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Just one of those days for Mayo



Just one of those days

On the road
Anne-Marie Flynn

BEING a Mayo football obsessive based in Dublin means plans for the early part of the year are dominated by GAA and enacted with military precision. The minute the league fixtures are released, they are solid and immovable dates in the calendar. Weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs - anything that impedes is met with similar disdain.
Very little comes between me and my football.
This year, I messed up and a long-awaited weekend away with the girls sneaked into the diary. Imagine my horror on realising I wouldn’t even be in the country for the first game? Desperately, I considered my options – returning early, chartering a flight to Farranfore, pulling a sickie; nothing would wash. I conceded Killarney would have to go ahead without me. It made the anticipation of the trip west last weekend all the sweeter.  
On a half day on Friday, I pick up my sister Michelle, who’s just started studying nursing in UCD. I’m always grateful for company on the drive; she never fails to entertain. I feel in turn envious, proud and distinctly elderly as she tells me about her week in college.
We debate the game and the new away jersey, and agree we’re young and trendy enough to appreciate its departure from tradition. I’m not convinced I fit in either category, but I’ll go with it. I hope we’ll bring some of its brashness to bear in MacHale Park on Sunday.
Game day, and we leave the house late. My fault as usual; I hate being late, but still haven’t convinced my internal clock that avoiding this usually entails leaving early. Full to the brim with Daddy Flynn’s hearty late breakfast, we hit the road, boot brimming with groceries in true student style courtesy of Mammy Flynn. I’m grateful for the excuse to get home that football provides. I don’t see enough of my folks.
It’s cold, and fog bears down as we approach Ballyvary but Midwest’s Angelina reassures us our trip isn’t in vain. I realise I’ve forgotten my coat; the air turns momentarily blue. Layers it is! I drop Michelle off and park up, meeting familiar faces as I head into the throng laden down with flags.
In the past I happily flew solo to the odd game, but being part of ‘Club 51’ now means there’s always company. It’s as much about the people you meet as it is the football. And maybe it’s my imagination, but as a supporter it feels different.
We’re louder, more colourful, more defiant than ever.
It’s a frustrating game. Again and again we run up against the wall that is Tyrone’s blanket defence and falter. Three stewards behind provide a running commentary. They, unlike Eddie, are definite on what ‘is’ and ‘isn’t’ a black card offence. The stand is heaving.
At the break, we pray for a game of two halves. Alas, it’s not to be, and the trip back to Dublin in heavy, freezing fog isn’t warmed by the glow of victory.
Back at base, I don’t watch the highlights (there were none) but catch up on match reports and online reaction. We’re a proud, emotional bunch in Mayo. We take our defeats hard – we dissect, argue and philosophise. We just badly want the same thing.
Monday morning and my eye is already on Monaghan in three weeks and the anticipation of another road trip. My journeys west are merely part of a bigger journey – one we’re all on together. The best days once again lie ahead.