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Country roads take me home

Sport

On the Road
Michael Commins

THE window flags got their first airing of 2019 as we set our sights on the journey north. Overcast and cloud turned to heavy fog on the hill at Knock Airport before descending into clear light at Charlestown. Another pilgrim soul with his Mayo flag in a Cork registered car was ahead as we crossed from Mayo into Sligo. One sensed it was great to be on the road again.
Austin Garvin from Claremorris and my daughter Fiona were my travelling companions and the miles eased behind us, broken only by a short stop in Sligo where we met Sheila Mellett from Swinford decked out with Mayo colours and set for the trail again.
The old grey clouds of the west were spread gently above snow covered Ben Bulben and it was easy to see why WB Yeats found contentment in this place where peace comes dropping slow.
We take the Ballyshannon route and cross the border at Belleek and embark on the most enchanting of journeys through Boa Island with the serene and tranquil waters of Lough Erne bringing balm to the soul. Fermanagh has been blessed by nature and remains a jewel on the island of Ireland.
Many of the Mayo supporters arrived early and some of a certain vintage no doubt recalled dancing to many of the Tyrone singers who came west over the years when the ‘Pretty Little Girl from Omagh’ was all the rage.
Tom and Kathleen Fadden from Swinford were the first we met as we strolled towards Healy Park. The folks from Ann Baynes’ bus were sampling the atmosphere outside the grounds and Sandra Moran, Mary Gibbons and Chris Kelly were joined by the legendary John Regan from Kiltimagh and they were in fine fettle.
John Regan had more than Mayo football on his mind ....he was hoping to see Cliona Hagan while in Tyrone, yes indeed ...!
Patrick Carr was in great form along with his parents Padraig and Lorraine from Dugort, Achill and so too were Joe and Ann Cafferkey from Ballina and all the folks on Mickey Joe Lyons’s bus from Ballyhaunis.
Like many of the big Mayo band of supporters we were somewhat apprehensive about this game in the aftermath of the rout we encountered against Tyrone in Castlebar last year.
What we witnessed was amazing with our new look team delivering a top shelf performance.
For me the pivotal moment that swung this game in spectacular fashion was the brilliance of Keith Higgins in executing a goal of grandeur. He was magnificent again on Sunday. When Fionn McDonagh nailed Mayo’s second goal, the much vaunted Tyrone defence had been shredded yet again with this power-play performance by James Horan’s brigade.
I never go to a match without my faithful old radio and, as our game ended, I switched over to BBC Radio Ulster on 1341 mediumwave to catch our own Mike Finnerty bringing us the exciting closing minutes of the Roscommon and Monaghan game in Hyde Park.
The radio still retains its own magic and soon some Mayo and Tyrone followers gathered round to hear Mike relay the final stages of another shock on a day when Carlow hurlers sensationally held Galway to a draw in the midlands.
It was an amazing sight to see a string of car tail lights stretch for nearly a mile as the Mayo folks headed back through the darkness of Fermanagh and Boa Island. It was the close of a special day for the ever loyal supporters. Country roads take us home.

 

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