As the wait for our next Connacht championship outing goes on, I’m delighted to welcome Anne-Marie Flynn into the guest slot for the first time to help break the monotony.
It’s a funny time of year, this. The league is done and dusted, we’ve had our trip across the Atlantic, and in theory, we should be knuckling down to what will be a huge season for the green and red (regardless of the outcome).
Yet, in mid-May, we find ourselves in an odd state of limbo. Restless, impatient, tense. And that’s just the supporters.
For the football fanatic, there’s something comforting about the league and its measured drip feed of football. The weekends become a comfortable routine, built around match days. There’s a reassurance in knowing that next weekend, you’ll have somewhere to go, a game to see, and if the result doesn’t go your way on Sunday, on Monday you start looking forward. The Championship is different. It’s irregular, it’s stop-start, there’s nothing guaranteed and the waiting around can feel interminable.
We need look no further than the circus of the past few days to see that the dearth of football is making us all a bit tetchy. Hungry for any crumb of news. Some might even say a little frustrated. So we burn off the excess energy by focusing on media reports or the county board or Sky Sports. You’d know we had little for doing as we wait for 8th June.
Those of us near the home soil at least have club games for the fix, with the added bonus of having the ear to the ground on all things county-related. Those of us further afield seek out second hand news on the grapevine, mine the papers and the internet for morsels of insight, and resolve to find new, less consuming hobbies. It’s futile, of course.
And we wait.
I said twelve months ago that last year was going to be different. It was.
Last year, we mostly played with a style, a confidence, a sense of self-belief and a swagger that we’d only seen in flashes from Mayo teams of the past. We got used to it. We revelled in it. When it came to the big day, that swagger deserted us, and we felt cheated, deflated. There was, too, a palpable sense of frustration emanating from within the camp at the manner of the loss. Yet, we heard a bowed but not beaten Andy Moran on the 23rd September last year, not 24 hours after the game, speaking determinedly of the team’s resolve to regroup and give it another shot. And travel plans were postponed, real life put on hold for another year, and within the camp they’re quietly, steadily gearing up again, amidst all the noise outside around rifts in the camp and fundraisers and fights.
We might lament the manner of our exit from the league, but the best laid plans can go awry, and we underestimate this team. Those who form the backbone of that team are not pushing out their own plans and putting their bodies on the line for another year to go out of the real competition with a whimper. Make no mistake, the league is dead and buried. There is one focus for this team, and one focus only, and that is the third Sunday in September.
It’s interminable for us, but imagine how it must feel for this team. In the fourth year of their life cycle, embarking on this long journey again, trying to balance work, travel, diet, family and friends, study. Training relentlessly. Forsaking the nights out of their twenties. Trying to constantly monitor their own performances, evade injury and fine-tune their own bodies over the course of half a year so that they reach peak performance at just the right time.
And we think we have it tough?
They owe us nothing. But we’ll be there behind them, as we always are.
Three weeks to go. Three weeks until the next road trip, the next stop on this rollercoaster journey, be that Carrick or the Hyde.
Step Two awaits.