The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS -

It was just be­fore the fi­nal whis­tle in the sec­ond semi-fi­nal that I re­alised I was fine with Dublin be­ing the team to pre­vent Mayo lift­ing their first Sam Maguire in 62 years. Be­cause I was a bit wor­ried about that, you know? Like most sports fans, I am given to sen­ti­men­tal­ity: I love, for ex­am­ple, see­ing men take to the field whose fa­thers I re­mem­ber see­ing play (I draw the line at grand­fa­thers, though; that’s just de­press­ing).

I’m en­chanted by plucky out­siders, by un­likely lads and ladies. When the Ir­ish cricket team shocked ev­ery­one by beat­ing Eng­land in the World Cup in 2011, I wasted two whole days of my life try­ing to de­velop an in­ter­est in the game, just so that I could wal­low even deeper in the ro­mance of our vic­tory. I love hear­ing about clubs with­out club­houses man­ag­ing to win tro­phies and am­a­teurs beat­ing pro­fes­sion­als at their own game. If they can do so hav­ing sur­vived a life-threat­en­ing ill­ness, all the bet­ter.

And if you’re that way in­clined, then Mayo prac­ti­cally have a monopoly on sen­ti­ment. There are all man­ner of statis­tics that Mayo peo­ple can throw up in sup­port of their claim to an All Ire­land ti­tle, but es­sen­tially they all boil down to the same thing — Mayo is far and away the most suc­cess­ful GAA county not to have won an All Ire­land se­nior ti­tle in most peo­ple’s liv­ing mem­ory.

It was for that rea­son that I des­per­ately wanted Mayo to win last year. And even though I have a few drops of Kerry blood in my veins, I even wanted them to win that aw­ful 2006 fi­nal, when they col­lapsed in the face of the re­lent­less football ma­chine that calls it­self The King­dom. In other words, I re­ally wanted Mayo to get that Sam Maguire-shaped mon­key off their back be­fore they in­evitably faced Dublin in a fi­nal. Be­cause I was gen­uinely afraid that if they didn’t, then I wouldn’t be able to be­grudge them a vic­tory over us.

It was that fear — and that fear alone — that saw me shout­ing for Ty­rone for the first (and I sus­pect only) time in my life in the first semi­fi­nal. Be­cause if Ty­rone could have seen off Mayo, then I wouldn’t have had to worry about the sen­ti­ment thing. But they didn’t. And right

I want Mayo to get that Sam Maguire­shaped mon­key off their back. But now that they’re fac­ing the Dubs? Mayo Sh­mayo

up un­til that fi­nal whis­tle in the sec­ond, spell­bind­ing semi-fi­nal — well, okay, maybe just up to the heart-stop­ping thrill of Kevin McMana­mon’s goal — I still had my con­cerns.

But then, even as the sharp whis­tle pro­pelled Dublin into our sec­ond All Ire­land fi­nal in three years, af­ter one of the most thrilling en­coun­ters I’ve had the priv­i­lege to wit­ness, my worries dis­ap­peared. Mayo Sh­mayo, in other words. One match stands be­tween the Dubs and our sec­ond ti­tle in three years; the fact that the other team hap­pens to wear green and red and has a big, gap­ing hole in its tro­phy cabi­net doesn’t mat­ter a jot. I was talk­ing to an­other Dublin fan about all this last week, and he pointed out that in any event, there isn’t a huge dif­fer­ence be­tween 62 years and 63 years. In other words, if Mayo have waited this long, then they can wait a bit longer. But that very gen­eros­ity of spirit, I re­minded him, would mean that we wouldn’t want back-to-back ti­tles next year, and we will, very much. And af­ter that, of course, there will be the three in a row. And don’t men­tion 2016 be­cause, by then, Dublin could be on course for the drive for five.

For a lit­tle while af­ter that con­ver­sa­tion, I be­gan to think it would be all right if Mayo won an All Ire­land ti­tle in, say, 2018 or so. But then I thought about The Boy, who, I’m pretty sure, would like to en­ter his 20th year as a sup­porter of the cur­rent All Ire­land cham­pi­ons. And in the years af­ter that, he might be­come a fa­ther him­self... and which grand­par­ent (non-foot­ballplay­ing) doesn’t want to spoil their grand­chil­dren with con­sec­u­tive All Ire­land ti­tles?

And there’s the bind. I’d love to see Mayo win an All Ire­land ti­tle and, at the same time, I hope they never, ever do. Hon­estly, you’ve got to love sport. Es­pe­cially on days like to­day, when your toes start tin­gling even be­fore you wake up, when you walk down Jones’ Road with your heart in your mouth, only 70 min­utes stand­ing be­tween you and glory. And when you know that ev­ery other per­son walk­ing to­wards their grail — re­gard­less of the colours on the back — feels ex­actly the same. It’s a kind of mad­ness, re­ally. A kind of lovely, per­fect mad­ness.

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