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It was a different sort of day


BACK IN THE GAME Some fans are pictured at MacHale Park in Castlebar last Sunday.

On the Road

Mike Finnerty

IT’S not exactly a day (or a game) that we can imagine telling our grand-kids about in 30 years’ time, but Sunday had its moments at the same time.
We can’t remember too many championship days when Mayo players sat down on the pitch together in a circle after a 24-points win and chatted, laughed and relaxed in each other’s company.
But that’s exactly what happened last Sunday afternoon as the squad soaked up the late afternoon sunshine and shot the breeze out on the pitch at MacHale Park.
Lee Keegan, who’s nursing a shoulder injury at the moment, was conspicuous in the middle of his team-mates, wearing a bright yellow baseball cap, while Cillian O’Connor had already made his leave after landing into MacHale Park on crutches earlier in the day.
Not too far away, Mayo’s subs and players who hadn’t clocked too many minutes against Leitrim were being put through their paces by Conor Finn, Mayo’s S&C coach.
And in the middle of the field, Eoin O’Donoghue, the forgotten man of this Mayo squad, was sprinting back and forth, as far away from the madding crowds as one could imagine.
Speaking of crowds, there’s definitely something missing from championship day without the  big crowds we used to have in the old days.
Last Sunday somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 turned up to watch the game, some way short of the 3,500 tickets that had been available for sale.
There could be any amount of reasons for the lack of interest in being at the game, but you’d have to imagine that Covid concerns, the distinct possibility of what actually happened actually happening (Mayo winning by a cricket score) and the need for supporters to wear a mask at all times inside the ground were all factors in so many people staying away.
The price of the aforementioned tickets (€30 a pop) probably didn’t help either!
But among the spectators who were in MacHale Park , we spotted two dads who couldn’t have been any prouder last Sunday.
Brendan Byrne (father of Rory) and Peadar Flynn (father of Jordan) were both deep in conversation with their lads when we passed, and the two dads looked every bit as proud as you would imagine.
In Rory’s case, it’s not every day you make your championship debut so we can only assume that Brendan treated him to a ’99 on the way home!
From what we could see, there seemed to be quite a few people who were long gone in search of ice-creams and the road home long before the match ended.
One man in our area of the stand (who shall remain nameless) never came back after half-time.
He had obviously seen enough and there’s every chance the same man headed off to watch a local soccer match.
Given the way the second half played out, he might have been right!
There was no leaving early though for the MacHale Park groundsman, Phil Heneghan.
His day was only starting when the rest of us were heading to our cars.
RTÉ’s Marty Morrissey was also still flat out, chasing interviews, but his wing-man Dessie Dolan had clocked off and was catching up with Ciaran McDonald out on the field.
It was that sort of day.
You wouldn’t know what you’d see!

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