‘The Auld Triangle’ is normally a song I sing with great passion on drunken nights out and family occasions where a sing-song has erupted. The Dubliners, Glen Hansard, Damien Dempsey – many have given it a blast and, as an avid music lover, I will gladly listen to any rendition that is put before me. The latest version I heard will live long in my memory and not for good reason neither.
My hands had been clasped together and tied to my face since the ball had been thrown in the air at five o’clock. The only time they were allowed to move from this position was to applaud but they would re-take their stiff stance immediately after. As the game grew old, they slowly moved towards my eyes and I spent most of the second half peeping out through them, like a kid using a cushion to protect himself from a horror movie.
They had been great servants to me throughout the game, clapping, gesturing, punching the air in delight and their last duty of the day was to wipe the flood of tears from my eyes at the final whistle. As I did this, the blue smoke rose from Hill 16 as the stereo in Croke Park blared out one of my favourite songs.
I’ll never forget the noise level from the Dubs when the song reached round to the “Jingle Jangle” section. It was like they had just made the biggest amplifier in the history of music, and it was cranked up to 10. I knew in my heart and soul though, as loud as they were, if The Green and Red of Mayo had been playing, we would have ripped a hole in the sky with the sheer volume.
I stuck around and applauded Diarmuid Connolly and Stephen Cluxton as they expressed their sheer delight. It was enough to see Sam being raised aloft once so, as they passed the cup around, I made my way for the exit. The tears were constant and I wasn’t alone, men, women, children all with heads in hands, sniffing and snuffling.
As I turned a corner, I was met with a big Aidan O’Shea ‘club and county’ banner. This was coupled by an overheard question from a Mayo boy no older than ten years old. “Dad, will we ever win do you think?” I remember asking my cousin the same question at the homecoming in ’06. The father responded with the same answer my cousin did. “Someday”.
I looked up at the banner and shook my head in disbelief. I know I say it every time but I really thought this was our year.
That was the second of two times this year I shook my head in disbelief, the first was on the 18th of June. I have that date bookmarked in my head for some reason. Nobody could have envisaged the journey this team would undergo following that defeat to the Tribesmen.
The anger and hurt of losing another final was overshadowed when I thought about this over the course of the past week. We were treated to such an entertaining summer of sport, we cannot complain or look back on this campaign in anger or regret. Nobody expected us to reach a final, nor did they expect us to put the Dubs up against a wall for 140 minutes of football.
This campaign has brought me memories both weird and wonderful which will never leave my side. O’Shea’s penalty award against Fermanagh, Diarmuid’s delicious solo goal against Kildare, an early outing in Croke Park against Westmeath, Clarke’s Kung-fu kick style clearance in the dying seconds against Tyrone, Cillian’s equaliser, Keegan’s goal.
I had the privilege of meeting Rob Hennelly on a train down from Dublin when I was in my first year of college. He had pre-booked a seat which happened to be positioned directly across the table from me. My journalistic side kicked into action and within a couple of minutes, I was hounding the poor man with questions. He followed me on Twitter and Facebook and told me he’d keep in touch.
He does, frequently messaging me, congratulating me on any articles I have published that he happens to come across. The man is a gentleman. If you don’t believe me, just remember back to earlier this year when he was first on board to defend U21 Cork ‘keeper Anthony Casey. Similar to Hennelly, he made a human error in an All-Ireland final.
Hennelly told Casey that the mistake would not “define him or his career by any means”. That moment in Hennelly’s career will not define him either.
He is a fantastic ‘keeper and we are blessed to have two of the country’s finest in one county. I was on hand to message Rob following the defeat on Sunday and if you are able to, I encourage you all to do likewise. We have all made an error in judgment, a mistake, had a lapse in concentration in our life.
Journalists have the power to spread a message to hundreds, thousands, millions of people at the click of a button. I am not ashamed, angered or upset by Rob’s mistake but I did feel all of those things when I read Gavin Cummiskey’s rating of him in the Irish Times the following day.
Following that, I stopped critically and harshly analysing the replay and the players. As a Mayo man, it is unfair to judge any player by a mistake they have made. As an aspiring journalist, it is a clear goal to stay away from any realm which puts me under the same light as Gavin Cummiskey.
My brother-in-law to be, is a Dub and proud (and loud too like them all). As we sat down for breakfast together on Sunday morning, I expressed how unfair it was – always the bridesmaid, never the bride. I give up, that’s it, I’m done.
Bullshit, says he, you’ll be the first man standing in MacHale Park come Spring. He’s right and all. The day that the prospect of meeting Dublin, Kerry and the likes in the league doesn’t spur me on to get behind the boys is the day that I will give it up for good.
We’ve been through hell us Mayo supporters but every new year, it’s like a reset button. 65 years becomes 66 but still we rally together, travelling the length and breadth of the country cheering on our team. We don’t know how lucky we are as fans, not one summer has passed in the last five years that we haven’t at least reached the semi-final.
Mayo has a fantastic group of players, a great manager and background staff and the best supporters in the whole of Ireland. Our day will come. It wasn’t 2016, it may or may not be 2017, but it will come.