Playing and watching GAA over the years teaches you several things. Wearing white boots while playing in most pitches in Mayo is asking for trouble. Finding Garrymore is almost as hard as winning down there and the world will be coming to an end if you play in Bangor and no wind is present and no car horns can be heard after a hometown score.
But another thing that I have found very striking over the years is the passion you see in rural clubs. Passion, pride in the area are some of the first things that strike you about some of the many rural clubs in Mayo. Kiltane, Garrymore, Hollymount, Knockmore, Tourmakeady to name just five. With the exception of Knockmore all those just named exist on a sparse population but their pride in their own parish, their community can make them very competitive against town teams with vastly greater numbers.
It is a long-held view in GAA circles that there is a typical ‘town’ team. Characteristics ascribed to them include a lack of passion and desire, in-fighting when things start to go wrong and, a most loathsome adjective for any GAA team, being ‘soft’.
It is, of course, nowhere near as simple as that. Rural areas tend to provide a greater sense of community. Detached from a large urban area, the bind becomes tighter and the need to work together all the more paramount. Community councils, group water schemes, fundraising drives, the local school and, of course, the eponymous village GAA club help to bring large elements of the community together.
There’s much less of a need for that in towns and their surroundings. My own Breaffy has fallen into this category in recent years with the huge swell of population in the area. Where once, as a child, I knew practically everyone who lived within a two mile radius of the home house, now I could walk past my next door neighbour in the street and be none the wiser.
Living in the shadow of the town of Castlebar, it would be easy for the local identity to be subsumed but the weekend just past was a fine example of how a community can work together to help to create exactly that - a sense of community.
The Breaffy Blast Festival was run this year for the first time and from the Belle of Breaffy on the Friday night to the superb Barn Dance on Saturday and on into the 10K Road Race, Family Fun Day and Camogie Reunion on the Sunday, the village came out in force as a community.
It is not as necessary, it might be argued, to have a sense of community in Breaffy as in other places because of our proximity to Castlebar but pride of place is vital no matter where you are from, be it on the shores of the Atlantic or in a Dublin tower block. Those behind the Breaffy festival are to be commended.