Mayo Day has given way to May Day and for the first time in what feels like a generation there’s a touch of warmth to the air today. Summer’s on the way. And we’re the U21 All-Ireland champions.
On the way back from Limerick in 2014, it was our great misfortune to end up stopping at the Barack Obama Plaza on the M7. Emotionally shattered and half-starved, it felt like we’d entered the Third Circle of Hell from Dante’s Inferno – the place was overrun with supporters from both sides, the poor staff were completely swamped and there was bugger-all sustenance of any kind to be had. Maybe that Divine Comedy analogy doesn’t fit after all: you’d have been hard-pressed to commit gluttony there that night.
I bumped into An Spailpín Fánach in that motorway hell-hole and neither of us had to say anything to convey to each other the sheer awfulness of it all, the culmination of an awful Mayo GAA day. I’ve shuddered every single time I’ve sped past the place since, pressing my foot further to the floor all the better to get away from it faster.
Why am I bothering to tell you all this? Well, last night on the way back from Ennis I decided it was time to exorcise that particular ghost. It was already dark when myself and my little buddy pitched up there in our Mayo gear and swaggered in as if we owned the joint. The chow we got wasn’t hectic, not much better than the fare on offer back in 2014, but what was great was how we supplanted the memory of the horror show from then with a nice newly-minted one imbued with the warm glow of victory.
And it’s that radiance of triumph that leaps like phosphorescence from the pages this morning. Today’s haul of reports all glitter like shiny baubles. So, then, this is what it feels like to win. And here’s a selection of what’s being said about it:
Match reports: Mayo Advertiser, Connaught Telegraph, Sunday Independent, Irish Examiner, Irish Times, GAA (match report, match tracker), RTÉ, The 42 (match report, match tracker), Hogan Stand, Breaking News.
Post-match reaction: RTÉ video piece with Mike Solan and Sharoize Akram, Matthew Ruane’s MOTM interview (Indo, SportsJoe), Mayo Advertiser post-match podcast.
Goals – loads of them:
— Mayo GAA (@MayoGAA) May 1, 2016
There’s more, of course there is, but you know today’s not the day to be spent looking at stuff on screens. This is particularly so if – unlike me, marooned up here in the capital – you’re based on home turf. Because today in Castlebar, the U21s’ homecoming takes place (details here) and, as was the case with those of us who were lucky enough to be in Ennis last night, this will be a moment to be savoured.
As was mentioned the other day, when the bulk of this current team captured the minor All-Ireland title two years ago they never got to celebrate it properly due to the loss we suffered in the senior final the same day. Well today there’s no such impediment and this victory deserves to be toasted and enjoyed to the full.
And it merits being marked in its own right, not as some hoped-for precursor to senior success. It’s an All-Ireland win, the heroes are coming home so, if you can, get yourself to the Mall for 3pm today and give the lads a homecoming to remember.