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Kilbane confident Mayo have the ‘killer’ touch

Sport

THE WEARING OF THE GREEEN Kevin Kilbane pictured supporting Mayo at the 2016 drawn All-Ireland final. Pic: Sportsfile

Interview
Anton McNulty

WHEN you see BBC football pundit, Garth Crooks putting on the Mayo jersey with his hands in the air, you know it’s ‘Mayo4Sam’ season.
The present of the green and red shirt to the former Spurs legend was made by former Republic of Ireland international and massive Mayo fan, Kevin Kilbane who tweeted the photo of him with the message, ‘Garth says Mayo 4 Sam’.
It’s not the first time that the former 110-cap Irish international has nailed his colours to the mast in his support for Mayo. He regularly sends tweets about the Mayo team and even wore the county jersey when speaking on the Off the Ball roadshow on Newstalk ahead of the All-Ireland semi-final with Kerry.
Although born and raised in Preston, Kilbane’s late father, Farrell, was a native of Achill, and trips to the Irish Centre in Manchester to watch GAA championship games were part of his childhood.
“When I was a kid growing up, we would have had to go to Manchester to watch the games in the Irish Centre,” he told The Mayo News ahead of final against Dublin. “We would have headed over with one of my uncles ... and watched some of the bigger games like All-Ireland semis or finals. That is where we would have had to get our fix when we were growing up.”
As his professional football career took off, Gaelic games was not as important to him as he concentrated on the day job. However, he knows how much supporting Mayo meant to the likes of his father and other Mayo emigrants living in England.
“Growing up with Dad and all my uncles, it meant so much to them,” he said. “That in many respects is what the team in general are playing for. I know they are playing for their families, but when you are over in England ... you see what it means to all the Mayo people. When they are watching the games it means so much to them. You get sucked up in that atmosphere when you are watching the matches,” he recalled.
It was only when Kilbane retired from the game that he had more time to return to Ireland and says his love for Mayo GAA was rekindled. Farrell Kilbane passed away in 2015 and his son knows how much an All-Ireland victory would have meant to his late father.
“I just think overall it [watching and supporting Mayo] is probably because of my Dad and the way that he was. I was probably desperate for them to win an All-Ireland just for him in the end … he would have wanted it more than anything else in his life when he was living. That is something which would come into my own reckoning, I suppose, when I’m watching them.”
When not attending Mayo games this summer, Kevin has managed to watch all their championship matches, and was on the edge of his seat for most of them.
“I do get very nervy when I watch them of course. I’m sure the people around me watching the games will tell you that. The only thing I can compare it to is when I watch Ireland play. I get nervous watching Ireland [but] would be probably be more so watching Mayo.”
As a member of the ‘ciotóg union’, there is no prize for guessing who is the Mayo player he admires the most.
“I can’t hide my admiration for Aidan O’Shea, Lee Keegan and the boys … but I do like watching Kevin McLoughlin. I do like watching him as a left-footer, I do like his driving runs from midfield, and he does stick out when I am watching the games.”
One aspect of the Mayo team he admires is the number of times they keep proving their critics wrong when they have been written off. He experienced his own personal heartbreak playing for Ireland, losing out on qualification in play-off defeats and missing a penalty in a shoot-out in the World Cup in 2002.
“These sort of things make you stronger and perhaps bring you back stronger as well,” he said. “It shows the courage and desire which is in the Mayo side that they keep coming back. They have nothing to prove [to us] but it is to themselves that they can get over the line.”
Since getting involved in the media following his retirement, Kilbane spends a lot of his time in Dublin, working with Newstalk and TV3, and knows the pundits give Mayo little hope of capturing Sam.
While acknowledging Jim Gavin’s Dublin are an incredible side, he says he has seen something different in this Mayo team.
“I really do have a good feeling. You can’t be overly confident given they [Dublin] are one of the best ever, but I just think by how [Mayo] played against Kerry and even the replay against Roscommon, they look fit and strong and hungry. There is so much you got to admire about them … and yeah, I think they will win it.”
Kilbane was supposed to be working on a Manchester United game next Sunday, but managed to convince his bosses to reschedule and plans to be in Croke Park for the final.
For good reason too.
“I’ve never seen them beaten at Croke Park this year and I hope it continues!” he concludes.

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