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Full-time whistle: Time to hug a stranger


On The Road
Trevor Naughton

I HAD no issues with my appetite for breakfast last Saturday. Mayo’s performance in the drawn game left me sure we had Kerry’s number.
We took an early train into Dublin which was standing room only. Onboard were two Leitrim men travelling to support Mayo. It was great to see the Connacht counties standing by each other.
Our usual gang of exiles arrived in The Red Parrot pub in Drumcondra in confident form. Gerry and Bridgie Pidgeon, Johnny and Jenny Murray, and Martin McDonagh were all confident of a Mayo win.
Dad was delighted to bump into his niece, Orlaith Maye from Lahardane, and after checking there was no sign of Bernard Flynn around, a few selfies were taken for posterity.
The disgraceful Irish Independent article/headline aimed at Stephen Rochford over last week’s decision to play Aidan O’Shea at full-back was the hot topic of discussion. Everyone agreed it was completely out of order, and in the words of Myrtle Mooney, we all agreed we would be keeping the faith and #BelievinInShteevin no matter what.
In Croke Park, the huge Mayo support in attendance were in full voice right from the start. We outnumbered Kerry by five to one. Dad joked the #YerraBingo bus must have broken down.
Mayo were leading by five at half-time, when there was praise for referee David Gough for being so alert to Kerry’s off-the-ball fouling.
Into the second half, the baking heat (together with the non stop chants of ‘May-o, May-o’) nearly had me done for! I was shook after the game and honestly, as I write this, I’m still not fully over it. Sure I nearly fainted after 60 minutes, but like this team does so often, I just picked myself up and went again!
The emotion that poured from the stands as Gough blew his full-time whistle was spine-tingling. There were hugs and tears of joy between Mam, Dad and myself.
I won’t lie, there were a few hugs shared with strangers also, but sure isn’t that what Mayo does to you? You lose yourself in the moment completely. The sense of satisfaction was clearly evident on every Mayo face as we left the famous old stadium.
I was asked last week what it was that makes the Mayo supporters so loyal to this team.
My response was that it is easy to be loyal when you see their commitment, honesty and never-say-die attitude. No matter what is thrown at them (even a Kieran Donaghy haymaker) they keep coming back for more.
We really are living in a golden era for the county and we really need to cherish this group of players. You would be proud to call any one of that squad your son. If any players’ parents are reading this, let me tell you, from the bottom of my heart, you have all raised fine young men. Role models and heroes.
Back in 2013, I wrote on the Mayo GAA Blog that Mayo people should never forget how lucky they were that your county has been so consistent at producing top quality footballers and people. It really is a mighty place you are from. This team enhances that point.
They talk about pilgrimages to Knock AND Croagh Patrick. Well let me tell you, this team are on a pilgrimage to plunder the Dubs on September 17. Mayo forever. Mayo for Sam!


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