IN SAFE HANDS Connacht GAA Council Secretary John Prenty is pictured bringing the Nestor Cup back to Connacht GAA HQ in Bekan after last Sunday’s provincial senior football final. The cup was not kept by Mayo captain Aidan O’Shea due to the GAA’s Covid-19 protocols. Pic: Conor McKeown
QUESTION: when does Connacht Final Sunday not feel like Connacht Final Sunday?
When it’s being played in the middle of November; you haven’t climbed the Reek that morning; there’s no hay or turf to be saved that evening; and the only supporters to be seen anywhere near the ground are the dozen die-hards from Mayo who are standing outside in the cold to see their heroes walk from their cars into the stadium.
The match starting at dinner-time (because everyone know most of us here in Mayo and Galway still eat our dinners in the middle of the day) is another hint that everything is not the way it used to be. God be with the days when a family could have their jelly and ice-cream eaten, the Sunday papers read and the dishes washed before the Connacht Final would start.
At 3.30pm on the dot.
But by 3.30pm last Sunday it was all done and dusted.
Mayo had beaten Galway, Aidan O’Shea had lifted the Nestor Cup (before returning it and watching it being taken back to Connacht GAA HQ in Bekan by John Prenty), Padraig Joyce had left the world in no doubt that he blamed his players for losing the match, and we were pulling in the driveway at home. Because no supporters = no traffic, so travelling from South Mayo to Salthill on match day in 2020 is about as stressful as pouring yourself a cup of tea.
Speaking of which, did you know that us lads and ladies of the GAA press now have to bring our own lunches to matches? The press box has never been as quiet at half-time as every TV, radio and print journalist in the place tucks into ham sandwiches and flasks of tea.
The days of being treated to finger-food and last year’s leftover Christmas biscuits are now a thing of the past. Although to be fair, it won’t spoil our growth.
But back to last Sunday, and the scene outside Pearse Stadium 90 minutes before throw-in.
Team Mayo News happened to park up around the same time as the Mayo players which meant that we were able to piggy-back on the reception from a few Mayo supporters that was meant for Kevin McLoughlin, Lee Keegan and company as we made our way into the ground.
Rumour has it that Mayo physio Brendan Butler was mistaken for Tom Parsons on his way past some over-eager Mayo supporters but, in fairness, it’s an easy mistake to make.
Connacht GAA Operations Manager Adrian Hassett made sure we got to our appointed seat safely, just in time to see Mayo coach Ciaran McDonald kicking a few ‘spinners’ over the bar during the warm-up.
One video of ‘McDanger’ scoring like it was 1999 last Sunday had been viewed more than 100,000 times 24 hours later.
As it turned out, James Horan didn’t need to send in McDonald to save the day this time as the next generation ground out a one point win that was every bit as nerve-racking as the scoreline would suggest.
Not that it bothered Andy Moran too much, as he took time out from reporting on the match for Newstalk for a ‘fist-bump’ with Aidan O’Shea afterwards. It was one of the few times of the day when it actually felt like Connacht Final Sunday!