On the road
IT was a bit like a Reek Sunday weekend. For some the long pilgrimage began on Saturday evening as Mayo folk headed to the south west. Those of us who took time to cherish the moonlight in Mayo on Saturday night were not disappointed as the silence of a heavenly night was balm to the soul. The bright planet of Jupiter almost held hands with the moon as they glided gently to the west.
An early start on Sunday and the toll bridge in Limerick was busy as the ever loyal Mayo followers rolled down the motorway in big numbers. Long delays in Adare and Abbeyfeale in former times swung our decision to take the Limerick coast road out to Tarbert and then down through Listowel and Tralee.
It was plain sailing until we got to about three miles beyond Farranfore. Half an hour or so later, we were parked up and walking towards Fitzgerald Stadium having the banter with the Kerry folk.
The warm sun blazed down as we took a central position on the open terrace across from the packed stand and admired the sweeping vista of the Killarney mountains on a day when Mediterranean weather embraced us all. Memories of our Arctic night in Tralee for the league game in February were a long and distant memory.
No-one does the culture and hospitality business better than Kerry. Some fine musicians put on a marvellous entertainment show for over an hour before the game. This was a total credit to them and the Kerry County Board. Mayo and Armagh followers had to virtually plug their ears during the interval of the recent game in Castlebar with the drivel being pumped over the public address.
The usual good-humoured chat between the Mayo and Kerry fans was interspersed with updates from the Donegal and Meath game in Ballybofey and the Kilkenny v Cork hurling quarter-final in Croke Park.
Mayo soon found themselves in a cauldron of simmering Kerry heat as the Munster champions produced a devastating opening half that saw them nine clear at the interval. It could have been even worse. Legendary GAA commentator and Kerry native, Michéal O Múircheartaigh, later described this period to the game as the best he had ever seen from any Kerry side in all his years of watching teams in action.
Damage limitation became the task for Mayo in the second half and they managed that reasonably well, being unlucky not to have shaved another few points off the winning margin.
Cillian O’Connor claimed the all-time scoring record along the way and he will be expected to widen that gap further on Sunday. His uncle Joe O’Connor and his wife Bernie were down from Cavan and beside us on the terrace for this historic moment.
Kerry faces were beaming as they left Killarney. There was a sense of a new era dawning in the county. One swallow never made a summer but they were already looking forward to the next showdown with Donegal.
A stop-off in Listowel and friendly chats with the natives raised our spirits again. There is still a huge admiration for this group of Mayo players around the country and that is very evident down Kerry way.
The Mayo entourage will be on the road to Croke Park again on Saturday and Sunday, as big and as loyal as ever.
A good result against Meath and a Kerry win over Donegal would ensure a full house in MacHale Park for what would in essence be an All Ireland quarter-final between Mayo and Donegal.
I’ll leave the last word to the great Michéal Ó Múircheartaigh, speaking on Raidio na Gaeltachta yesterday (Monday), a statement he repeated twice. “Maigh Eó ...tá siad ann fós” ..... “Mayo ...they are still there.”
Roll on Sunday, get the show back on the road and keep those flags flying!
On the road