It’s the time of year once again for books and there’s one being launched this weekend which is sure to be of great interest to Mayo GAA followers. The Road to 51 by James Laffey, editor of the Western People, tells the story of Mayo’s footballing history from the county’s first appearance in a senior All-Ireland final in December 1916 up to when we won our third – and still most recent – All-Ireland title in 1951. In that dizzying 35-year period, we won three All-Irelands, eight National Leagues and 18 provincial titles in what truly was a Golden Era for the county.
The early years covered in the book were also, of course, very turbulent ones politically and an interesting feature of the book is that it includes non-football material relating to the War of Independence and the Civil War that followed it. Civil War of a different nature – the brouhaha surrounding the destination of the 1925 All-Ireland – is also covered in detail, as are discussions on the county team’s two trips to America in the Thirties as well as all the big games from that period, in particular those that took place in the breakthrough year of 1936.
James has drawn heavily on existing archive material for much of that early period, making use of rare interviews given by people like Paddy Quinn and Gerald Courell. His discussion of events in the Forties and Fifties is heavily based on interviews with all the surviving players from that period, including Padraig Carney, Mick Mulderrig and Paddy Prendergast, who have given very extensive interviews. The book contains about 200 pictures and other images, mainly drawn from private archives, many of which have never been published before.
The formal launch of The Road to 51 takes place this coming Saturday (November 12th) at the Courthouse Hotel in Ballina where throw-in is set for 8.30pm and where An Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be doing the honours.