It’s been just over two weeks since I heard that news. I was working June 11, 2-11pm and there was no getting out of it.
Why was I disappointed straight away? Because I knew that date was the one I had waited for since we beat Sligo.
Actually, it was the one I had waited for since the draw was made before Christmas on RTÉ to be honest.
I was stood in the Hole In The Wall bar in Galway with a bunch of Mayo lads and a string of Galway gurriers who had become our friends over the years.
As the Connacht draw came around, we bookmarked the day straight away. June 11th, Pearse Stadium, the old enemies battling once more.
We talked about the rivalry and tried to construct a combined starting XV of the last twenty years.
When I was growing up, Galway were the kingpins of Gaelic football not only in the West but in the entire country.
One of the first ever games I went to was a Galway game. I’m not sure of the year or the context of the match but I just remember we lost and as my mother and I made our way back to the car, a gang of young girls, probably the same age as me, starting singing ‘Galway are the best in the West’.
A stupid, simple almost nursery rhyme type chant but it stuck in my head forever. Every time I hear the word Galway GAA, I remember that chant thus remembering that defeat and it boils my blood.
We argued over various aspects of the XV, almost every position to be precise but there were two men that got the nod without any discussion at all – one Mayo man, Ciaran McDonald, and one Galway man, Padraig Joyce.
Joyce was a man you feared every time you played Galway, even in his later years you still kept an eye on him.
I had the chance to meet Joyce this year, a chance which I blew and I will probably never let myself forget it.
Myself and my girlfriend, Noelle, (who is a Tuam woman, more on that rivalry later) were in The Front Door for a night out, just the two of us.
They say two is company and three’s a crowd but I would gladly have welcomed this person into our conversation any day.
We were at the bar ordering drinks and out of the corner of my eye, I spot a man whom I think is Joyce.
I said it to herself and after a few minutes of deliberating whether it was him or whether the pints were playing tricks, we came to a startling conclusion. OF COURSE IT WAS HIM.
At this stage, he was surrounded by people at the bar so I said I’d go to the toilet and by the time I came back, he would be free and I would pop in and annoy his head like the many people that came before me.
The joys of social media. On my way to the bathroom I messaged a few of the lads to say that Joyce was in The Front Door and that I would send a selfie in a few minutes to prove it.
A few minutes was too long for two of my friends, Barry (Mayo) and Eoin (Galway). They lived less than two minutes walk from pub so why wait for me when they could go down and see the man in person themselves?
Long story short, by the time I had queued for the busy toilet and squeezed my way through the crowd again, Padraig was gone. Disgusted, I look at my phone to see where the girlfriend is only to find two respective pictures from Eoin and Barry… salt to the wounds.
Since I had just started with JOE, I didn’t want to push my luck either about taking the time off, I convinced myself it would be okay. Sure, I’d get to watch the match at work and isn’t it really the same thing at the end of the day (slowly trying not to cry while reiterating this sentence).
As the days have rolled by and I make my way down to Galway to see herself, the realisation has really hit me. She too is a die-hard fan, only she’s one of those. It’s okay for her, none of my family care about football so she doesn’t get any slagging. As for me, it can start sometimes from the minute I enter her door.
‘How many times have ye won Sam?’ Zero I’d reply. ‘Can you remember 1951?’ No I cannot I’d say. ‘Ye should have never overtaken that hearse!’ Oh, here we go!
I could bring the Galway hurlers into the frame in terms of successful teams not being rewarded but that could open a whole other can of worms. So instead I take my abuse, sip my tea and try to remember that I’m severely outnumbered.
Would I swap places with her? Probably not. Sure, she can remember Sam being in Galway twice but since 2001, she hasn’t had much to shout about.
My opinion of Galway GAA has changed in the last few years and that is because, since 2013, Galway became and still really is my second home.
I got my education there, I made friends there, I had great nights out there and I met Noelle there. I know the place as well as I know home at this stage.
Noelle came along to the replay with me in October and shouted and roared as hard as any Mayo person that day and even donned an old green and red jersey I had from circa ‘06. Would I do the same if it was the other way around? It’s hard to know. It would depend on a lot of things. If Galway had been the reason for knocking us out along the way I definitely would not. Noelle gives out to me for saying that but if they had beaten Tipp last year and we met in the semis and had beaten them, I doubt she would have done it either.
The celebrity Mayo for Sam bandwagon has started again. I spotted a picture on Knock Airport’s Facebook page of former soccer star and current Sky Sports pundit, Chris Kamara, wearing a t-shirt that said ‘Keep calm, Mayo for Sam’.
It seems to start earlier and earlier every year but what I would take from the slogan would be the first part, ‘keep calm’. It’s game number two.
I remember when I was writing before this same game last year, Galway were 14/1 to beat us. I said something along the lines of it would take a brave (and foolish man) to stick a tenner on that.
I was wrong and the bookies have learned too. Galway were 15/8 the last time I checked for this one.
We go again. Same as the Sligo game, it doesn’t matter how it’s done, we just need a win. Whether it’s sloppy and poor or exciting and convincing, it’s all about securing passage to the Connacht final, that’s our aim for the time being and players should be reminded of that. This gang came into our back yard and took our crown away from us, no one gets away with that.
Regardless of the outcome on Sunday, I might just turn the phone off while at work, just to be on the safe side. If we lose, I won’t be able to stand the abuse and if we win, I might send a message to Noelle that could have me sidelined for 12 weeks like Diarmuid Connolly!