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Up to Down and back again


Mike Finnerty

WE’RE reliably informed that it was around 3am last Sunday morning when the Mayo team bus dropped off its passengers in Castlebar after returning from Newry.
Sleep would have come easy to everyone on board at that stage, but they were all up and out for recovery sessions on Sunday to begin the preparation for next weekend’s next match.
(Well, we’re not sure about the lads from the County Board, but the Mayo players were in recovery mode anyway!)
But the Mayo supporters who stayed on in Down last Saturday night had no such worries or concerns.
We heard a whisper of a few hardy bucks who were tucking into their chicken burgers and chips in Newry around the time the Mayo lads were taking their gear-bags off the bus back at home!   
Many of the fans who made a weekend of it also enjoyed a lie-in the following morning and we bumped into a few familiar faces tucking into the Full Irish breakfast in the Canal Court Hotel.
Peter Carney from Kilmeena, who was last seen on the big screen at Croke Park the day of the National League Final, wasn’t one of them.
The well-known member of the Clew Bay Pipe Band was spotted heading for the cold meats and fruit salads.
Now we know his secret — the continental breakfast!
The Canal Court Hotel seemed to be the unofficial HQ for Mayo supporters before the game on Saturday as well.
There were Green and Red jerseys dotted all around the lobby hours before the throw-in, and we met Tony O’Connor from Ballintubber who was relaxing after landing. We had a fascinating chat about Brexit before going our separate ways.
The big talking point among Mayo supporters in the build-up to the match revolved around what route to take to Newry. Yours truly felt there was no decision to be made — the motorway to Dublin and then up the M1 meant less hassle and less chance of running into a sponsored cycle or a colour run in the likes of Delvin!
Work commitments meant we were at the pitch earlier than a lot of the Down GAA stewards, but it was fascinating to see the number of Mayo fans who walked from the city centre to Pairc Esler — and back again — just to time the journey.
Considering the baking heat at the time, we couldn’t but marvel at their organisation and dedication; likewise those supporters who started queuing outside the turnstiles around three hours before show time.
Word reached us at half-time that two celebrity ex-Mayo footballers were among the big crowd: Conor ‘The Mort’ Mortimer and Billy Joe Padden, our esteemed columnist.
Later that night, Billy Joe told us about bumping into Achill native, Brendan Burke, who had travelled by bus from England to Newry to support Mayo.
Brendan was heading back later that night, and told BJP that he wouldn’t have missed the match for the world.
That’s serious dedication!
It must be said that despite all the negativity around the late throw-in time, a huge Mayo crowd made the long trip.
After New York and Newry, they (and their wallets) will have been delighted to hear it’s a spin to Castlebar next Saturday!