Great weekend, just a pity about the final score
On the road
IT feels like only last week since Noel and Pat’s eagerly-anticipated maiden FBD League voyage, yet suddenly it’s almost April and the National League is nearly done.
It’s been a roller-coaster journey and after the Dublin mauling, it was with trepidation that the Mayo faithful turned towards Cork at the weekend. Expectations were mixed; uncertainty about the game but strong confidence in a good weekend ahead.
Work commitments saw me arrive Leeside on Thursday. A straight motorway drive from Dublin, it’s easier than the trek from the west, but motorways are hypnotic and the lack of service stations or rest stops on the route is surprising.
Driver fatigue is a killer (literally), so hopefully this changes soon. The drive passed without incident, however, the work was eventually cast aside and on Saturday the weekend started in earnest.
For once, it was nice to have time to wander around Cork and soak it in. Its people are fiercely proud of their city (and themselves), a pride which can arguably over-manifest itself. But spend time there and it becomes clear why – there’s a warmth and wit here you won’t see elsewhere. They’ve suffered too; empty shop fronts tell their own story, and a perceived lack of relative investment in Cork (and in particular Cork Airport) has left them shouting into the wind, a scenario with which we in Mayo can empathise. But they’re still smiling.
After losing myself in the English Market for hours (how much cheese can one person eat in a week? I’ll let you know) I caught up with some Cork friends before grabbing a bite with the Mayo crew and heading for town.
After a quick pitstop in Dan Lowry’s on MacCurtain Street to test the Guinness (verdict: excellent), we parked ourselves in the cosy Mutton Lane bar off Patrick Street, where plenty of familiar faces were gathering. The refreshments were good, the company was excellent, and at closing time it was hard to resist the lure of Crane Lane for one for the road.
The clocks going forward meant it was far from an early night, but isn’t that what away trips are for!
Even at 12.30pm on Sunday parking was scarce near Páirc Uí Rinn. The invincible Mayo support had clearly once again travelled in their thousands and were in full voice. Despite a far from flawless first half, it quickly became evident that Mayo were well up for this fight. Plenty of bite ensured referee Eddie Kinsella was kept busy, so busy that in the first half he remained comically oblivious to a ten-man brawl at the other end of the pitch.
Deep into the second half we looked like we had them, but our habit of naively failing to close out games cost us dearly as Hurley sneaked in to steal a goal with a minute to go and with it, a sickening victory.
Neither my co-pilot – a Mayoman exiled in Dublin – nor I were feeling too charitable towards our hosts at that point, so we skipped the hurling and got on the road, recalling with fondness on the journey all the trouncings dished out to us by Cork down the years.
Cork might be a nice spot, but when it comes to GAA, there’s no love lost. The ‘grand stretch in the evenings’ meant the sun was still shining as we approached the capital. Another trip home next weekend where Donegal await, and with them, our National League fate.
Summer is in our sights now. Bring it on.