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A journey to savour for Mayo



A journey to savour

Willie McHugh

NOTHING beats days like this. Heading off eastwards as another dawn cracks open in search of that Mayo dream. Our love of football defines us as a people. We festoon ourselves brightly in the colours of this fair county.
Beyond Kinnegad on Sunday the wide rims of Mayo’s vast expanse joined forces.
Malachy Gaughan, Barrett’s and Glenside coaches advancing from Erris in the north and dovetailing with fellow and lady football aficionados from Cong, Ballinrobe, Shrule and all points south.
Traffic edged bumper-to-bumper towards the tolls at Enfield. We’re almost on first name terms with the ladies operating the booths there now.
On the North Circular the day took a lovely gee up when we met Marie Farragher from Ballyrourke below The Neale. Her brothers Pat and Stephen preach the good word around Castlebar and Ballyhaunis but both will be the first to tell you Heaven will land on earth some September day when a Mayo captain climbs the steps of the Hogan.
Marie lives in the suburbs of Galway now but she still hammers her appendages to The Neale and Mayo masts. Sunday provided a chance encounter and a lovely meeting with the first child she delivered as a midwife. There’s more of ‘The Gathering’ Michael Ring was so right about.
Dorset Street was a thoroughfare of Mayo and we wondered would Tyrone even field a team such was the absence of red hands.
Peter Walsh and the Brodella gang were heading in early and we left the friendly banter for another day’s trading. No time for hanging around because Mayo football has a fine crop of young pretenders too.
An All-Ireland Sunday in 1985 when Michael John Mullin from Kilmaine lit up Croke Park is always a treasured memory whenever we journey down Bóithrín na Smaointe.
And Darragh Doherty from the same barony put on another masterclass last Sunday with some brilliant point-taking and laying off lovely foot passes to unlock the Monaghan defence. His deft touch and footballing skills must have rekindled fond memories for the Irish diaspora in Reading of his late uncle Paddy Doherty.
Hollymount’s Stephen Coen led by example and Tommy Conroy from Kiltane had us on our feet early in our lofty perch in the Davin Stand when he rattled the net beneath us to send the gasúrs on their way. This minor team is another glowing bulb on the shining chandelier that is Mayo football now. On other years they alone would be enough to “keep her lit Patsy” but we seem spoiled for choice of late.
We had Lelia and Alana Moran from Taugheen beside us and they made for lovely company. As did a young chap with a jersey the Mayo minors signed for him after the Connacht Final. God bless the innocence of youth. He plied us with overload information as to how the signing came about but we’ll not tell tales out of school. If ever I’m in the dock though I pray he won’t be witness for the prosecution.
In the senior game it was Chris Barrett from Belmullet who clawed us back before half-time. My mind rambled back to St John’s afternoon last June and a sniping cold wind blowing in Tallaght when Belmullet played Moy Davitts in the Intermediate championship.
Chris togged in civilian attire that wet Sunday and playing an All-Ireland semi-final must have seemed like a lifetime away for him. But that’s the hidden resolve that’s in this team perhaps. Kenneth O’Malley is pushing every pain barrier on the recovery route too and now every rosary, novena, candle and shaking of Knock holy water we can sprinkle will be sent up for Cillian O’Connor’s shoulder.
Before we left Croker on Sunday the Mayo faithful chorused ‘The Green and Red of Mayo’ in greater harmony that the Mayo Male Boys Choir, or even the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, would.
Back at the toll they cut loose with a blowing of horns and an unfurling of flags. A hint perhaps of what another journey might bring. But only a hint mind.
No visionary born will ever predict how that life-longed Mayo day will unfold. It’s the September Sunday the world is waiting for.  Tá sé ag teacht methinks.

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