Watching club rivals from near but afar

A Breaffy Man in Castlebar
Watching from near but afar

The rivalry between my GAA club, Breaffy, and our currently high achieving neighbours, Ballintubber and Castlebar, can be sometimes friendly, often fierce.
It is with a certain discomfort that we have looked on from the stands at the last two county senior finals as the clubs that straddle probably over 75 per cent of our borders, went toe to toe.
Losing at the quarter-final stage in both years, with feelings of regret both times, doesn’t help the mood. It is the archetypical conflict. On a personal level you wish well to lads you went to school with and lads you are good friends with. On a wider level you’d nearly give your right arm to be there instead of them.
One Breaffy man I know found last year’s county final an impossible day. “I don’t know how anyone from Breaffy went to that game, to see those two teams in it. Sure how could there be a result you’d be happy with,” he asked, rhetorically.
It was interesting to listen to the different views of guys from different clubs in the Castlebar area about this year’s final.
“How could you be listening to them? Sure they’re bad enough as it is with nothing won, imagine what they’d be like if they won the county title,” one Parke man argued. And he’d be great friends with a few of the Mitchels players but the thought of them lifting the Moclair Cup was an abhorrent one for him.
A few more people then reckon that Ballintubber have got a bit too big for their boots. Whether that is just old-fashioned begrudgery is another question.
I wouldn’t go that far myself on either side but there is little doubt that success of thy neighbour in GAA will never bring full approval from the other side of the river or the hedge.
Personally I’d sooner see two neighbours in a final rather than two teams from the other end of the county, all other things being equal. It raises standards, tensions and expectations in the whole area.
And, besides, it’s nice to see people who you know personally and whose sacrifices you have seen up close go all the way. But, no matter, you will always wonder what if?
I had reason to be happy on Sunday though, from a financial point of view. Ballintubber’s win completed my accumulator of them, Davitts and Islandeady winning the three football championships in Mayo and my bookie, John Stagg, was able to pay up within five minutes of the final whistle out on the field in McHale Park.
I don’t remember a bet ever being honoured as quickly. I won’t stretch to buying a round for the Ballintubber lads.  That would be too friendly now.