Class ri­valry

Stand­ing up for Mayo in sea of blue

The Irish Times - - Front Page - Pho­to­graph: Alan Betson

Pupils in Scoil Mhuire, Marino, Dublin, who are sup­port­ing Mayo, on the eve of the All-Ire­land foot­ball fi­nal, Stephen Mur­phy, Ruairí Ker­nan, Tomás Thorn­ton and Oran Malone, sur­rounded by class­mates who are sup­port­ing Dublin

The other 31 coun­ties may be cheer­ing for the un­der­dogs to­mor­row. If their more de­vout sup­port­ers are right, Mayo (God help us) can ex­pect di­vine sym­pa­thy too. But in the run-up to an­other All-Ire­land fi­nal, Dublin fans are mak­ing no apolo­gies for their plans to break western hearts yet again, en route to the home team’s first three-in-a-row since the 1920s.

True, west­ern­ers ar­riv­ing in the city via Heuston Sta­tion this week­end will be at first se­duced by the diplo­matic flag dis­plays along the Lif­fey quays, with Mayo and Dublin colours given equal billing, on ev­ery other lamp-post.

But the pre­tence of neu­tral­ity is aban­doned at Ha’penny Bridge, where the city coun­cil has erected ban­ners on both sides say­ing “Up the Dubs”. From there on, Mayo sup­port­ers will be head­ing deeper and deeper into en­emy ter­ri­tory.

A mea­sure of what they’ll be up against in Croke Park was a show of force yes­ter­day af­ter­noon at Scoil Mhuire Na­tional School in Marino: the heart­land of the im­pe­ri­al­ist su­per­power that is Dublin GAA. More than 200 pupils there had dressed in their county jer­seys for the day and, as they lined up for pic­tures in the school yard, they were as bois­ter­ous as a full Hill 16.

The Ir­ish Times’s ques­tion about whether any­one fore­saw the Dubs los­ing on Sun­day was met with an ear-split­ting “No!” Ever louder, and also in the neg­a­tive, was the an­swer about whether any­one had the slight­est bit of sym­pa­thy for Mayo.

Re­fus­ing to go na­tive

On closer in­spec­tion, how­ever, it turned out that in the midst of this noisy mass of blue were four brave stu­dents wear­ing green and red. They were strug­gling to be heard, nat­u­rally. But af­ter an ef­fort, we learned that of th­ese four hoarse­men of the Apoc­a­lypse, only one was Mayo-born: Stephen Mur­phy (11) who em­i­grated from Bal­lina as a tod­dler.

So what’s it like be­ing a Mayo sup­porter in a north­side Dublin pri­mary school? “It’s not as bad as it was four years ago,” he said, thought­fully. “Me and my friend were chased around the yard then.”

The friend was from Dublin, he added, but was a le­git­i­mate tar­get “be­cause he’s a cousin of Ai­dan O’Shea”.

Of the many houses around Croke Park decked out in blue-and-navy, mean­while, two in Pa­trick Heeney House, Sum­mer­hill, stood out for the sym­me­try of their flags, ban­ners, and bunting.

One of the men re­spon­si­ble, Damien McCarthy, ex­plained that he and his neigh­bour had agreed to present a joint front of dec­o­ra­tions, and there were signs that oth­ers on the street were catch­ing the bug.

Even so, McCarthy had no plans to be there on Sun­day. As al­ways, he would just “watch it on the telly”.

At nearby Clon­liffe Road, by con­trast, there was a hint of how far Mayo sup­port­ers will go, ge­o­graph­i­cally and oth­er­wise, to sup­port their team.

On ei­ther side of the en­trance to the for­mer Mater Dei In­sti­tute of Ed­u­ca­tion, ad­ver­tis­ing ban­ners for a con­struc­tion firm on site there car­ried green-and-red colours and the mes­sage: “MOM Ser­vices Ltd, serv­ing all your build­ing needs, wish Dublin the best of luck but UP MAYO”.

This was the ini­tia­tive of com­pany di­rec­tor John Boyle, who when ne­go­ti­at­ing a con­tract with Dublin City Coun­cil to pro­vide a “fam­ily hub for the home­less” on the grounds, in­sisted on a clause al­low­ing him to put up pro-Mayo signs on All-Ire­land fi­nal week­end.

Omi­nously for the lo­cals, this means that not only are Mayo claim­ing to have God on their side this year, but via Mater Dei, they have the Mother of God too.

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