ANOTHER ROLLERCOASTER RIDE A section of the Mayo fans celebrate after Fionn McDonagh's goal against Armagh in last Saturday evening's All-Ireland SFC Qualifier in Castlebar. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
A Fan's View
FOR all Mayo supporters these last few weeks have been a bit of a frenzy. The tension ahead of the Monday morning draw, the lead-up to the weekend game, all the madness and excitement of match-day itself.
Then it’s rinse and repeat.
We go again this week, Monday morning’s draw having paired us against Galway in next weekend’s Round 4 of the qualifiers, which means that, should we survive that test, we’ll be in Group 1 of the Super 8s along with Kerry, Donegal and the winners of the Clare/Meath tie. But let’s focus solely on Galway for now and, one assumes, the next near-death experience that awaits at the weekend.
Sitting behind the controls of the Mayo GAA Blog, while also co-presenting The Mayo News football podcast with Rob Murphy, gives me a ringside seat like no other on Mayo’s summer journey.
It’s one that has given me a voice within this mad caravan that careers along in the team’s wake, while also enabling me to keep tabs on what the mood is like within the support base.
The last few weeks have been as crazy as anything I’ve experienced.
As Mayo have begun to march once more through the qualifiers, record numbers of visitors have flocked to the blog, where keeping up with the babble of different opinions has often felt like a full-time job.
The steady flow of games has, too, given a constant rhythm to the podcast. We’ve upped the output to two shows a week and as long as Mayo stay afloat in the championship we’re careering down the river with them in their slipstream.
Higher than ever numbers are tuning into the podcast every week and we know from the feedback we’re getting that our listenership is located literally all over the world. This is both gratifying and terrifying, in roughly equal measure.
On the podcast and on the blog, the aim is the same. This is to keep the fans in touch with what’s happening while doing everything we can to ensure that the debate we initiate is as informed and insightful as we can make it.
With so much happening all the time and a mounting number of player injuries during this relentless week-to-week cycle of play-recover-train-play, it’s no wonder that the debate can at times get a little heated.
James Horan didn’t appear overly happy with questions posed to him after the Armagh game about training methods and the possibility that this might be a factor in all the injuries his players have suffered.
I’m not sure I blame him for his reaction to this – whatever pressure we’re under trying to keep up with this galloping, constantly evolving story, he’s really in the cockpit and the stress he’s under right now must be pretty relentless.
But would any of us have it any other way? The insane peaks and troughs we all experience as Mayo followers – in whatever guise this comes – so often feels like the epitome of being alive.
Last Saturday’s win means we’re still in this championship for at least another week as we now contemplate Galway and the delicious thought that we might, for the first time since 1999, dump them out of it. And, of course, if we get over that hurdle we’ll need to alter our focus quickly to the Super 8 series of games that lie beyond.
So on we go at top speed, for now at least. The winter will be long and dull and it’s thoughts of these days that will sustain us then as we dream anew of what next year might bring. Up Mayo.
John Gunnigan (aka Willie Joe) runs the popular ‘Mayo GAA Blog’ and is the co-presenter of The Mayo News Football Podcast with Rob Murphy.