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Postcards from the edge

Kevin McStay
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Postcards from the edge

Kevin McStayKevin McStay

IT’S mailbag time once again and the final column before the winter breaks. It has been a long season from the early days of Mickey Moran and the county trials, through the victorious Under-21 campaign and once again the experience of falling at the final fence.
For the greater part this year’s mail divides into two groupings: pre All-Ireland hope and post All-Ireland despair. And the interesting angle from most of my correspondents is their own few paragraphs on the local scene. Mayo at inter-county is all fine and dandy but the local parish remains close to our hearts.
My brother-in-law is a native of Cuba but the Turlough air is very much to his liking. Karen Martinez is a sports aficionado from way back but has replaced his love of baseball and support for Los Industriales (the most famous and glamorous of all the Cuban teams) with his new favourites: the Green and Red of Mayo!
He writes about the recent history of Los Industriales and informs me they were once ‘the rooster’ but fell on hard times and became ‘the feather-duster’. No national title since 1985; a matter of deep frustration for their followers after all the success of the early years.
Romance would lead to love and eventually he would depart his native shore. What happens? Los Industriales went on a winning run again and won three of the next four championships! He sees this as a good omen for 2007 and is convinced the plight of the GAA fan on the Sweet Plains is about to change. He states the confidence of one win for Mayo will lead to a run of victories (we would take the bare ‘wan’ for now, says I).
He was disappointed with the reaction of the fans after the defeat to Kerry: ‘Yes, we were all disappointed but those players deserve all our respect. It was a great day and despite the outcome of the match, I was very proud to wear my jersey as a proud Mayo supporter’.

seeing sam in kilasser
SEAN CUNNEY from Killasser, ‘The True Home of Football’ (his title! Hello?) sent a mail pre the final. His sentences race off the page as the days count down to the decider and I sense his work outputs are dropping significantly as every comment board and website is trawled for info about the build-up. I admonish him and question his focus – three days to go and he is all over the shop – if word of this carry-on leaks to the troops …?
Sean comes from a GAA house (I think this is a lovely description and says everything about these homes that are dotted all over the county) and thus is very familiar with the possibilities Mayo offer when September dawns. His great hope is to witness ‘Davy’ bring Sam to Killasser. And he even finishes with a short prayer but, of course, it was not to be. Patience Sean, patience. ‘Davy’ is giving it another go and we might yet all pile into Killasser for a big night in 2007.

Moffatt makes a good call
THE recently retired  (I think I read that in The Mayo News a few weeks ago but retirements in Mayo never appear to be real retirements; however, in this case the man has done the club some service) Liam Moffatt writes to enquire how things are in the Pentagon. My military office is more on the rectangular side of design but I understand the question all the same.
He was flat out with Sigerson training at the time and his nixer as a highly paid bodyguard for ‘The Mort’ kept bread on the table. Both men were looking forward to winning a Sigerson (and they did just that!) but his mail concentrates on the bigger picture as the season was beginning to unfold.
He noted: ‘in the championship I can see the Dubs/Mayo/Galway in the final this year with Kerry because they all have the ability to beat the northern teams. I think Armagh have the guile but mobility in the middle third in Croker will be more open to scrutiny especially if they meet a foot passing team like Kerry or Galway. But ultimately Kerry’s ability to have ball winners like Gooch and Brosnan inside will allow them to foot pass their way to Sam’.
Good punditry there and even if Brosnan did not make the starting 15 we can agree on one thing, this man is looking for a start on the ‘Sunday Game’ sofa. Fógra: Sports Editor has just agreed with me that this is the last ever-printed work of Mr Moffatt (retired or otherwise) that will appear in The Mayo News, good call Sir!

Rebel yell
BRIAN PADDEN left the plains a good few years ago for Rebel Country. As he says himself, he ‘left for the Missus’ land’. I hope the trauma of leaving Mayo was worth the pain Brian and judging from the tone of his mail, life in Cork could not be better. He missed the Mayo v Dublin game due to business commitments and was in the air as the pilot gave regular updates.
He narrowly avoided a re-route and arrest for ‘strange behaviour’ as the match swung first this way and then that. But the DVD awaited and what a pleasure that must have been. Imagine looking at a crucial game for the first time knowing it has a happy ending?
Brian was hard on the M & M team before the Dublin effort but is big enough to state: ‘Regarding my comments about the management team, well, what the hell do I know is all I can say’. 
Brian, we were all pretty hard on the management team in the build-up and it is a very sobering exercise to re-read our comments weeks and months after the event. Are we wise men? Hardly.
Brian continues: ‘Anyway as omens go, I’m hanging onto a few. I go to most of the Munster rugby matches and this year there was a feeling of destiny about their march towards the Heineken Cup. I’ve seen the same things in the Mayo matches this year; things that would not normally happen are going our way. My own club, Dungourney, captured the East Cork Junior A Hurling title yesterday for the first time in 34 years. The same thing happened on their journey to the final this year, dead and buried a few times but they came back’.
And he too finishes with prayers: ‘All the best, ‘tis time for the novenas and rosary beads before the 17th; the City West is booked, the car flags are ready, and the Monday and Tuesday are booked off. Please God let the famine end’.

Shock and awe
A MR G Gielty from Skerries writes a top class piece that examines what exactly he thinks went wrong on All-Ireland final day. Titled ‘Shock and Awe’ he uses military language and symbolism that is familiar to me. It is such an interesting take I will deal with it in full in early 2007, it’s one to look forward to.

Not so positive feedback
A LETTER from a family friend. Sean Freyne, a former captain of Mayo minors, St Jarlaths College and Connacht Colleges (1953) mailed a stinging reply to my post All-Ireland piece and takes me to task for a ‘piece that was unworthy’ of me.
There is initial agreement on the forensics of the All-Ireland final performance but my tone is certainly not appreciated. Sean says he was: ‘deeply disappointed with its negative tone. In many ways it echoed Liam McHale’s performance on ‘Up for the Match’ the night before: ‘we have a chance against anybody but Kerry’.
I actually watched that programme and am certain Liam McHale did not say that Sean. He answered with a nervous laugh and did work the angle about Kerry being very difficult opponents. But I am pretty sure your quote takes his comment out of context.
As for my own efforts, well, I work as a part-time GAA pundit and am expected to preview and review games and issues in no-nonsense, honest fashion. I try not to be gratuitous with words but accept, having reread the column that it was, when wounds were a little raw, strong comment. But it is accurate Sean.
I suppose it boiled down to a certain frustration on my part, which I am expected to park of course, but the non-performance was bewildering.
Sean comments that the ‘team was not ready for an All-Ireland’ and that he ‘would have felt that a respectable semi-final performance to go with the Under-21 win would have been a very good return for the year’.
I must strongly disagree here Sean. If you examine the Mayo line-up that day you will find the following: two defenders played previously in four All-Ireland finals (Heaney and Nallen, this was their fifth); Both McDonald and O’Neill saw action in ’96 or ’97 with McD there in ’04 also; six others played in 2004: Clarke, Geraghty, Gardiner, McGarrity, Dillon and Mortimer.
That list constitutes two-thirds of the original 15! The remaining five for the record were: Keith Higgins, Brady and BJP who all tasted an Under-21 All-Ireland final. The two rookies were Aidan Higgins and Pat Harte (both had previous county and club successes).
Sean ends with some advice for me: ‘Creative criticism, yes. But we mustn’t disparage our own. Next time you feel like writing a piece like that, write it and then bin it’.
It is important that all opinions get an airing in this column as no one person has a monopoly on all the wisdom. Sean’s letter is fair and balanced and there are truths there for all of us. But the problem, as is blatantly obvious in punditry, is this: followers see an ex player as a fan with a typewriter and expect you to sell the party line. Or at least spare the lashings when our own boys are involved.

Killala keep it going
THE last word is for Declan O’Dea and the gang down in Killala. Keep her lit Dec; you may not have a clue where ye stand in the League (next year lose all your games and ye will get promoted!) but the championship is going fierce well. Humbert would be proud of ye, it has to be Croker in 2007!
There it is then. Thank you for your company in 2006 and please do keep the e-mails coming. Happy Christmas folks. Up Mayo!