Sunday’s final will be something of a bittersweet one for Achill man Chris McGinty. The Dublin-based lifelong Mayo fan has followed the green and red all over the country and beyond but he knows there will be something missing this week.
His wife of over 40 years Mary lost her battle with cancer last May and Chris admits that Mary would be in her element this week, as she is a native of Glenties, where Donegal manager Jim McGuinness and four of the players are from.
The football mad pair followed their respective counties through thick and thin from their house in Tallaght, travelling home to Glenties and Achill frequently and to games all over the country too.
“She’d have loved this week, she’d be in flying form,” Chris told The Mayo News yesterday. “I’m going to put two flags out from the house this week, a Donegal flag and a Mayo flag. I have to. It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t.
“Mary would be so down when Mayo would lose, she’d know how much Mayo meant to me. (Retired broadcaster) Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh is a good friend of ours and Mary was always onto Micheál about the curse that is supposed to be on Mayo football. Three or four days before she died she said about the curse: ‘I’ll rectify that for Chris’. Little did she know that there’d be a final between Mayo and Donegal,” said Chris.
The ties between the McGintys and this Donegal senior team are strong. Chris and Mary met in the famous Galtymore in Cricklewood, London and were married in Willesden Green in 1970. They returned to Donegal and when Chris brought Mary to Achill for the first time in 1971, it was Jim McGuinness’s father, also Jim, who drove them down the western seaboard.
Chris was in Glenties last week savouring the atmosphere and had a pint with centre-half forward Leo McLoone’s father in his pub and is very friendly with wing-back Anthony Thompson’s parents. He played for local club Naomh Connall for a year after returning from London.
“When I was in London from 1967-73 there was a huge affinity between people from Donegal and people from Mayo, all there because of forced emigration. That bond is there still,” he said.
Chris McGinty has been a handy point of contact for Mayo football in Dublin over the years too. He’s brought Mayo footballers like Seán Grealis and Joe Fadian from Achill and Pat Waldron from Castlebar to success at his adopted club Thomas Davis while one of his most perilous missions was in 1988 when then Mayo manager John O’Mahony sent him into the lions’ den.
“Johnno sent me out to watch Meath train before Mayo played them in the All-Ireland semi-final to see if a player that was reported to be injured was training. I used Joseph, my son, as my decoy. Martin O’Connell was there in the dug-out giving oranges to Joe.
“Meath were a seriously frightening outfit at the time and I knew I was done for if one player spotted me, Mattie Kerrigan, because I worked with him. I was a dead man walking if he saw me. ‘What’s that Mayo man doing here’ he would have roared! But we stayed there in the Meath dugout for the entire training session, pretending to be Meath fans and getting the bit of information for Johnno and lived to tell the tale,“ Chris chuckles.
He returns home to Achill as often as he can to his holiday home near where his brothers Pakie (Mayo GAA President) and Hughie live in Springvale near Achill Sound and when he’s away, this paper is a tie to home.
”I get The Mayo News every week. It would be like having my right hand cut off it I didn’t have it. It keeps me so in line with football and Achill and Mayo in general,” he said.
He’ll be buying it next week hoping to read of a Mayo win but knowing it will be an emotional occasion, regardless of the result.