Competitive inter-county action resumes tomorrow evening with the start of the 2008 NFL but, at a personal level, tomorrow is also a significant date as it marks a full year in the existence of this blog. I’m not sure exactly what I had in mind for the site when I composed that first post a year ago but I can say for definite that the experience hasn’t developed exactly in the way that I had in mind back then. Let me explain.
My notion in starting Green and Red was that it would fuse neatly two different things that I enjoy doing. I’ve been a follower of Mayo’s footballers for as long as I can remember and I also like to scribble so the idea of writing regularly about the ups and downs of the county’s footballing fortunes seemed an elegant synthesis of two complementary pursuits.
And so it has, at least in part, proved to be the case. I’ve followed what’s been going on more closely than ever before and, in the process, have managed to attend most (though not all) of the county’s matches over the past twelve months. The writing bit has been easy enough too and has only rarely felt like a chore. Even if Mayo haven’t kicked a ball in anger for over six months (the FBD doesn’t count), I’ve managed to keep the blog ticking over without too much difficulty. In that sense, I’m a bit surprised to see that a whole twelve months have gone by since it all began.
But, at the same time, what has happened is more than just a melding of two pastimes. The first thing that struck me was that a passing interest in the subject wouldn’t be enough to sustain the project. While I’ve been a Mayo fan for well over thirty years, I haven’t always been a fanatical supporter (I was out of the country at one point for eight years and only saw them play one match – the 1989 final – during that time) but I quickly realised that I needed to rediscover that fanaticism that I used to have in the early Eighties if I was going to make a right go at this undertaking.
That was a bit of a shock but I soon got with the programme and, compared to the scraps of news about the team that I’d had to survive on a quarter of a century ago, the amount of information (and bullshit) swilling round on the internet meant that I was rarely behind the times in terms of what was happening. From other blogs that I read, I could see that it would be a useful activity to gather together all the various nuggets about the team that were being published in various places, adding my own twist here and there.
The biggest shock for me, however, came at the matches themselves. Before, I liked nothing better than losing myself in the drama of the contest, making no effort to think about how I would explain my take on what I saw happening before me on the field of play. Once I went to a match knowing that later on I’d be writing about it – the league match against Fermanagh in Clones in mid-March was the first one I did – I found that I had to assume a totally different, and more detached, outlook. Now I was jotting down notes, clocking who was scoring and generally thinking about what I could say so that I didn’t sound like a complete twat when I did so.
It was at that match in Clones too that I first starting taking those short video clips that I’ve posted on a YouTube site and which, over the year, have grown to a library of some 67 video clips, covering over half of our league matches, all of our championship games and a few other things too. However, the best one of these remains the very first one I uploaded ten months ago.
Obviously, how the county fared last year was a disappointment. Starting out in early 2007, I had hopes of being able to cover a campaign that would run till at least August, maybe all the way to September. That didn’t happen, of course, and instead I found myself largely shorn of raw material in mid-July when we were hammered by Derry in the qualifiers. In terms of developing the blog, however, this was, to some degree, a blessing in disguise as it meant I had to work a bit harder to keep the show on the road and it allowed me to expand my remit to what was happening in the wider GAA world. That said, my core brief remains what’s happening with the Mayo team and it goes without saying that, now that we’re back at that time of year where the action starts all over again, my green and red lenses are back on and I’d dearly love to see the lads back in the All-Ireland series later this year.
The site has developed too over the year, notably with the switch early in January from the Blogger platform to a proper website, thus providing me with greater flexibility in terms of how the site is structured. In particular, this has allowed me to start an archive of Mayo’s NFL and championship results which I’ve already compiled back to 2002. My aim is to keep this project going for as long as it takes, back as far as I can. I’ve no idea how far back I’ll be able to go nor do I know how long it’ll take me to do this but, for now (and, I suspect, for some time to come), it’s a work in progress.
It’s gratifying to see that the site is getting an increasing number of hits (the month just gone was by far the busiest ever, surpassing the previous high watermark of last July) and it’s also good to see that people are taking the time to comment on the twaddle that I’m writing. It was also nice to discover the other day that I’ve been long-listed in the Irish Blogs Awards in the Sport and Recreation category. There’s some serious competition there, however, so I won’t be practising my acceptance speech in the mirror anytime soon.
So, that’s what a year being Willie Joe has been like. A year on, what still amazes me is the paucity of GAA blogs out there. I’m one of the very few doing this kind of thing and I cannot for the life of me understand why this is so. (Compare this state of affairs with the abundance of soccer blogs, of every shape and hue). There must be loads of other sad cases out there who are similarly inclined and it would be great to see a community of dedicated GAA bloggers, each covering in detail what’s going on in relation to their own county team, each with their own individual perspective, every one of us hopelessly biased. It would make a change from Tom Humphries and his nicely-crafted smart-assery wouldn’t it?
Enough of this. Happy birthday to Green and Red; now it’s time to turn attention to the real action, which starts tomorrow evening up in Derry. Sadly, I can’t be there (and, being Willie Joe, I almost feel as if I should be proffering an excuse for my absence from Celtic Park for this one) but I plan to be at, and writing about, as many matches as I can this year. All the way to Croker, in fact – in September, of course …