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