That awful tragedy on Sunday night has, I think, fairly much knocked the stuffing out of many people. The utter senselessness of accidental death at such a tender age is beyond comprehension and at a time like this words are less than useless.
As others have said, Darragh’s death also places Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final into context. Sure, it’s an enormous day for the county, of course we want to win it and if we do and go on to reach the summit, it’ll mean everything. But football isn’t everything – far from it, in fact, as Sunday’s tragic accident proved.
In another sense, though, great sporting events – and the sense of fellowship and belonging they engender – carry within them the ability to lift the collective spirit in a profound way. There will, for sure, be a definite air of poignancy around Croke Park on Sunday but surely the best tribute all of us – players and supporters alike – could pay to Darragh then would be to do what we can to rock the rafters of HQ and secure the win we all crave in the sport he himself represented the county in with such distinction.
Mayo GAA paid a nice tribute to Darragh on their website yesterday and the piece (here) also includes details of Darragh’s funeral arrangements tomorrow and Thursday.
Difficult though it may be, we need to start thinking about Sunday’s match. The coverage has begun to ramp up in earnest this morning and will, no doubt, continue to do so between now and the weekend.
I don’t have time at the minute to do an extensive trawl through everything that’s out there but here’s a quick sample of it.
There’s an interview with Dublin manager Jim Gavin (who always manages to come across sounding more like a management consultant rather than a Gaelic footballer bainisteoir) which makes an appearance in the Irish Independent, Irish Examiner, Irish Times, Herald and RTÉ. As you’d expect, all of these pieces are pretty much the same – the short version being that we’re great lads altogether and that they won’t change their style of play on Sunday. No, I don’t believe him either.
Noel Connelly is also in the papers today – there are pieces with him in both the Irish Independent and the Irish Times. He doesn’t come out with any management psycho-babble and it’s clear from what he says about Dublin that he’s not buying Gavin’s ‘core principles’ guff either.
As already noted in the comments, there’s a piece with Conor Mortimer in the Irish Examiner. I wouldn’t be too hard on the Mort – it’s only the guy giving his opinion, after all, but I would question his memory. He says that we were “seven or eight points down with 15 minutes to go” in the 2006 semi-final. Firstly, we were never eight points adrift that day (seven was as bad as it got) and Alan Dillon’s equalising point came as early as the 54th minute. It was still one hell of a comeback, though.
There’s also a feature on the RTÉ website with Keith Higgins (here), where the captain talks about Diarmuid Connolly, Aidan O’Shea and the impact that Pat and Noel have had.
It being Tuesday, it’s also of course Mayo News day and there’s a bumper 16-page preview of the big match in this week’s edition (paper and digital versions). You’ll even find me in it peeking out from behind my online mask in a feature piece with Danny Carey, who also has interviews with Conor Mortimer and Mossy Quinn. There’s also plenty of good analysis from Sean Rice, Edwin McGreal and Billy Joe Padden and loads more besides. And if that’s not enough for you, they’ll also have the pre-match podcast available to listen to later on today. UPDATE: it’s now online – here.
Finally, though, there’s a great piece in today’s Irish Examiner from Kieran Shannon, which I think is fairly appropriate given the collective mood at the minute. Kieran was part of James Horan’s backroom team and in this wide-ranging piece he argues strongly about the need for sport to channel more noble character traits within us. Many of us – and I’m a prime culprit in this myself – can be very quick to point to external factors when things don’t go our way but Kieran reminds us that “while sport aspires to be fair, sometimes it isn’t, just like life itself. Most of us will live beyond middle age. Some of us will sadly be taken way a lot earlier. For those left behind, sporting defeats help somewhat steel us for that devastation; they makes us more resilient, better, people.” Wise, profound words, not least in light of Sunday night’s tragedy.