As I sit in my office in St. Peter Chanel College in Kokopo, Papua New Guinea, my excitement for September 18th has taken off. This morning I received the message below from a good friend, an ardent Dublin supporter. He was at the Tipp game.
I can certainly sense the want in Mayo. At the match the Mayo crowd cheered every single score like their life depended on it and they got behind their team when it was needed it was wonderful to see.
With that kind of want there is a risk. In wanting it so much, fear can become the main player. Twice in recent years I can remember when this was the case.
Many have referred to the eerie silence in Croke Park in the second half of the 2013 final. It felt like: “Oh no, it’s happening again’. Fear took over.
At half-time in the drawn semi-final in 2014 I stood talking at the back of the Hogan stand. We were behind, Keegan was gone and it was a gloomy conversation.
Then my good friend and huge Mayo supporter Clare Higgins from Kilmovee asked “What’s the positive?” I replied: “Well, we know that if they get going this team can choke the life out of an opposition.” She smiled and said: “Let’s go for that so.”
Back inside, Kerry scored first and, full of fear, I muttered “It’s looking bad.” My daughter Niamh roared “Well, it would help if someone cheered”. The thought seemed to echo round the stadium. Mayo, supporters and team, came alive and for 25 minutes Kerry were choked. (Niamh does not claim all the credit but as her Daddy I put it all down to her!)
And we have seen it so often from these players: Dublin in 2012, Donegal 2013, Kerry 2014, Dublin 2015, Kildare, Westmeath, Tyrone and Tipperary 2016. When this team play it is a joy to behold and no-one can stand against them. When the beauty and joy of what they are submerges the fear they are a force of nature.
Before I got the quote I mentioned above I was flat. Dodgy internet meant I saw only one half (the first) of the Tipp game on The Sunday Game Live. The display was not great. I won’t be there for the final. (Before coming to PNG last year I had missed, since back in 1967, just one quarter-final involving Mayo and not one semi-final or final in which we’d played).
Now thanks to the message above from Conor Hosford (let your Dub friends kill you if they want!) I am buoyant. The fear of losing which pervaded the qualifiers is over. Let the glorious begin.
Our opposition is Dublin, the team of the decade so far. Let that be our inspiration. What a way to win!
Let’s not react negatively to any comments. Instead, let’s welcome them:
- Colm O’Rourke wants Mayo to win but he thinks Dublin will. That’s OK.
- The whole country wants Mayo to win. In July 2015 Bernard Brogan told me he wants Mayo to win an All-Ireland … after he retires!
- If we weren’t playing Dublin everyone in Dublin would want us to win. (Somewhere in his heart Aodhán Ó Ríordáin wants us to win).
- Almost every pundit will say Dublin are going to win. Let them. Logically they are right.
But then we know this:
This team can choke the life out of them. This can be the day.
So every time someone says Dublin will win we say: “Bring it on”. Let every reaction be a positive one.
I can’t get home but I’m flying to Brisbane. I want to watch with other Mayo people. I want to cheer and roar and cry with Mayo people if we win.
So my call to all in Mayo is this: throw off the shackles and let go the fear.
- The management has to be calculating. We don’t.
- The team has to plan and be ready. We don’t.
- Pundits have to try to be logical. We don’t.
We just have to go wild. Purge any fear. Don’t wait ’till the week before. Deck the county in green and red now. Create a mighty wave that will let the players know that we know they are ready to claim their place in history.
Let them arrive in Croke Park knowing that we have no fear, that we trust and believe in them. Let them know that we believe. Let’s have a huge celebration of what it is to be Mayo.
This is the year. Let’s get ready to choke the life out of them.
Will you be watching the final from afar? If so, can you suggest a good venue where you live in which Mayo supporters could gather to watch the game? Let us know in the comments.