HANDY WORK The sight of Cillian O’Connor’s ‘post point point’ is something Colin Sheridan has missed about Mayo over the last few months. Pic: Sportsfile
Parts I & II
1 Cillian Pointing
FOR a decade now, Cillian O’Connor has become much more than a footballer in Mayo.
He is a totem. A living, breathing, flesh and blood example of our existential joy and occasional self-loathing. We see the best of ourselves in him, and sadly, when the tide is out and the sun don’t shine; we see the worst. Pause. Strike that.
I must recuse the rest of you. When I write “we”, I mean “I”. I feel it.
His cock-ups are my cock-ups.
His triumphs are my triumphs.
I guess it’s only natural. We’ve known him since he was a kid. He wore that same Conall-from-Normal-People half-shy/half-cocky kinda expression when he was a minor, as he does now. Ever since, the weight of our (my) world has appeared perennially perched on his shoulders, like a pensive tucan.
No young man could ever look at Conor Mort’ and say he knew the plight of what it was to be him. The boots. The hair. The brand. The strut. The name.
But, with Cillian, although his talent was and remains otherworldly, his demeanour is anything but. So utterly human. Right or wrong, his on-field personality has been relatable if only due to its fallibility. The overt frustration. The fighting with refs. The seemingly unnecessary involvement in things unrelated to him.
And then, there was the pointing.
Not the kicking of points. But the ‘post point point’. Most exaggerated after he’s just knocked over a 25 yarder from in front of the posts, a kick that has taken him three minutes to execute, with Mayo ten points up (I love that part).
The point — often two-handed with spread-eagle arms — never seemed directed at anybody in particular. It may be a pre-orchestrated signal for a full-court press, or it may be a distraction, or it may be a tick. A function of muscle memory.
This ‘post point point’ has always grated on me, and I've never quite known why.
It’s as if, when it came to Cillian, like the eldest son you expect so much from, the slightest idiosyncrasy will set you off. If this unforeseen sabbatical from sports consumption has made me realise anything, it’s that I miss Cillian’s ‘post point pointing’ just as much as I miss him standing over a dirty Galway corner-back he’s after knocking on his arse.
Rewatching his equaliser against Dublin in the 2016 final before writing, there was so much to marvel at — the feet, the awareness, the step, the hop and the kick. To me, it was the most clutch play I've seen in a lifetime of watching Mayo. And it was all bookended by the most Cillian of things; the ‘post point point’. I miss it now and I long to see it again.
2 Hating Galway
HATE, I understand, is a strong and inflammatory word. It does not adequately suffice however, to appropriately convey how I actually feel about Galway football teams.
This vitriol is not aimed at a person or persons. Nor is it contrived in an attempt to stir controversy or encourage cross-boundary banter.
My hate for them is a very personal, but very real thing. It is the product of a youthful innocence obliterated by Galway coming from nowhere to wipe our eye and win two All-Irelands at the very time when it seemed destined to be our turn.
Their victories and our subsequent shame made all the more acute by their indifference to it all — as if their triumphs were a birthright and as normal a thing to experience as oysters in Morans on the Weir. Worse still, the faux sympathy they throw our way whenever we come close. How they’d really wish for us to win just once, you know?
Make no mistake — this position is a strategy conceived in pubs in Barnadearg and graveyards in Glenamaddy. They no more care for us than we do people from Roscommon. Theirs is the worst kind of condescension — a sort of post-colonial pity.
We may have studied in libraries shoulder to shoulder but once we were done studying we worked in their bars and we stacked their shelves and we shucked their scallops. Boy, did we shuck them. And, each time we have come close to achieving the only thing that would ultimately command their respect - winning an All-Ireland - we must have worried them. Alas, the day never came and even if they have spent more time in the tents of Ballybrit than Croker the last two decades, they will always have the audacity to point to the big scoreboard in the sky, and sarcastically remind us that we can bate them all we like in June, but not until we triumph in Autumn will we ever wipe the patronising IPA swilling grins off their organic seaweed moisturised faces.
And honestly, the hate is healthy.
It’s a mark of grudging respect for a county that — regardless of my contempt for them —have produced teams that fully deserved their All-Irelands (all teams who win, do).
Their recent return to the ‘top table’ has served to remind me that we are never more than a season away from Galway absolutely doing us over. That’s what made beating them in Limerick last summer so sweet. And it’s what makes me miss them so much now.
Tracking their form-lines. Watching the country swoon as they’d run Dublin to six points in a National League final. Hearing the talk on the terraces about who’s going well and why ‘PJ’ is the man who will lead them back to the summer house in Dogs Bay they all believe they’re entitled to.
Watching Galway get better just makes me want to beat them even more. I hate them. Because I know they hate us. We are the serf that wooed their daughter. But they need us. And we need them. Right now, I just miss them, and hope to see them soon.