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GAA oral history project debunks myth of Mayo ‘curse’


FROM THE ARCHIVES Mayo captain Seán Flanagan (right) and Mayo County Board Secretary Finn Mongey are pictured with the Sam Maguire Cup in 1950.

Edwin McGreal

NOT one of the 140-plus participants in the GAA Oral History Project in Mayo could provide any information to substantiate the existence of any supposed curse on the Mayo footballers.
As part of the nationwide project, over 50 people were interviewed in Mayo, and 90 more people completed questionnaires in the county.
Academic Dr Arlene Crampsie was part of the GAA Oral History Project team in Mayo and presented some of the findings recently at a talk in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life entitled ‘Beyond the Scoreboard – Oral Histories of the GAA in Mayo’.
According to the supposed curse, Mayo will never win a senior All-Ireland as long as any member of the 1951 victorious team is still alive. There are two surviving members of that starting team, Paddy Prendergastand Pádraig Carney.
The reason for such a curse? It’s alleged the players on the victorious homecoming failed to show due respects at a funeral in Foxford and continued with their celebrations in a bus or a lorry. Dr Crampsie’s research found no primary source to substantiate the curse.
“None of the players admitted to it. Nobody who went to the homecoming remembers it. Do you? If you do I’d love to hear from you!,” Dr Crampsie said at the presentation.
“Nobody remembers hearing about it until the 1990s, and only in a sustained way since 2010. Not one of the interviewees I spoke to from 2009 to 2011 brought it up voluntarily, and nor did they offer it as an option when asked specifically why Mayo has struggled to win,” Dr Crampsie added.
She said ‘more practical reasons’ were put forward such as a lack of self-belief, personal and party-based politics, people being too fond of socialising, a lack of commitment, the impact of emigration and players not being big enough or tough enough.
To contextualise the lack of first-hand accounts of any supposed curse, Dr Crampsie spoke of something she wrote about in her chapter ‘For the love of the jersey – An oral history of the GAA in Mayo, 1884-2011’ in Mayo History and Society (published by Geography Publications).  
There, Dr Crampsie tells of the story of the broken crossbar in the 1962 Connacht football final between Galway and Roscommon at MacHale Park, Castlebar.
The delay caused in the game was given as a factor for Roscommon coming from behind to winning the game, and Dr Crampsie said how several people recalled this event in great detail.
It led her to pose the question: if so many people can vividly remember that incident (for example, all witnesses said the delay was ten minutes), how can there be no first-hand accounts of something that is supposed to be preventing Mayo winning an All-Ireland when it happened only 11 years before the incident with the broken crossbar?
Draw your own conclusions.
One man present at the talk told Dr Crampsie that a priest had searched church records in Foxford and found there was no funeral in the town on the day the 1951 All-Ireland champions were parading through the town.
Another man recalled Paddy Prendergast telling him that if there was any truth in the curse, he’d fly over the America, shoot Pádraig Carney and jump out of the aeroplane on the way home!

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