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Mayo fans in flying form in Dublin Airport

Sport

FLYING THE FLAG Mayo supporters Lauran Durban (left) from Attymass, and Maeve McCormack of Islandeady fly the Mayo colours outside Gaelic Park last Sunday. Pic: Sportsfile

New York Diary

Mike Finnerty

PICTURE the scene: early last Thursday morning at Dublin Airport and Marty Morrissey walks through the departure area. Heads turn, breakfasts are left idle for a moment, pints placed back down on counters, and small children and bags are left unattended, albeit briefly.
Then Marty disappears from view and everything returns to normal, or as normal as things can be when there are pockets of Mayo supporters scattered all around the airport and Morning Ireland is still on air.
Down at the US Emigration pre-clearance area, one of the emigration officials was beginning to notice a trend. ‘You heading over to the match as well?’ he asked one Mayo supporter after another, spotting their official jersey/jacket/t-shirt/polo shirt/fleece/hoodie/gilet/cap — or whatever you were having yourself.
Mayo were on the move alright, and you couldn’t look sideways without bumping into a familiar face.
Donal ‘Bill’ Healy and his wing-man from Charlestown were among the first to arrive. We discovered very quickly why ‘Bill’ is on the big money at Ireland West Airport Knock as their affable head of marketing delivered an impromptu crash course to yours truly in ‘brand management’.
One quick photograph of a copy of The Mayo News sitting proudly on a shelf at Dublin Airport alongside copies of the Irish Times and USA Today, and we were ready to fire off a tweet.
But not before ‘Bill’ conducted an interview for Sky Sports (the microphone may not actually have been plugged in) with an unsuspecting Declan Divilly, while David ‘Ginger’ Tiernan watched on.
Last we heard, the 54 people who travelled to New York from Charlestown GAA club had started a petition to get ‘Bill’ a part-time job on Monday Night Football.
Finian Joyce from Castlebar was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed too on Thursday morning.
Not alone is Finian a man who actually played at Gaelic Park 40 years ago, while a student spending a summer in the USA, but he also played there back in 2000 with a touring Mitchels team.
And he’s a great man for the Irish rebel songs, doing his best to get a sing-song going with his travelling party down at the departure gates. In hindsight, it probably was a tad early for the Wolfe Tones.
‘You’d want about 10 pints in you for that,’ said one man in the group.
The playing cards were out shortly afterwards, and the craic was good.
The Breaffy contingent were out in force with the Ruanes and the Halls both present and correct; in fact John and Lorraine Hall were sitting across the aisle from us on our Aer Lingus flight, and great neighbours they were too.
They were among the lucky ones that Finian Joyce called to during the flight with a complimentary copy of The Mayo News; other copies went off on the United Airlines flight to Newark with Colm Gannon of The Mayo Advertiser. Who said there was no ‘Meitheal spirit’ left in Ireland?
We can’t want to hear the gory details about how Colm and his five hardy bucks fared out in their Air B&B. If that jacuzzi could talk, maybe there’d be a column in it?
John Madden from Ballycastle, the man who kept goal for Mayo in the 1996 All-Ireland Final, looked like a man on a mission as he headed for the departure gates. Despite the fact that he lives in Athlone, he’s been back playing the club again lately to help make up the numbers.
So if any man deserved a few days away, it was ‘Purty’ Madden!
The Byrne’s Babes were ready for road too, and bearing up alright considering they had hit the road from Castlebar in the early hours of the morning. We must give a special mention to Ailish Conway from Balla who didn’t flinch when we asked her to pass a copies of The Mayo News on to her fellow ‘Babes’.
As we headed out the door, into the chute, and on to the plane, we just had time to shout a quick ‘are ye going to the match?’ to Tony and Mary O’Connor from Ballintubber, easily the most fashionable couple in the place.
Joe O’Connor was with them, a familiar face to Mayo fans around Breffni Park or Croke Park, as he’s often the Garda on point duty outside the stadiums on big match day.
So not a bad man to have with you on a weekend like this!
Speaking of Ballintubber GAA, the Gibbons sisters, Rachel and Charlene, were also on our flight as was Anne-Marie Flynn from this parish, aka ‘An Cailín Rua’.
Everyone was in high spirits as the beef stroganoff and chicken ravioli arrived, and we decided whether to watch ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ or the latest cartoon from Disney.
The mood was light, although we couldn’t help but think of a certain well-known Mayo GAA referee that we’d bumped into at the departure gate earlier.
Normally a bright, bubbly and laid-back type, our friend looked a little anxious as he contemplated the long-haul flight across the Atlantic. “This could be harder than refereeing that crowd I was telling you about before,” he muttered, as he pulled a bag of tablets out his pocket.
Luckily, his mother had packed a little something to help him relax.
They didn’t seem to do him any harm anyway!
The time flew by on board and the giddiness was palpable as the pilot — who had earlier given a shout-out to everyone on board from Charlestown GAA club — landed the plane perfectly, with not so much as a wobble.
Within minutes we were out and away, with the long weekend stretching out in front of us.

NEXT WEEK
Part 2 of the New York Diary