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Season starts to heat up

Sport

MAYBE it was the whole championship ‘vibe’ of a big Mayo game in mid-June.
Or maybe it was the fact that we weren’t used to seeing Mayo supporters milling around the streets before matches. Or perhaps it was the stifling humidity and oppressive heat.
But for some reason, Ennis last Sunday felt like London or New York on the weekend of a Connacht championship match. That was the sort of atmosphere that was generated by the presence of 100 Mayo people and 100 of their Clare counterparts at Cusack Park.
They brought a splash of colour and provided a soundtrack to the day’s events that we’ve all missed. The hum of the pre-match chat in the stand and the sound of fans roaring at referee, Niall Cullen, whenever he made a ‘wrong’ decision was great to hear.
You could see that the craic was ninety among all the Mayo parents who had travelled and were catching up again after months in their respective ‘bubbles’.
The Coens from Hollymount, the Ruanes, Robert Hennelly and Jim O’Shea from Breaffy, Jarlath Mullin from Kilmaine, and the Carneys from Kilmeena were just some of the familiar faces we spotted.
Some of them were louder than others when the match started, but nobody was louder than a few lads from Clare who were sitting on the opposite side of the main stand.
A few of them could have been heard out in Scarriff!
It was no surprise to see most of the people with the golden tickets in their seats good and early too. After missing so many matches, they wanted to get full value for their €20.
Those of us who docked in good time got to see all the nuts and bolts that go into the pre-match rituals and routines of inter-county squads on match days.
We certainly weren’t going to miss Mayo selector Ciaran McDonald anyway; the Crossmolina legend was sporting some blond streaks in his famous barnet and was wearing a luminous orange training top that was probably visible from outer space.
Everything was going to plan from a Mayo perspective until Diarmuid O’Connor pulled up clutching his right hamstring just in front of us, and left the field immediately in quite a bit of pain. A short while later and his brother, Cillian, was also gone — walking gingerly down the tunnel. We didn’t see him again until he left the ground on crutches after the match.
Those injuries certainly took some of the gloss off Mayo’s victory.
It was also a shame that Cillian’s 100th appearance ended prematurely. By our count that’s now three of the four O’Connor brothers who are currently nursing a football-related injury.
The fourth fella will be hoping that these things ‘come in threes’.
As we packed our bags and prepared to leave Cusack Park on Sunday evening, we noticed man of the match, Oisin Mullin, and Enda Hession out on the field, searching for a wristband, that one of them had lost up near the old scoreboard end goal during the game.
And then we saw Mayo selector Tom Higgins returning a Clare football to the Banner manager, Colm Collins, who ‘fist-bumped’ his thanks to the Westport man.
All that was missing were burgers and beers, and we could have been in Gaelic Park!

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