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More Mayo memories would be great

Sport

THE WALKING WOUNDED Injured Mayo footballer Tom Parsons and his wife, Carol, are pictured arriving into the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick last Saturday evening. Tom received a standing ovation from the huge Mayo crowd present. Pic: Sportsfile

On the road

Rob Murphy

THE 2017 Footballer of the Year, Andy Moran, was the last man to leave the field in Limerick last Saturday evening after a satisfying a multitude of autograph hunters and squeezing in a few all-important sprints with Mayo trainer Barry Solan to make up for any runs he may have missed out on earlier.
Andy, of course, rarely misses a beat.
Mayo’s youngest followers tend not to be found wanting either when it comes to getting a post-game moment with their heroes either. In the ten metres between the pitch and the tunnel to the dressing room behind the town end, Moran met with throngs of well-wishers and autograph hunters.
The first young Mayo fan on the scene handed Andy a marker and turned his back to get the prized signature on his white goalkeeper’s jersey.
“I’m there already!” proclaimed Andy, with a smile bigger than we had seen for either of his two goals during his fairly lively second half introduction.
 “I know” replied the young lad, in a tone that seemed to also convey the unsaid words. ‘And’ followed by ‘more of the same, please!’
We’ve all been round the block a few times with this team. We all have some sort of mementos be it the signatures, programmes, souvenirs or receipts lying around somewhere.
We also have the accumulated knowledge from the various trips. I mean, who would have thought in 2011 that Mayo people would know the good spots to sit, park, and eat around the Gaelic Grounds as well as — and possibly better than — any Munster hurling aficionado.
It’s doubtful that our autograph-hunting hero was more than one year old on that early August day in 2011, twenty minutes into the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final against Cork when Aidan O’Shea slipped a pass into the path of a goalbound Kevin McLoughlin.
The subsequent brilliant finish and green flag from McLoughlin propelled this Mayo team into the limelight.
That young Mayo fan has seen more than enough of this group since then to get to know them as well as the rest of us.
We’ve all gathered a lifetime’s worth of memories.
Without narrative, sport is merely organised exercise. It’s the stories that we garner, treasure, and re-tell that makes it all so compelling and no team in Ireland have a page-turner as compelling as what this group of Mayo players continue to conjure up from one year to the next.
That’s why Limerick witnessed another invasion of supporters wearing green and red, and black and red jerseys, tops and t-shirts on Saturday evening.
The sun shone and thousands upon thousands of Mayo people from home and abroad ambled along the Ennis Road from their favourite parking spots towards the colossal (frankly over-sized) arena that is the Gaelic Grounds.
Seventy minutes before throw in, more than half the crowd were in and the stand was pretty much packed. Good job too, as the bulk of them were there to spontaneously welcome Tom Parsons to his seat with a standing ovation.
It was spine-tingling stuff.
A total of 8,230 people were at the game and, but for a a few hundred locals, they were all from Mayo. One would wager that this is a record for an away attendance for a first round All-Ireland Football Qualifier.
That’s more than attended the Connacht semi-final between Galway and Sligo last week! For that matter, it’s also more Mayo fans than were in Croke Park the day James Horan’s men toppled the 2010 champions Cork.
The years tick on, the miles clock up and the mantra is the same.
More of the same please.

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