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Fri, May
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Mayo fans take a trip down memory lane

Sport

ON THE ROAD AGAIN  Leitrim supporters Gerry Bohan, left, and John O’Flynn, are pictured travelling on train 1 on the subway to the Bronx before a Connacht Senior Championship match between New York and Leitrim at Gaelic Park, New York in 2008.  Pic: Sportsfile

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Colin Sheridan

THE text came, and was immediately confusing; “are you going to garlic park?” Christ, I thought, fair enough I’ve only been living away a few months but now you’re telling me there’s an onion genus themed amusement park for the kids? It’s entirely possible, right? Garlic Park; a rival to Tayto Park, someplace to bring the nippers and kill a previously unkillable Saturday morning. So, I played along.
Not willing to expose my ignorance and instead went vague in an attempt to illicit more information on said park before committing myself to the Bulbous Barnburner Ride. Enough time to figure was it worth the stink of garlic and the kids falling asleep on the way home.
“Not sure. You?”
“Heading Thursday. Back Tuesday. On the milk-thistle since last week”
The milk-thistle gave it away. The ol’ liver saver. Autocorrect is a terrible thing. The text of course, should have read “are you going to gaelic park?”. Any other week, any other year, casually asking somebody are they going to New York for the weekend would seem a tad ludicrous. Not this year, however.
This year, it seems we are conveniently commemorating one of the blackest episodes in our nation’s history: The Great Woodbury Common Exodus of 2007. This was an episode which saw tens of thousands of young Irish people driven from their homes. Driven from their homes, in taxis, to the airport.
With nothing with one piece of luggage, and an MDMA credit card to their name. Only to return four days later with seven pieces of luggage. Stuffed to the gills full of Abercrombie and Fitch boxers and oversized Ralph Lauren tees.
Yes, once I figured out the whole ‘garlic park/gaelic park’ confusion, I realised it was perfectly acceptable to tell somebody publically that you were going to New York for the weekend. At least this time round, this is for an honourable cause. New York host Mayo in the first game of what could potentially be another epic summer for all of us.
And, boy, do I envy any of those filling in their ESTA forms this week.
Of those many who are travelling, there will be a couple standard types.
Type A will be hitting the mean streets of the Big Apple for maybe his sixth time; three with herself, 2 with the lads and one – the first – as a J1 back in 2004, when he worked for his dad’s uncle ripping asbestos from derelict buildings in Queens.
For him, this weekend will be a sort of homecoming which will confirm his status as a well-travelled man. The type of man who could drink the basin of the Hudson River dry, so long as it’s Lite beer. This man will dig out the one grey Villanova tee shirt he bought in ’04, and he will reminisce on the flight over of all the ball he kicked with the Brooklyn Shamrocks, recalling the night he hit six from play in Van Cortlandt Park and the boys he played with nicknamed him ‘The Commissioner’, coz the pseudonym he was playing under was Ray Kelly, the NYPD chief at the time.
He will lecture any of the novices in the group on the intricacies of the tipping culture and he will prove to be at least semi-compos mentis on the subway. He will know how to get to and get home from McClean Avenue day or night.
Despite a lot of big talk to the contrary, however, he will not make it to the city this weekend. He will live and almost die by Yonkers. He will promise himself late Sunday night he will make a burst for Manhattan early Monday morning, get into Century 21 for some bargains for herself, before bolting for his flight in Newark. This plan will be hijacked by a chance encounter with one of his Shamrocks team mates from in Rory Dolans.
No, The Commissioner will not make the city. Herself will have to settle for a bottle of Chanel from duty free.
Type B then, well, he could well be a brother of Type A. This will be his maiden voyage to New York and he will be more like Crocodile Dundee than the Great Gatsby, for the first day at least.
This trip will have been booked the second the championship draw was made last winter. New York will have been on his bucket list since he skipped that legendary summer his brother had in ’04 and instead concentrated on the club at home. A decision he might have regretted had he not met his future wife in the Big Tree after the Mayo bet Fermanagh in the ’04 semi. So no regrets, but, man o’ man he has wanted to hit New York since.
To walk the streets like de Niro. To watch the Mets – and not the Yankees – at Citi Field and delight in a sports event that is at least four hours long, under floodlights with cool beer and a hot dog. To drink an Old Fashioned in the Algonquin, just the one, and a tip the bar tender a New York tip.
Yes, for Type B, New York v Mayo in Gaelic Park this Sunday may well be the coup de grace, but the odyssey that precedes it, from the time the flight taxis in Dublin airport on Thursday to the time the Diarmuid O’Connor bursts through the Manhattan Jaspers changing room door Sunday at 2pm this Sunday, it will be that camino what will be as memorable as that glorious J1 summer of 2004.
For the hundreds going, and the thousands of brothers, sisters and cousins welcoming them, this is no return to the Great Woodbury Common Exodus. This is a just reward for loyalty and endurance. The children’s allowance can be replenished. The credit union paid back. The summer is here. The shirts are ironed. It’s Sunday in the Big Apple. God speed everyone.