BLINK AND YOU MISS IT A section of Mayo fans in the crowd at MacHale Park, Castlebar last Saturday evening. Pic: Conor McKeown
A Fan’s View
JUST when you think you’ve figured out the plot and can turn out the light, this Mayo team triumphantly present another twist in the tale and jerk you back to wakefulness, keeping you up all night, wide-eyed, hooked and desperate for another fix.
In this season alone, let alone the last eight, I feel like everything that could ever possibly be written about this team has already been committed to paper. To wax lyrical about their performance on Saturday night feels unoriginal and cliched.
Said and read many times before.
And yet. With every performance, they possess this beguiling ability to create a new story, giving new life to old words. Dominant. Marauding. Dogged. Possessed. Impatient. Brutal. Stubborn. Rampant. Fierce. All these and more. Just scratching the surface.
In Series Nine, Mayo have proved that they still possess the power to disrupt and confound the critics. You’d wonder if this wild unpredictability is born out of mischievousness; or a cruel, perverse desire to wring out every fan in this uncontrollable quest to do things their own way.
We’ve had our share of memorable days following these lads, but today, they gift us with another. I’ll admit that at 4pm, a full two hours before throw-in as the rain was dripping off the end of my nose and the programme was disintegrating, I was definitely – again – questioning my own sanity. Then I looked at the 15,000 around me and started questioning theirs too.
I’m sure the Sawdoctors’ Davy Carton was also wondering, at least until someone finally thought to bring him an umbrella. The pre-match entertainment was about as country as it comes – a Galwayman entertaining the Mayos and Donegals – and it went down a treat. Something for Mayo GAA to consider for 2020.
I often find during games like this, that the tension floods my brain and blinds me a bit to what is happening on the pitch. Swathes of the game pass me by in a blur of movement. That could also be down to consistently forgetting my glasses. But one thing that does not escape me today is the ferocity, the intensity of Mayo as they show the hardened boys from the hills the real order of things. I feel every collision, every thud in my own bones. It’s been years since Castlebar has heaved with this heat, noise and colour. It’s intoxicating.
We grasp the game by the throat. By half-time, we know it’s ours to lose. Which probably means we’ll do everything in our power to lose it. As it happens, David Gough is happy to help. The gap narrows. Our boys react. Alongside them, we do too.
Michael Murphy’s goading of Aidan O’Shea provokes a furious, feral reaction from the terrace; so much that he turns and responds with a rage of his own. He knows they’re in trouble and solitary, he is frustrated, doing everything in his considerable power to drag them across the line. And warrior-like, he almost succeeds.
Time drags. Chests tighten. Donegal wides are celebrated through clenched teeth; tightly curled fists punch the air. Not in spite, but relief; a valve to release tension. We hang by our fingertips. The rational brain intervenes to suggest Donegal are unlikely to snatch it now. The emotional brain screams back: When was any Mayo game ever logical?
Another free. “Put it pure wide,” someone roars. Murphy obliges. Seven minutes’ added time. It already feels like a hundred years have been played. What’s another seven minutes? It’s over. It’s over! The terrace explodes.
This “ageing” team does not understand that after so many losses, your resolve is meant to crumble, your determination and stubbornness is meant to ebb away. They don’t contemplate the notion that the disappointments they’ve endured are meant to erode their belief.
Yet as I write, the consensus is that plucky but tired Mayo will again, tragically, fall short against this golden generation of Boys in Blue. Like the Children of Lir, they will disintegrate and back they will fall with the also-rans. A dream once dreamed. A hope snuffed out.
Given their form, what are the odds that this team will just laugh, tear up the script and create a finale that no-one in their wildest dreams could have anticipated?
We’re here and ready for it. Hook it to our veins. Let’s go.