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Great to be on the road again


TALKING HEADSMayo’s Lee Keegan is interviewed by Billy Joe Padden for Sky Sports after last Saturday’s match in Castlebar. Pic: Sportsfile

Michael Commins

CIARÁN Murphy is a proud Milltown man. His dad is from Waterford and his mother is a sister of Jim Carney of The Tuam Herald and formerly of The Sunday Game on RTÉ. He comes from good stock and his feature article in The Irish Times last Thursday was strong in my mind as I headed down through Balla to Castlebar on Saturday.
He penned a brilliant piece invoking all the romance of the Old West and his style of writing would have fond a natural home in the novels of Louis L’Amour and Zane Gray, two of the most cherished writers of the“western” genre.
The headline read “Time for Mayo to round up the posse for one last ride” and he opined that the “grizzled heroes” of Mayo could “inject some badly-needed romance into the football championship.”
Ciarán story set the scene perfectly for the canvass that was to unfold beneath a western sky in Castlebar where despondency and hope walked hand in hand along the trail ahead of this encounter.
From midday the gentle voices of the drumlin country of Monaghan began to mingle with the voices of the Old West in Mayo. Main Street in Castlebar was alive as folks from Inniskeen and Scotstown, Castleblayney and Clontibret, Monaghan Town and Magheracloone, made themselves at home in the Mayo capital.
Mick Byrne’s pub was a doing a roaring trade and the genial host was dispensing the wisdom of the ages to all the arrivals from the northlands. There were plenty of local ‘auld stock’ there too and the place was buzzing with a camaraderie that is so unique to the GAA world. Mayo and Monaghan folk posed for photos together, arm in arm, ahead of the big match.
Peter Carney (Kilmeena) and the family circle were in fine mood in Mick’s homely tavern. His son Jack was lining out at full-forward for Mayo less than two hours later. It was hard not to feel a gentle confidence beginning to manifest itself ahead of the game. While Lee Keegan was later to get the Sky Sports man of the match accolade, my ‘Man of the Day’ award went to Mick Byrne, one of Mayo’s finest GAA ambassadors!
Mayo’s loyal support was there in abundance in MacHale Park.
John Lavin, formerly of Rockfield, Claremorris, had travelled from Gorey in Wexford, James McGovern from Robeen made the journey down from Cavan while Pat and Frances Maloney journeyed from Dunshaughlin in Meath. Pat is a native of Glenamoy while Frances is from Cavan. Her nephew, Niall Kearns, was playing midfield for Monaghan.
Mayo retired at the interval three points to the good. There was a nice touch over the PA system at half-time when the voice of the late Big Tom (McBride) singing ‘Lonesome at Your Table’ rang out across the MacHale Park.
Big Tom was an iconic Monaghan legend and was equally loved here in Mayo.
The mood was upbeat among Mayo supporters at this stage but a dour second half tested their patience to the limit. It took a massive point from Lee Keegan operating in the full-back line to raise the roof of the stand after 21 minutes without a Mayo score.
Five points clear entering ‘time added on’, Mayo looked safe but the words ‘Mayo and Drama’ are like Siamese Twins. Monaghan clipped over two points and had strong appeals for a penalty turned down by Derry referee, Barry Cassidy, in the closing two minutes.
The final score fell to the great Paddy Durcan to push us four ahead.
Job done.


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