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Mixed signals as politics and football mix

Sport

FACE TO FACE Former Mayo selector George Golden (left) and former Mayo footballer Alan Dillon, who was elected as a TD, catch up at Sunday's General Election count in the TF Royal Theatre in Castlebar. Pic: Michael Mc Laughlin

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Edwin McGreal

ON a day when former Mayo footballer Alan Dillon was elected to Dáil Éireann, it was perhaps fitting that politics and football would collide.
It feels like it was ever thus.
Last May’s local and European elections in the Royal Theatre in Castlebar clashed with Mayo’s defeat to Roscommon. Those who waited at the count rather than go across town to MacHale Park were happy with their decision.
For the last General Election in 2016, the count clashed with a defeat away to Donegal.
So perhaps the omens were not good for Mayo travelling to Navan while the General Election count took place back home in the TF.
Alongside Dillon and his family, there were plenty of other Mayo GAA fans and personalities at the count.
Former Mayo selector George Golden was there on ‘Team Michael Ring’; former county secretary Seán Feeney was there with ‘Team Dillon’. Belmullet football men John Gallagher and Ian McAndrew were also there as Fine Gael supporters while Achill GAA men like Paul McNamara, Packie McGinty, Micheál McNamara and Colm Cafferkey were all there, supporting Fianna Fáil and the Green Party respectively.
Former Mayo footballer Stephen Carolan was among the count staff.
It felt like the Mayo match would be plain sailing initially, both in terms of the game itself and for those of us who wanted to watch it.
The final tally figures were done and dusted before 1pm and the first count wasn’t officially announced until after 6pm. A perfect window for a bit to eat and a bit of football.
But it wasn’t that simple. The game was ‘live’ — but not on TG4. It was on their YouTube channel. Plenty of organised folk had the game showing on their tablets and phones but the broadband couldn’t cope with so many streaming it at once.
Pat Jennings from the TF then took control and rigged up a laptop to a TV in the front bar of the hotel. Joe O’Dea told us the good news and sent us in. We were up and running.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil supporters left the battle for the last seat to one side to cheer on Mayo and unite against a common enemy, Meath.
But it wasn’t just the Royals that were proving difficult. So was the internet connection.
“Ah the broadband is bad, don’t worry, though, Sinn Féin will sort that!” quipped one Fine Gaeler.
The mood was relaxed as Mayo looked comfortable until two goals from Meath suddenly forced many to contemplate what they earlier thought impossible – a Meath win.
A bit like Sinn Féin succeeding on the day.
One Fine Gaeler was refusing to give up hope though.
“Mayo are a bit like Fine Gael today in Mayo, we’re hanging on, we’re not dead yet!”
The delays forced emergency action. Midwest Radio was pressed into action via a Fine Gael phone. They were about ten minutes ahead so we heard the audio of Kevin McLoughlin’s goal long before we saw it.
“He’s from Mulherin country,” another Fine Gaeler quipped. Politicians will take credit for anything!
Mayo survived, just about. So did Fine Gael, Alan Dillon taking the last seat from Fianna Fáil. But both the county team and the political party are facing uncertain futures.

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