On the road
LESS than 24 hours after Brexit became official, we were on the road again. This time it was the short journey to Castlebar and another showdown with Dublin.
Just a week had passed since we headed north to Ballybofey and up through the Barnesmore Gap which must surely be one of the most scenic journeys (along with Boa Island in Fermanagh) that we love to take while on the road with Mayo.
In our hearts we thanked the men who completed the Balla road-works some weeks ago, bringing to an end the long delays that caused such tailbacks over the last year. It was grand to sail through Balla with such comfort.
RTE Radio One is always part of our on the road journey. The news from the early game in Portlaoise brought a smile to my heart. As President of a club down in Laois, I was delighted to see them turn in a top class winning display against Armagh in Division 2.
There was further comfort in the fact that the weather was decent and a far cry from the horrendous night that Mayo and Roscommon supporters endured in MacHale Park on the opening night of the 2019 National League.
The ladies league game between Mayo and Dublin eased us towards the big game at 7pm. Dublin ladies were deserving of their five points success. Mayo, in the prevailing circumstances, did very well to keep the margin to five points.
On the way in, I met Michael S Togher from Belmullet who told me he was singing the National Anthem on the pitch. It was a special honour for the Belmullet man and one he will cherish for a long time to come.
Mayo took the game to Dublin from the outset. They were motoring in style. This was a far cry from our dismal league performance against Dublin in Croke Park last February. There were a lot of positives to be taken from this game. The displays of Óisin Mullin, Padraig O’Hora, Patrick Durcan, Fergal Boland, Diarmuid O’Connor, Aiden O’Shea and Colm Boyle (until injured) come to mind.
But it all turned on one decision with less than 15 minutes played on the clock. The best compliment you can pay a referee is to ask who he was after the game. That was not the case with Barry Cassidy from Derry who became the central player on Saturday night.
Barry was erratic in his handling of this game all through and not for the first time his visit to Castlebar left a sour taste. There was unanimity among the television analysts that he had got crucial calls wrong on the night.
There was no problem whatsoever with the Dublin team or their supporters. These were the genuine folks who give their allegiance to the sky blues just as we give it to our beloved Mayo. It was good to see them enjoy their time in Castlebar.
The great Mayo exodus will head east again on Sunday through Roscommon, Longford and Westmeath en route to Navan for the big game with Meath. Towns like Delvin and Athboy will hardly know what hit them as the Mayo pilgrims flood towards Páirc Tailteann.
It may be a different generation than that so beautifully serenaded by the great rural poet, Padraic Colum from Longford (1881-1972), who penned those haunting lines:
To Meath of the pastures,
From wet hills by the sea,
Through Leitrim and Longford
Go my cattle and me.
We may we marching to a different drum but the soul of rural Ireland is still central to our heritage and our hearts still bleed the red and green of Mayo. Let’s raise the roof in Navan on Sunday.
On the road