FOR every trip to Salthill following Mayo, you can be guaranteed at least two things before you set off; a gale, and desperately slow-moving traffic.
For the last couple of occasions these downsides were often made a little more bearable when you were heading home with a win. Not this time though!
Our gang possessed a golden ticket for the day, otherwise known as a ‘car pass’.
This meant we could park on the doorstep of Pearse Stadium to allow easier access for my youthful, enthusiastic cousin, who insisted on going to the game despite being on crutches.
It was here we got our first indication of the difficult day that lay ahead as we entered the gates of Scoil Éinde – the official car park for the day and open only to those of us with a pass.
However, that didn’t deter an elderly lady who insisted on getting in, despite the persistence of a young steward manning the gate who had positioned himself in front of her car, creating a tense stand-off that lasted a few minutes.
This reporter is no lip-reading expert, but the steward’s ‘pass-only’ response failed to register and eventually the driver’s stubbornness prevailed.
There was the possibility for a similar stand-off as we parked the car and discovered Cork official, Conor Lane, who was on linesman duty, was situated right beside us.
We can report that only pleasantries were exchanged – despite temptations.
Conditions for the under-17 game were nothing short of atrocious, and the same weather prevailed as the marching band flag-bearers struggled to keep aloft the county colours.
Billy Coss of The Tuam Herald reckoned half of Mayo were in Pearse Stadium on Sunday, as there was a significant difference in the reception the respective teams received as they ran out onto the field.
Things looked to be taking a turn for the better as the sun appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, just before throw-in. Suddenly, we had that ‘Championship Sunday’ feeling.
But the wind continued to play havoc with everything from the music notes of the band to the microphone of the national anthem singer. Even to the poles erected as goalposts for the half-time Cumann na mBunscol match got a rattle.
The atmosphere and tension in the tunnel after the game was unbelievably uncomfortable if you happened to be from Mayo. Few words were shared.
An elderly Galway couple did try and comfort this reporter after the game as they shared a few words of enlightenment to try and comfort the pain. “What’s happening with this Mayo team?” they asked. “God knows,” was the response.
One young, slightly over-enthusiastic local radio reporter got ‘the stare’ from Mayo manager, Stephen Rochford, for jumping the gun in the media huddle.
He’ll know for again.
We’d have got some solace had the two lovely Papa John’s employees delivered free pizza to the hungry media. Instead, they headed straight into the Galway dressing-room where their arrival was met with great cheers.
A quick pitstop at the Pearse Stadium bathroom was required for yours truly and The Mayo News podcast stars, Rob Murphy and John Gunnigan, before we left for home.
Little did we know that the stewards had locked up early to join the celebrations at the nearest watering hole.
It was the last thing we needed.