When the whistle blows …

I really thought this was Mayo’s year.  I am a Sligo man but when Sligo’s out of the equation, I believe our next loyalty lies with the province and when the county representing the province is one in which I’ve spent most of my years as priest, it’s obvious my loyalty was rooted in Mayo in the lead up to yesterday’s game. I truly hoped (and believed) victory would come the way of the Green and Red.  Alas!

I never played football at anything approaching a meaningful level and certainly have no concept of what it means to wear the Club Colours, never mind the County Colours.  I know there’s pride in the wearing and that it is hugely significant to those talented enough, dedicated enough, honoured and picked to wear the team’s jersey.  In more recent years my admiration for such people has increased to a degree that shocks me. Unlike others, I can’t name teams or follow the game at the intense pace that comes so naturally to some but I totally respect those involved.

Truth told, at times I envy the dedication shown to the team and the willingness to do whatever one is told by management in terms of training, food intake, alcohol avoidance etc.  I sometimes wish we could harness that degree of commitment and bring it to my own area of involvement in the lives of people. practice of the Faith and commitment to parish life.  That’s an aside though and maybe something to think about for another day.

It was such an intense game yesterday (as indeed was the drawn game) and nail-biting to the end. It was not to be Mayo’s day and Dublin achieved the “back to back” so desperately wanted.  I suppose nobody can blame the team or county for that. Their dedication too in undoubted as is their obvious skill.

A few photos emerged last night – many photos but two caught my attention.  Both were of Andy Moran in the company of his young daughter.  I celebrated Andy and Jenny’s Wedding Mass and feel something of a connection though we don’t meet very often.  There’s no denying Andy’s passion for the game and I’ve no doubt he’s deeply disappointed that another year has come and gone.

Together on a field of dreams

Together on a field of dreams

In the photos, one shows Andy sitting on the grass of Croke Park. and his daughter sits on one of his outstretched legs. There’s something healing in that photo – something that says the Metal of Sam Maguire may be sought after but it’s cold comfort when compared with the flesh and blood you shaped, nurtured and nourish. The little girl sits with one who is not judged on which side he was on at the sounding of the final whistle but on one who is her “father”, provider and one who loves her unconditionally.  The love is likewise returned. She is undoubtedly more crucial and cherishedl than a cup to be passed from hand to hand, team to team, year to year.  In this child, in this picture is life and all that is meaningful therein.

andy1

Photo taken by www.advertiser.ie (Galway Advertiser)

The second photo is of Dublin’s Bernard Brogan,reaching out to place his open hand on the top of the little girl’s head.  Andy is now standing, smiling as he watches this gesture. To me, the Dublin man is saying “be proud, very proud of your father. I’ve given everything I have over the last seventy and more minutes to hold him back, to beat his team but you have a father to be proud of there.” I’d like to think that somewhere deep within, he might even feel a tinge of regret for Andy and his team mates but more than that, it’s a gesture that says when the game is over, life goes on and must be cherished.  It’s moment that speaks of a respect between players, even when on opposite teams, maybe especially when on opposite teams.

At Mass today, St Paul tells Timothy to “fan into a flame” the gift God has given him.  He’s told it’s not a spirit of “timidity” but one rooted in love and self-control.  I’d like to think the Mayo team might hear those words and recognise deeply the gift so obviously given to its players.  May the fanning into flame commence and may “the fans” breathe life into that flame.

“A year til Sunday”

5 thoughts on “When the whistle blows …”

  1. I felt truly sorry for the O shea brothers parsons and keegan fighting that not sportsmanship

  2. A lovely reflection. My brother Paddy and his son Conor, then 11, had a similar experience after the third replay of the first round of the Leinster Championship between Dublin and Meath in 1991 when Meath pipped Dublin by one point in the third replay. After the match a Meath supporter, an adult man, approached Conor, who was wearing his Dublin shirt, and said, ‘I know you’re very disappointed – but you’ll never forget this day.’ My brother was very touched by this, which is what sport should be all about.

    I remember the last time Mayo won, in 1951. I was in 2B in O’Connell’s Primary School in Dublin. Our teacher, Brother John Dobson who was, as I learned later, encouraged us to speak Irish during the morning break and afterwards he’d as some of us to share what we had said. I remember standing up and saying, ‘Do bhuaidh an Mhuigheo ar an Mhí inné.’ That’s the first sentence I ever spoke off my own bat as Gaeilge and I hope I can say it again in 2017 even if ‘an Mhí’ happens to be ‘Baile Átha Cliath’! And the World Series in baseball this year will be between the Chicago Cubs who last won it in 1908 and the Cleveland Indians who last won it in 1948, the two longest trophy-less periods of any current team. S good luck to Mayo next year! By the way, Fr Peter Quinn, who died, last February, was on the 1951 Mayo team and left the following day, I think, for the Philippines where he spent many years as a Columban before becoming a priest of the Diocese of Orlando.

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