A bit over a month has passed since we got our hearts broken (yet again) in Croker and it signalled a very disappointing ending to what otherwise was a fantastic weekend for me.
My sister got married on the Friday to a Dublin man. She always wanted to get married in the Fall, ever since she was old enough to start thinking about what marriage was.
When herself and the Dub got engaged, we knew it was going to be a September wedding. I remember she came to me asking about dates, I said to her any day of the ninth month, just please, for the love of all that’s good and holy, leave the third weekend alone.
I’m sure she had already made up 99% of her mind that the wedding was going to be the Friday before the final. The fact her brother had told her to choose any weekend but probably drove that extra 1% into action.
Old rivalries die hard, whether it’s siblings or sport.
As if it wasn’t hard enough having to listen to the Dubs in Croke Park, I first had to spend a weekend with them in Meath!
The speeches, as you could imagine, were filled with talk about the big match on the Sunday. The Dub was handed a brand new Mayo jersey from my father almost like a dowry for taking the daughter off his hands.
The crowd cheered and booed, depending on which colours they wore and the Dub looked at the jersey in disgust.
“I’ll be taking that so,” I thought in my own head.
Driving up to Dublin the Sunday morning was a hazy affair following three consecutive nights of singing and drinking.
I’d be lying if I told you that I hadn’t thought about the final once all weekend though. Any break in play, I would be on Twitter or Snapchat to see was there any daft Mayo memorabilia doing the rounds.
My friend Pat held the golden ticket in his pocket which he snapped me a picture of every day so I could make sure it was still in his possession.
Normally I’d be quicker at chalking up something about a lost final like many the years before but this one was extremely hard to take, extremely hard to get over and extremely hard to talk about.
We could re-examine the game a month later but it’s been done hundreds of times by now. It would change nothing and it would just bring back bad thoughts.
But I will say this – there is nothing worse than losing a final you thought you had the winning of. I wasn’t confident going into the game, I didn’t think we could handle the sheer ferocity of the men from the capital.
Sadly, my initial thought was right, but we didn’t lose because of why I thought we would. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how we lost but that losing thought remained with me throughout the whole game, except for one moment.
Just after the 60th minute mark and two points are between the sides in favour of Mayo and I let a jump and a roar out of me from a place that was hidden deep, below my stomach.
It was almost like a combined roar of all the hurt and tears throughout the years, from 2004 onwards for me and way back for many others.
When that score was kicked, I started mouthing to myself about how we were going to win, this was it, this was the one. And then, heartbreak.
2017 was my generation’s 1996.
As myself and my friend bawled our eyes out at full-time, two elder Mayo fans put their hands around us and said “at least ye’ll see it in your lifetime” and if we didn’t cry enough tears for the men who deserved it on the pitch, we shed a bucket more for those who might not get to see it and for those who didn’t get to see it.
We stayed there for a long time, too long maybe and we weren’t alone. I don’t mean the Dublin fans, I mean many Mayo fans stood still beside us for many minutes after the Dublin fans had gone out the gap.
Sure why would they stay? They’ve seen it last year and the year before.
As we hit for the road, I got a message from another friend of mine, a Galway man living in Castlebar who has a hatred the burns bright for Mayo.
He promised me though that if I cheered for Galway on the green in Eyre Square at the start of the month, he’d return the favour.
His message read: “Beidh lá eile ag an bpaorach. Never seen a Mayo team give more than they did today, they’ll do it yet.”
A man, who holds the Galway v Mayo rivalry very close to his heart and whose blood runs maroon and white, somehow found the right words to ease the blow, just a little.
Almost a month has passed since we got our hearts broken and yet, it begins all over again. A new season is drafted up, new discussions begin but the same old dream remains.
Myself and herself have already started talking about how we’re going to spend the weekend of Valentines watching our two tribes going to war. What a way to spend a romantic weekend!
And then, early in May, Mayo and Galway are set to meet again, this time in the opening round of next year’s Connacht championship.
Hearts get broken in order to be fixed.
I thought I’d never get over the heartbreak that was 2016 but I can tell you one thing for certain – when we were dumped out of Connacht by Galway, when we were clinging on to life against Derry, Cork, Roscommon and Kerry, when we put the Kingdom to the sword for the first time in my living memory in Croke Park and when those two points separated us from the eventual champions – the last thing that was on my mind was the 2016 final.
That win against Kerry was the first time I had shed a tear for a winning Mayo team. Almost two decades I had waited (I could count ’96 but it would be cheating) for a win against Kerry in HQ. That’s the memory I’ll take with me from 2017 as I march into 2018, a winning memory.
Change the clocks, hit reset. Mayo will suffer defeat but will never be beaten.