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An excellent American adventure

Sport

GIRLS ON TOUR Michaela Healy, Emily Mulvey and Ciara Deane are pictured at the recent Connacht SFC match between Mayo and New York at Gaelic Park. Pic: Seamus Kiernan

The Fan’s View

Anne-Marie Flynn

IT started with a tweet by former Mayo goalkeeper John Madden. It was quite innocuous; it was only shared 27 times. But the collective power of Facebook and word of mouth ensured that the call to arms swept through Manhattan in record time, and on Saturday evening, the Mayo faithful answered in their droves.
We thought there might be 40 or 50 people there; enough for a respectable chorus. But as we drew closer, they were streaming in from every street and avenue. The wave of green and red turned into a tsunami, culminating in an enthusiastic rendition of The Green and Red of Mayo – indeed a few renditions - ringing out at full volume over Times Square, much to the bemusement of locals and tourists. Where would you get it?
It’s hard to fathom that it’s almost two weeks since we were packing the bags for New York, and harder still to fathom that it’s nearly a week since the adventure came to an end.
And what an adventure it was.
Being in New York this time around reminded me a bit of heading off to music festivals in the early noughties. It was complete escapism and pure, joyful, old-fashioned silliness.
There was no talk of the elections or Brexit, or the reckless spending of the government. The sheer volume of Mayo people that descended on Manhattan meant it was impossible to walk a block without spotting a geansaí, sharing a knowing nod or hearing “G’wan Mayo” bellowed from a passing car. There was one popping up on every tour bus, subway, skyscraper and ferry.  Everyone was smiling.  
With little regard for normal working hours, there was no fear of staying out late.
The craic was at least 190.
The influx didn’t go unnoticed; as we surfed the subway, more than once we got curious queries from the locals about the ubiquitous crest that had appeared overnight. When we explained, those with Irish heritage beamed and wished us luck in the game.
Ah, the game. Never shall a game be so reminiscent of the infamous day in Bekan in 2014. Instead of basking on the bleachers, we found ourselves huddled under trees on ‘Hill 17’, shifting from one foot to the other, trying in vain to stay warm. It wouldn’t be like us to bring the weather with us. For such a seasoned bunch, it was a bit galling to be caught unawares on an away trip like this. It wouldn’t have happened in Castlebar!
Had the game itself been more competitive, it might have distracted us, but ruthless Mayo put paid to any contest in the first quarter. Afterwards, it was a matter of drying out, resting the feet for a while and venturing out to celebrate – not that any excuses were needed.
It was quite the treat to discover the league final being shown on a loop in the Irish Pub on Seventh Avenue, every score being celebrated like the first time.
Add to that the miles walked, the sights seen, the shopping bags filled and the food enjoyed, and you had the makings of one unforgettable weekend. Memories made; new friendships forged, old ones cemented. This piece couldn’t possibly do it justice. It was a privilege to be in a position to go, and one that was not taken for granted.
The reaction the Times Square clips provoked among fans of other counties on social media - similar to the reaction to our win in the League final - was quite amusing.
For the life of me, I can’t fathom what a bunch of Mayo fans enjoying themselves in another country had to do with anyone else. It’s gratifying though, that despite all our apparent misery, we still seem to enjoy ourselves more than most.
But we as Mayo fans however need to grow thicker skins too; and understand that what they think of us is merely noise, and none of our concern.
The journey begins now in earnest, and again we will put our shoulders to the wheel, and get behind our team.  Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. Could this be the one? Perhaps. But if not, we’ll always have New York.