The final part of the blog’s tenth birthday celebrations is a retrospective on how the Mayo GAA story has been covered here for the last decade.
Ten years of chronicling this story from my perspective has involved the creation of a whole pile of posts – 2,722 by me to be exact, as well as 177 guest pieces – in turn spawning thousands upon thousands of comments (74,619 at the last count). Words, words – so many words.
In putting together a retrospective on ten years of the blog, the notion came to me that the best way to do this might be by letting these posts speak for themselves. Not all of them – though browse away at your heart’s content – but instead a sample, one for each year of the blog’s existence.
The ten I’ve picked for this purpose aren’t what I’d think are the ten best pieces I’ve written here, nor are they necessarily the most read nor can I claim that they were the ones best received. But they do stand as contemporaneous cameos of the last ten years of the evolving Mayo GAA story, one that is, in my case, intertwined with the story of the blog’s development.
Most, though not all, of the posts I’ve chosen focus on matches. Boiled down to its essence, an obsession about Mayo GAA is all about the action on the field. Here, then, is my pick of ten posts from the ten years I’ve spent at the keyboard, and in the stands, on the blog.
2007: this was where it all began. It was at a different web address (as I was using Google’s Blogger platform back then), it wasn’t even called the Mayo GAA Blog at that stage, as it started life instead as a place called Green and Red. But it was on the first day of February in 2007 that I put the first stake in the ground and I did so here.
2008: the county got to Croke Park in 2007, first for the League final and then, later on that year, for the ladies All-Ireland final. We lost both. But the first time I took my blogging alter ego to Croke Park on All-Ireland final day came in September 2008. There, on the day that Tyrone won a memorable senior final against Kerry, our minors came within a fingertip of capturing the Tom Markham Cup in the minor decider. The thoughts I penned on that drawn final with Tyrone are here.
2009: it was three years before I got to write about a Connacht final win but it finally happened in July 2009. Not before some last-minute dramatics, though, when Michael Meehan goaled late on to level the match for the Tribesmen, only for Peadar Gardiner to snatch victory for us in sensational fashion deep in injury time. When I eventually calmed down afterwards, I wrote about it all here.
2010: a bleak year for us, one that saw us endure the ignominy of Round 1 qualifier defeat to Longford before the month of July had even begun. Further indignity seemed on the horizon a few months later as the search for a new Mayo manager neared its conclusion. Then, late in the day, James Horan declared his candidacy and my unabashed plea for him to be appointed to the job is here.
2011: nobody gave us a chance of beating Cork in the quarters in 2011. Joe Brolly was patronisingly dismissive of our chances and even the famed Mayo support wasn’t much in evidence at Croke Park that wet and wonderful afternoon on which James Horan’s charges announced their arrival on the national scene. I gushed about it all afterwards here.
2012: I’d been there for the All-Ireland final defeats of 1989, 1996, 1997, 2004 and 2006 but up until this I’d never had to go home, compose my thoughts and write a piece for public consumption about it. It hurt like hell to do this and you can read it here.
2013: it wasn’t just the sultry mid-twenties temperatures that made 2013 All-Ireland final day so strange and other worldly. We lost – yet again – in the senior final and the anguish of doing so overshadowed completely the transitory joy we’d all experienced earlier in the afternoon as the minors swept to victory in their final over Tyrone. I said then that this victory would increase in importance for us as time went by and I think that the passage of time since has shown this to be true. What it felt like on the day itself is recorded here.
2014: there’s pain, there’s real pain and then there’s Limerick. Even now, I shudder at it all. I’m not sure how I managed to get anything at all down in writing after it was over but I did, clacking manically on the keyboard as we made our disconsolate way back up the N7. God, it was ghastly and you can relive it here.
2015: beating Dublin in the semi-final back in 2012 was a big day for us but the way we came back from the dead to snatch a draw in the 2015 semi was something else entirely. With ten minutes to go we looked dead and buried but somehow we summoned from within us the ability to rise. We nearly bloody beat them at the finish and the blog was fairly rocking that night and all the next day as well. My match report on that one is here.
2016: another All-Ireland final, this one a two-part one, as the lads emulated their predecessors from twenty years ago, though, sadly, ending up by sharing the same fate, losing out in the replay by a single point. But 2016 did see another All-Ireland title won by the county, with the U21s sweeping to victory in memorable fashion down in Ennis at the end of April. I happily knocked back the best part of a bottle of rather nice red wine later that night as I captured my thoughts a great Mayo day. What I wrote then is here.
That’s the lot – ten years, loads of memories from each of them. I had a notion when thinking about the blog’s tenth birthday that I’d run this retrospective series for weeks or even months but the more I thought about it, the more I realised this was an idea that simply wouldn’t fly.
While sporting events that have taken place in the past are nice to reminisce about, the real magic of sport is the undiscovered promise of what lies ahead. It’s only right, then, to wrap up this retrospective in one go, then box it all away and clear the decks ahead of Saturday’s League opener.
The challenge that awaits: that’s where our focus needs to be now. Enough of looking back – time to look forward to what 2017 might hold for us.