Mayo madness all over

Do you ever find yourself talking about one topic so much that you begin to wonder if anything other than it even exists? As some of you will know, I undertook the role of producing a radio documentary as part of my Masters on the theme of Mayo GAA.

At the start of the year lecturers told us: “Make sure your documentary is on something you love and are passionate about, because it will drive you insane.” It’s not so much that it is driving me insane (even though there has been times I’ve found myself roaring at a computer screen, is that insane?) but more so I’m apprehensive about the final product. I’m not even worried about the final grade.

I’ve hours of audio which are precious. I could make four or five different finished projects but, sadly, I don’t have the time. For every bit of edited audio I carefully pick, other golden nuggets are left on the cutting room floor.

I complain about all my college work but I was still able to conduct a full Rag Week. It was more for nostalgia sake as it was going to my last one as a student.

In recent years, the notion of ‘Mayo Monday’ has become big in the college. In short, on the Monday of Rag Week it involves people throwing on their Green and Red and going to different pubs, meeting all their county counterparts while singing ‘To Win Just Once’ at the top of their lungs.

Amongst the sea of Green and Red, I caught up with two of the organisers. How did I find them? They were the ones singing the loudest. They were so passionate about Mayo, it was more than just going on the beer for them. They don’t receive anything for setting up the event, just the satisfaction of knowing that it is their gig, and they thrived off that.

You’d get talking to someone and before long the notorious question would arise, “Jesus, will we ever win?” thus leading into a hypothetical “could you imagine” type situation.

It was exactly what I needed, I was beginning to lose the run of myself for this documentary, began to not even care about it anymore. Then I attended this event and I was reinvigorated.

Without this sounding like the start of some sort of patriotic speech, the blood in your veins run green and red. I interviewed John O’Mahony before Christmas in his fabulous home in Ballaghaderreen. I asked him about his allegiance, being so close to the border of Roscommon, while also managing Leitrim and Galway.

“Sure you’ve your heart in nearly every county in Connacht?” I said jokingly. I wasn’t expecting the answer I got.

When I was with Leitrim and Galway, I would give my all to win. They would be first priority above all else. But I made sure when I stepped in to the dressing room for the first time and left it for the last that I would say ‘I’m a Mayo man and I always will be’.

The head may have been in different counties in the Nineties and early Noughties, but the heart was always firmly at home in Ballagh’. And strictly on the Mayo side of the border too.

He recalled sitting on Martin Carney’s couch, pleading with Aidan O’Shea not to leave for Australia. He brought him training with the senior squad and promised that he would be on the team in the coming years.

He was successful in that battle but he dwelled too on those he had lost, more so than on those he had saved.

I saw Pierce Hanley slip away. If we had him at the peak of his powers, it may have been oh so different.

There always seems to be something in the way when it comes to Mayo GAA, you can overcome one obstacle but something else will take its place.

John talked about ’89 and the buzz around the county. The bunting, the flags, hanging out of car windows holding on for dear life because, of all the times, you didn’t want to die before All-Ireland Sunday.

John’s second term isn’t remembered as fondly. When you hear O’ Mahony and Mayo, you immediately think of ’89 but memories of Longford follow suit shortly after.

He spoke of the transition that took place during that second reign and he was right. The old dogs were on the way out and the young pups were chomping at the bit for a place.

I told the lads after that defeat to keep their heads up. Their day was coming and it sure enough with the arrival of James Horan, we had our most successful period.

David Brady said that when we eventually reach the final destination, it won’t be just the people involved who will have won Sam. It’ll be the ex-players, the managers and the fans as well. O’Mahony would certainly feel he had his part to play if this current batch of Mayo lads pick up Celtic Crosses.

The deadline is coming thick and fast for my documentary and so the next time I touch base with the blog will probably be to post the final cut. Like the Mayo team, it’s time now for me to be putting in the hard yards.

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