Mayo we trust.