It’s All-Ireland Sunday. I’m just in from Mass with a heavily depleted congregation. I wasn’t surprised of course. Many of the locals have begun the journey to Croke Park in the hope of being there “on the day Mayo won the Sam Maguire” for the first time since 1951. A lifetime (literally for many) has passed in the hope of this day being realised. As a Sligo man living in Mayo, I hope – truly hope – this is their day.
I borrowed a Mayo Jersey with the firm intention of wearing it to Mass today and, at the end of Mass, removing my vestments to reveal my support for the county. I even thought of having a sweeping brush at hand and saying that Rochford wanted me as a “sweeper” (I know …..) I believe people should smile everyday and, in particular, on a day when there’s an expectation of something special in the air. My hope was that people would go home smiling and that the smile would evoke a memory and the memory would include Church and that “church” would be a reminder of faith and that faith would do the rest ……
I looked at the the Mayo Jersey this morning and I couldn’t put it on. It’s not that I haven’t respect for the Jersey or the Green and Red of Mayo but they’re not my colours. I grew up with the Black and White of Sligo and though we haven’t had much success, the roots are there and the hope remains that someday it might, just might, happen! I left the Mayo Jersey where it was. In truth the colours belong to the county and its people and, much and all as I support and wish the team well today, they didn’t seem to be at home with me.
It’s incredible this loyalty to the county. There’s none of the rivalry that has potential for fights or tension but there remains nonetheless a healthy rivalry. When the Championship started and Sligo was in the mix, my absolute hope was that they’d get to and win the Connaught Title.
That didn’t happen. When Galway beat Mayo in that final, I can’t pretend that I was smothered in grief for I thought the change was no bad thing. When Mayo made it back through the qualifiers I was glad for the team and am 100% behind them today. The roots are there though – in the “Land of Heart’s Desire”.
It will be quite a spectacle later with more than 80,000 people in Croke Park and millions watching at home and around the world. There will be handshakes and photographs, jostling and heaving, pushing and shoving all in the name of sport and in the pursuit of a dream. The dream of an All-Ireland Medal and the glorious satisfaction that comes with knowing you’ve made it to the top of your game. I’ve never played football, well never in anything resembling a serious game, but I admire those who give so much of their time, talents, energy and commitment to a sport that enthralls so many.
So I’m “up for the match” and hope it will be a great day for Mayo and the West. I don’t think I’ll wear the jersey but I have the “Green and Red” plaited cord a child handed me in school the other day. I’ll keep that in the car:)
PS: Let it be very clear, I have nothing against Dublin. It’s certain the present team is out on its own but I think a loss today wouldn’t set it back “light years”!!!
Just decided to give it a go!! This is how I’d have looked. Do I manage the Mayo Look??