FLYING THE FLAG?Mayo supporters Adam Toner, Michael Maye, Club ’51 founder, and Dylan Toner from Swinford are pictured with Club ’51 founder Anne-Marie Flynn from Ardagh at MacHale Park, Castlebar last Sunday.?Pic: Sportsfile
Showing their support
The new Mayo Supporters’ Club were out in force on Sunday
THEY are the supposedly loyal fan created by way of a plea from a beseeching intermediary on their behalf around All-Ireland ticket search time. You know the blurb yourself. Probably heard it often enough to rhyme it by heart.
“They never miss a Mayo match. They follow them all over the country. He/she/they even went up to Scotstown on the cold January day in 1996 when nobody gave Mayo a plastic chimney pot over a furnace chance of getting to the All-Ireland.”
They are portrayed as the most dedicated Mayo supporter almost to the point of dangerous obsession. But probe a little and you’ll discover they weren’t at a match since the previous All-Ireland. Often a figment of an overactive imagination and no more.
But not always, and sometimes they do exist in actual fact. We happened on one such genuine and unconditionally devoted Mayo supporter in MacHale Park last Sunday. We togged early to meet her and check out Club ’51 which is slowly garnering momentum on Mayo’s football journey.
Anne-Marie Flynn from Ardagh is one of the four founding members of Club ’51. The remaining trio are Michael Maye from Swinford, Mark Togher from Castlebar and Robert Bashford from Belmullet, now living in Germany.
There’s nothing fake or pretentious about Anne-Marie Flynn. Passionate is probably the adjective to best describe her love of Mayo. Not just its football, but also its people and the rich wealth of natural beauty found in the county. “Mayo is just the most beautiful county,” is her simple summary of her native place.
Neither is she a ‘Mary come lately’ coming marching home when it comes to following the fortunes of Mayo football. Although she didn’t hail from a house painted in red and green, she was first bitten by the Mayo bug as a schoolgirl in Ardagh in the weeks leading up to the 1989 All-Ireland final. She’s been smitten ever since.
In Castlebar on Sunday she reminisced on an era that would forever govern her life. “Even to a lot of adults in Mayo the build-up in ’89 was a novelty. I still clearly remember the excitement and the euphoria of the time and how we looked up to players like Liam McHale and Willie Joe Padden. And it was really special for us too because Anthony Finnerty from neighbouring Moygownagh was on the team. Sure everyone in the country let alone Mayo loves “Larry.”
“My family wouldn’t have been die-hard Mayo followers or anything but it just stuck with me through to John Maughan’s reign in 96, ’97 and the noughties, right up to the present. I’ve been supporting Mayo ever since and I’ve no intention of stopping because it’s what I love doing. I get great enjoyment from it and it has brought me so many places and given me memories I will always treasure.
“When you come from Mayo football will always be tied up with your identity. It goes even deeper. When you see this team and the crowd they drew for their first away league game in March then you know Mayo is a special county. The All-Ireland champions wouldn’t have that kind of following.”
BESIDES her undying love of everything Mayo there are other strong strings to Anne-Marie Flynn’s bow. A skilled wielder of the pen, she has her own blog, ‘An Cailin Rua’. Good writing is her forte. She advertises her site as covering topics like “life, politics, Irish society and me.”And, of course, Mayo football.
It was initially through her web page the notion of Club ’51 was conceived. After last year’s All-Ireland final there was some comment about how the Mayo support didn’t breach the high decibels long associated with the county, especially when the game was rounding the home turn and Mayo were breathing down Dublin’s neck.
So noticeable was the eerie September silence that Irish Times writer Keith Duggan made special reference to it, citing it as perhaps a possible contribution to the final outcome. A few took ungrounded exception to the musings of the messenger of D’Olier Street.
Mayo manager James Horan also referred to the inaudibility by way of a response during an interview following the All-Ireland when asked about some supporters’ reaction to the defeat. Horan’s reply that it was a pity they weren’t as loud on the day itself plucked a raw nerve with some.
It was from contributions to An Cailin Rua that Anne-Marie Flynn decided actions should once again speak louder than idle talk. It was time to bring back the Mayo roar so Club ’51 was formed. Their first gathering was at the FBD league game against NUI, Galway in January.
Anne-Marie gives the ethos behind Club ’51. “Our aim is to show the Mayo team Club ’51 are fully behind them. There’s a huge difference between a fan and a supporter and we want to support them. We’ve no other agenda whatsoever. We’re not political or a fundraising group and we’re not aligned to any other body within or outside the county.
“Club 51’s only objective is to get as many supporters as possible together at a match and give the team our full support. We want to hear the Mayo roar echo again but not so loud as to offend or annoy any other spectators. Our flag sports the old 1951 Mayo logo.
“To join us all you need is a bit of red and green. We also have our own website mayoclub51.com and we update it regularly with information about our meeting point and directions to away games and other information supporters might find useful.”
So far the club have upwards of a hundred people in their ranks. On Sunday last Ann Marie McTigue from Cross arrived with trays of freshly-baked cakes decorated with red and green icing.
To see Mayo eventually win the elusive All-Ireland is Anne Marie Flynn’s longest dream. The young Ardagh schoolkid who got stung by a football bug in 1989 still has an infectious enthusiasm for all things Mayo. A girl who lives life for her county, its people and its football. She’s anything but a figment of the imagination.
She’s the sound echo to make Mayo roar loud again. What a beautiful noise.