Dublin for the beauty, but it’s Mayo for our love of the un­der­dog

Irish Independent - - THE WEEK - Billy Keane

THIS is the Fri­day of Lis­towel Races, Ladies Day and 48 hours be­fore the most-talked-about All-Ire­land of all time. The women are beau­ti­fully togged out. Our pub smells like the en­trance to one of those big de­part­ment stores, where they keep the per­fume.

The weather is fine, the cash reg­is­ter in our pub is tap­ping the Morse code for plenty and all of Mayo will wish away two days of their life, wait­ing for Sun­day.

There are 30,000 over at Lis­towel Race­course. More than any other sport­ing event in the world on this day. The best dressed lady is the All-Ire­land of dress­ing up.

The big story though is all about Sun­day’s Gaelic foot­ball fi­nal be­tween Dublin and Mayo. The ques­tion on ev­ery­one’s lips this week is “What do you think?” There’s no need to ask about what.

I have been prais­ing Mayo all year. They will give Dublin a right fright. Per­chance to dream of a Mayo win. But first we must tell you of a lovely com­pli­ment. This one will get you out of all kinds of trou­ble. I have no­ticed over the years that it is just as im­por­tant to praise the woman as the clothes. So rather than say “Oh the frock is lovely”, you say “But it’s all about the model” or, bet­ter still, you can use this one: “Ah sure, but wouldn’t you look good in an onion bag.”

This other valu­able piece of ad­vice is ex­clu­sively for women. It’s easy enough for women to get men to feel good about them­selves. All you have to do is ask him to open a stiff screw-top bot­tle of tomato ketchup.

But when men pass a com­pli­ment, some Ir­ish women take it the wrong way. Now if I told you this story be­fore, please for­give me. I’m barely in the bed be­fore I’m out of it again.

It was in our pub and I said to this lady “You look lovely tonight” and do you know what she said to me? I swear this to be true.

So I say “You look lovely tonight” and she says: “What was wrong with me the last night?”

And here’s a tip for young men who wear sun glasses at Ladies Day. Take them off. It’s like look­ing at Ladies Day on TV. That’s the end of the part of the col­umn deal­ing with fashion tips, life­style and opaque op­ti­cal ac­ces­sories.

One of the rea­sons I put off writ­ing about the game for so long is that I get all buzzed up. Two days be­fore is too early to be get­ting re­ally ex­cited. Mayo are the peo­ple’s team. There’s the whole back story of heartache but then there’s the re­cur­ring theme of re­silience, hope, love of place and peo­ple.

Dublin are the most skil­ful team in the coun­try and have been for a good few years now. Jim Gavin’s team is the team of their time, the team that united our cap­i­tal city un­der the man­tle of blue .

Mayo played nine games to get here. Their sup­port­ers fol­lowed them every step of the way.

More women sup­port Mayo than any other team. Their Sun­day best is a green and red jersey. The wells in Knock have run dry of Holy Wa­ter. Rosary beads have been worn to peb­bles. Most of ru­ral Ire­land is for Mayo.

Dublin have the best play­ers in the coun­try but they haven’t had a full 70-minute, full-on game. Teams can get caught out when they take the easy road. Bernard Bro­gan should be on from the start. He is the smartest player in the game.

Mayo beat Kerry and that was a huge psy­cho­log­i­cal help. What’s more, we had no ex­cuses here in The King­dom. Mayo were the bet­ter team. Yes, Mayo do have a chance.

I have sev­eral cousins in Mayo and I can’t get ticket for even one of them. I have never seen such a scarcity. My guess is most of the tick­ets have been bought up by cor­po­rate Ire­land. The worry for Mayo is they will be out­num­bered by the Dublin fans.

Here’s the choice. Do we back Dublin, who have saved the game from the an­kle bracelet con­fine­ment of prison break foot­ball? Over a mil­lion peo­ple will cheer on Dublin. So let’s be clear, a Dublin win would be no bad thing.

But a Mayo vic­tory would be more than just about catch­ing Sam Maguire by the gilded sil­ver ears and lift­ing the All-Ire­land Cup over your head like a chal­ice on the high al­tar of the Ho­gan Stand on Sun­day evening.

It’s prob­a­bly part of our make up as a peo­ple to sup­port the un­der­dog, see­ing as we as a na­tion were al­ways the un­der­dog. This may seem un­fair to Dublin, but we are who we are be­cause of the times we came from.

For more win­ters than many of their fans have lived, Mayo have gone home to the West to pre­pare for the next cam­paign, some­times af­ter ter­ri­ble de­feats.

But they never gave up on their dream. Baron De Cou­bertin was the man who founded the mod­ern Olympic Games. The baron’s premise was sport is more about the tak­ing part than the win­ning. We will re­fine the baron’s sen­ti­ments for the mod­ern world.

It’s about tak­ing part the Mayo way. Give your all and if you’re beaten come back for more but never lie down. And some day when you do win, the de­feats will be seen as prepa­ra­tion for vic­tory. Mayo’s story is a moral tale for our times. Mayo have the know-how now. I think they might just win. Barely.

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