21
Sun, Jan
28 New Articles

Planes, trains and haircuts

Sport

Ger Flanagan

WHAT’S a trip to Croke Park these days without getting the customary ‘champo cut’ for the big day out?
And you can’t do much better than Kelly’s Hair and Beauty Salon, Castlebar.
Between Maura, Cian, Amy and Co, you’ll always leave looking sharper, feeling wiser and more confident for whatever football is on that weekend.
Heading for Croke Park on game-day in the Flanagan household means leaving before the birds have even considered stirring. It could have been earlier too had the ‘fresh fade’ not required a quick re-styling before departure time.
We arrived at Leixlip station shortly before 10.30am, ready to board the 10.50am train straight to Drumcondra. The hustle had already began and seats on the train were at a premium.
We struck up a conversation with an elderly couple from Dublin. They were shouting for the Dubs, of course, but a small part of them wanted Mayo to win. They could even remember the glory years Mayo had in ’50 and ’51.
It set the scene for the day. I lost count of the amount of Dublin supporters who came with the line of wanting to see Mayo win: some genuine, others in an annoyingly pretentious way.
There must have been a record amount of supporters hunting for match-day tickets. You could hear the voices echoing all the way down Drumcondra Road.
Alan Kiernan, a Mayoman exiled in the capital, struck gold as he walked into The Red Parrot. “You look like a man with tickets,” he said, nonchalantly, to a man perched beside the bar, and out he pulled a golden ticket for the Nally Terrace!
Balla native Ray Holian took time from living the good life in NYC to make the game. The Red Parrot made for a striking contrast to Fifth Avenue, and he wasn’t too impressed at being served a pint in a plastic glass either!
Such was the boisterous Mayo support returning home from JFK the night before, he said, the pilot had to announce on the intercom that the plane would not be leaving until the passengers stopped singing! Of course it was ‘The Green and Red of Mayo’ being belted out!
We took our place on the Nally Terrace, almost directly behind the goal, with the sun beaming down. The view of Croke Park was breathtaking.
And the roar of the crowd was literally spine-tingling. The eight basic emotions were all on display: anticipation, trust, surprise, fear, anger, joy, disgust, and eventual sadness all mixed into an hour-and-a-half.
The ecstasy when Lee Keegan rattled the Hill with his second-half goal. The whispers that Mayo might have done enough when they went two points ahead with eight minutes to go. The screams when Cillian O’Connor’s free hit the post. And the Dubs only coming into voice when the final whistle sounded.
A Kilmacud-Crokes man named Paddy Leneghan was beside us. He summed it all up at the final whistle: “What on earth do ye lads have to do?” he asked.
The walk to the train station afterwards was like nothing before. The confused expression on people’s faces said it all. No analysis in-depth enough to diagnose what unfolded.
But, ever the eternal optimists, “We’ll go again” was a line heard over and over again.
Sure what else can we do?

 

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