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A weekend to savour for Mayo fans in Derry city


A weekend to savour in Derry and Limavady

On the road
Anne-Marie Flynn

MAYBE it’s just me, but give me League over Championship any day. The latter might have sunshine and glamour, but nothing speaks of spring like the league.
Wrapped up against the elements in some far-flung corner of the country, there’s comfort in looking around at your own and knowing that everyone else there is just as daft as you are. And if it all goes wrong, you’ll have another chance next weekend.
Away games are special. Some of the best days (and nights) I’ve spent in a Mayo jersey have been in far-flung corners of the country at league matches; Derry was no exception.
Deciding to make a weekend of it, the Sister and I set off from UCD on Saturday morning. How to get there? Direct through Monaghan or the more scenic route via Belfast?
We’d seen enough of the bould Farney boys last weekend; the lure of a stroll around the capital sealed it, and up the M1 we went.
Fed and watered, we arrived in a grey Derry around 4pm. Eager to explore, we set out to find the much-fabled walls. Turns out they’ve hidden them well; being on foot is the key. Eventually we stumbled upon them and did a good lap so we could emphatically tick them off the list.
Back at the hotel, we threw ourselves together and headed out to Limavady for a few sociables. A Mayo crew living locally had organised music and food, but the minute we arrived ?into Frank Owens’ bar (a peach of a pub) we were ambushed by a few of the locals eager for the chat. The craic was ninety, the pints were tasty and we got the best of Derry hospitality. Something tells me we’ll be back.
After the previous night’s exploits, the traditional match-day breakfast was a necessity. We arrived over to the Bogside Inn good and early for the now customary Club ’51 pre-match meet-up and a Rock Shandy.
The place was soon packed and tales of the journey up or the night before exchanged. What happens on tour stays on tour, of course, but it appears we missed one hell of a party in Letterkenny – you know who you are!
The craic was so good, it was almost with reluctance we dragged ourselves up the hill to Celtic Park. The Mayo crowd was in full voice and incredibly, outnumbered the home crowd by more than two to one. What supporters!
In a lively game, we were well placed at half time. Our Derry friends from the night before extended their hospitality to the ground, and a cuppa and sandwich in the Derry inner sanctum was just the ticket to warm up. Something I’ve never managed in MacHale Park!
Joe Brolly was catching up with some of the Mayo crew, Martin McGuinness was wearing a lovely scarf. And there was I thinking there was no glamour in the League.
With two minutes to go, we were sweating. A spirited Derry resurgence inspired by James Kielt had us on the edge of our seats down to the final whistle.
Nervy but exhilarating stuff – it was superb to see the lads digging deep when the chips were down and grinding out the win. And when things were looking dodgy, it was spine-tingling to hear the crowd get on their feet and roar the team on to victory.
Top of the league, with room for improvement – we’ll take that. Next weekend it’s back home to welcome the Dubs under lights – always a great occasion.
Saturday can’t come quickly enough.