I recently started a job as a journalist with Joe.ie in Dublin. It was all a bit hectic, one minute you’re in Ballina talking to Maurice Sheridan about the ’97 final against Sligo for the Western People preview the following week, the next, you’re moving everything you’ve ever owned to the big smoke.
The last week was a bit of blur, between starting the new gig, adjusting to the different climate (they don’t say “Mayo for Sam” as much up here) and trying not to get lost (I failed miserably on several occasions). I completely forgot about the game this weekend.
It wasn’t until this morning, typing heavily at my desk, when I came across an advert from Paddy Power, that it hit me.
Those clever clogs in the PR cog machine at the giant bettors had sent a van all the way to the home of the Chicago Cubs in America. The Cubs too had a supposed cursed on their baseball team who landed their first Major League Baseball World Series last year after 70-odd years in the wilderness.
The green van parked outside the stadium read something along the lines of ‘any advice for breaking curses, this is getting embarrassing now.’
I laughed, and got on Twitter straight away to message the man behind the operation. He is a Galway man called Féilim Mac An Iomaire and the name rang a bell for a reason. A few years ago, he rose to fame for taking out a big billboard in Merrion Square in Dublin in the hope of getting a job.
He pumped all his lives savings into this billboard which was entitled ‘Jobless Paddy’ and long story short Jobless Paddy got a job with Paddy Power.
We had a chat and from the brief conversation with him, I can only imagine the craic that is had in the Paddy Power office when it comes to bringing these plans to fruition.
I hadn’t completely forgotten about Mayo, just being on the news desk instead of the sports desk constantly just means you’re not involved 24/7 like was once the case. The sports and news desks are close in proximity in the office, so when any breaking sport news comes through, it echoes over to our channel too.
Most of the time, it passes in one ear and out the other but when I heard Aidan O’ Shea was getting attacked about not being involved in a team huddle after a challenge game against Meath, my ears soon perked up.
As I was told the former Meath footballer Bernard Flynn was complaining about the Breaffy man taking selfies with kids after the game, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It seems like there has been a constant attack on AOS since he took a dive against Fermanagh, a media hunt on the Mayo man. Is sports news really that slow during the middle of the week that we have to comment on minute things like this?
Imagine the scenario: a few kids shouting O’ Shea’s name and he ignores them and instead joins the huddle. I’m sure Bernard Flynn would have been singing a different tune then about how AOS was now too big for his boots, that he was ignorant, arrogant and a snob.
Lord above is there any right answer?
Photo: Irish Mirror
Signing autographs happens after every game, if this happened on Sunday, it wouldn’t even be news. It shouldn’t be news any way. It shows the height of AOS as a GAA figure that his autograph is asked for after a challenge game. Really what is the harm in that? Just because little kids are growing up idolising O’Shea. I wonder how many kids dream of being a player à la Bernard Flynn when they get older?
Then Flynn went on to argue that O’ Shea wasn’t in the same league as Michael Murphy. Of course, he’s not in the same league as Murphy, he’s a different player, it’s like discussing where broccoli stands in relation to apples when discussing fruit. Fair enough, we tried him in full-forward a few times but if you’re expecting O’Shea to be a marquee forward like Murphy, you’re going to be mistaken.
Before I left for the train station, we were asked to fill out six things for an article that was heading out later. It was predictions, your four provincial winners, Player of the Year and All-Ireland winners.
My heart and head said Mayo for Connacht. It won’t be easy but we’ve learned from last year. No team get taken for granted, we learned that with Galway last year and Sligo learned it with New York this year.
No matter what the calibre, class and colours of the team you’re playing, each game needs to be treated like an All-Ireland final. The mentality of six games to glory is gone out the window. You take it game by game in the hope of reaching that glory as a result. And that involves any spills and thrills that may occur on the way. Last year’s qualifier route was a happy and different experience and it’s nice to know that if we don’t win Connacht, there are other options available.
For the final answer, my heart screamed Mayo, but my Joe.ie head wrote otherwise. There is another Darragh that sits across from me that’s from Dublin. He had put down Mayo to win, I had put down Dublin, the editor thought he had mixed the two answers up. But he hadn’t, Dublin Darragh had that outsider faith that is especially fantastic to see coming from a Dublin man but when you’re on the outside looking in, it’s easy to say that.
History has told me not to get my hopes up though. I know in my heart and soul that we are one of, if not the only, team that could put it up the champions and that was evident across 140 minutes last year.
But for the moment, I’m not thinking about September. Putting Dublin down on the paper is the easy answer, but Mayo don’t go for the easy answer. They take the hard route, the underdog route.
As I headed for Heuston on Friday evening, I noticed the green and red headbands tied around suitcases that were following suit closely behind me. I was happy to be heading home, to see the flags draped across the shops and to meet up for a pint with the lads to talk about the game.
I hope that I am just as happy heading back up Sunday. It would be nice to head into the office Monday morning with a resounding win that announces Mayo are on the road again.
And who knows, 2017, could just be the year that the lions of Mayo football follow in the footsteps of the Cubs.