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The boys of summer and the men of ‘92

Sport

THE SWEETEST THING  Mayo selector Damien Egan and Paul Lambert are pictured after last Sunday’s Connacht Under-20 Football Championship Final. Pic: James Molloy

Sketch

Mike Finnerty

LIKE ships in the night they passed each other on the field at Dr Hyde Park last Sunday afternoon, the Mayo footballers of past, present and future.
One, a group of teenagers celebrating an historic Connacht Championship title and posing for selfies; the other, a collection of 50-somethings reminiscing about past glories and enjoying other’s company one more time.
Not long after the Mayo Under-20s had finished their lap of honour — complete with a victory slide in front of hordes of Galway and Roscommon supporters on the terrace — than the Mayo players from the 1992 and 1993 jubilee teams arrived on to the field to wave to the crowd in the main stand.
One group of Mayo footballers were celebrating their first ever provincial championship success, while the other crew were being acknowledged for winning two-in-a-row back in their day.
It was remarkable to think that none of Michael Solan’s fresh-faced young Mayo Under-20 squad were even born when Peter Ford and Kevin Beirne were lifting the Nestor Cup in ’92 and ’93.
In fact, some of the Under-20s’ fathers weren’t even born when Mayo supporters were first thrilled by the exploits of ‘The Bullet From Belmullet and ‘Fat Larry’.
It only seems like yesterday that we saw Kevin O’Neill play minor and under-21 and watched Padraig Brogan score the ‘Goal of the Year’ in the 1985 All-Ireland semi-final replay against Dublin at Croke Park.
Last Sunday those memories came flooding back as the ’92 and ’93 lads lined up again, shoulder to shoulder like the old days.
And as they gathered in their marquee behind the stand to eat together and shoot the breeze, we couldn’t help but marvel at how gracefully so many of them had aged.
On the other side of the ground, parents and siblings and friends congratulated the Mayo Under-20s as they made their way back to their dressing-room with the brand new, shiny Connacht Championship cup.
We met the Mullins from Kilmaine who were on their way to check on Oisín, Mayo’s stylish centre-back who injured his shoulder during the second half.
He was due to sit his Accountancy exam in the Leaving Cert yesterday (Monday), so it was easy to see why his father, Jarlath, looked a little worried.
It was the only dark cloud on an otherwise glorious day for Oisín and his team-mates.
It was easy known it was Father’s Day too, with dads queuing up to hug their sons and tell them how proud they were.
And vice-versa, the sons seemed happy to return the compliments too.
The moments we saw shared between Ross Egan and his father, and Tommy Conroy and his dad, would melt the hardest heart.
And we’ve no doubt that Norman O’Brien, Charlie Lambert, Seamus Moran, John Maughan, Peadar Flynn and Jarlath Moran, and all the other dads, will never forget this Father’s Day as long as they live.  
This was one of the great days.
Just ask the Mayo teams of 1992 and 1993.
Memories. Friendships. Family.
And winning. Winning together.
That’s what will make their reunions all the more memorable in years to come.
Because as the men of ’92 and ’93 could tell the boys of 2018, they’re just minding the Mayo jersey until the next young footballer arrives.
Keeping the dream alive.

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