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A day for the ponchos

Sport

On The Road
Mike Finnerty

SPARE a thought for the photographer who landed at Gaelic Park around 7am last Sunday morning, some seven hours before the match started.
He wanted to be there to get a picture of the place being opened up.
Chances are he probably met a few Hardy Bucks from Mayo on their way home from the night before. New York city may never sleep, but there will be a few lads who shall remain nameless that didn’t do much of it either last weekend!
The pilgrims started arriving at Gaelic Park last Sunday morning just after 8am, most in search of tickets and others just wanting to get some decent seats under the small covered stand.
Whatever about anything else, nobody can ever doubt their dedication!
A solid queue had formed for tickets and entry by 9.30am — that was going by the pictures on social media anyway!
Because by the time your correspondent got there, it was a much more respectable time of 12 noon, and Billy Kearns from Davitts and Ian Costello from Carramore were two of the first faces we spotted outside the ‘The Punch Bowl’ bar around the corner from Gaelic Park.
That place was heaving as supporters tried to get shelter from the rain that fell constantly all day long on Sunday, soaking everything and everybody in its wake.
The showers fell long and hard, as predicted by the New York forecasters, drenching every single person in the biggest crowd to pack into the famous old venue since the days before health and safety became ‘a thing’.  
A gang from Tooreen Hurling Club, including Johnny Cunnane, had been on the ‘Number 1’ train with us and the main priority for all of us was getting in out of the rain. So we didn’t hang around outside.
Everyone — and we mean everyone — seemed to be wearing ponchos, including Declan O’Reilly from Castlebar, Alan Durcan from Breaffy, Declan and Jenny Hughes from The Neale, Rita Casey from Charlestown, Alan Flannery from Ballinrobe and Ruaidhri O’Connor from Ballintubber.
It wasn’t a day for trying to brave the elements!
After a few days spent seeing the sights, enjoying New York’s hospitality, catching up with old friends and making new ones, the Mayo supporters seemed relieved to be getting back to basics for a few hours.
It was no joke walking 20,000 steps a day around the sprawling city, struggling to figure out Google Maps and trying to figure out a double-barrel address with names and numbers.
There’s a lot to be said for knowing your local town or village like the back of your hand. At times it felt like some of us could get lost in New York going from the bedroom to the bathroom in our hotel!
By the way, by ‘basics’ we mean eating and drinking in the marquee and beer tents behind the goalmouth. That’s where the burgers were being flipped, hot dogs steamed, and the beer and Magners was cooling in the fridge.
And where people could get in out of the rain!
We will probably never know for sure how many people exactly were inside the four walls of Gaelic Park in the Bronx last Sunday, but we can safely assume there weren’t any of the 4,500 tickets left lying around anywhere.