In the Sawdoctors 1992 classic hit song “Hay Wrap” the protagonist asks “Will Galway bate Mayo”.In the next line the reply comes in the negative, “Not if they have Willie Joe (Padden),they haven’t a hope of beatin’ Mayo. The above mentioned Willie Joe is a legend when conversation turns to football in Mayo. A high-fielding midfielder he played with Mayo in the 80,s and early 90,s.He is the proud holder of 5 connacht championship medals.
The age-old rivalry that is the maroon and white versus the green and red never fails to get the excitement levels revved up to their limits. It brings me back to one of my fondest memories of being at a connacht final in Pearse Stadium in Salthill.It was a warm sunny day in late July in 1969.My father and myself travelled with three other neighbours.
I have two stand-out memories of the trip. One was an incident during the match when Galway player Liam Sammon somehow ended up tripping over himself or the ball in his futile efforts to kick a rolling ball into the Mayo net.At the end of a thrilling game it ended a draw Galway 0-11 to Mayo 1-8. On the Galway team that day were a number of players from the famous 3 in a row All-Ireland winning teams of the mid-sixties, including John Keenan, Liam Sammon, Cyril Dunne and Pat Donnellan. Some of the Mayo players on duty that day included Seamus O’Dowd, Willie McGee, Des Griffith, Joe Langan and the stylish Joe Corcoran.
My other big memory of the trip is not related to football. As we chatted about the game on the way home in the car the radio was tuned to BBC Top Twenty. Two of the songs from that day that stick in my mind were “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival and “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. For this young teenager it was pure magic. In those long gone days before the modern conveniences like iTunes or Spotify, Top Twenty or Radio Luxembourg were the only means to listen to the latest popular music.
Looking back on this from the perspective of year 2020 it does seem almost pre historic. But later that evening when we reached home a very historic event in world affairs took place. I stayed up late watching the black and white TV as Neil Armstrong became the first human to step on the moon as he famously uttered the words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”For this writer as I look back on that day, it showed me that life could be fun and it also piqued my curiosity for world events.
What of the connacht football final in November? Year 2020, the year of Corona virus covid-19.Public Health regulations meant all county football and hurling competitions were called off from March until they resumed in October. And another small detail;all matches played behind closed doors with no supporters present. In this year’s championship Mayo defeated Leitrim and Roscommon to qualify for the final. Galway got a walk-over from Sligo as Sligo could not field a team due to covid-19 cases.
Usually two members of this household attend these matches. The daughter is a die-hard green and red supporter. (I wonder where she got that from!).On the other hand the lady of the manor has not forgotten her roots in that stone-walled country just off the “Curragh Line” in west Galway. Enough said.!
In a year when uncertainty is a way of life, the one certainty after death and taxes is that being a Mayo football follower is a nervy experience. As throw-in time approached I had this sense of helplessness of being trapped in the living room. I took refuge in the car, listening to mid-west radio and the partisan commentary of Michael D McAndrew with incisive analysis from former Mayo and Donegal player, Martin Carney.
The main talking point from this game came in injury time. As Galway player Sean Kelly chasing towards the Mayo goal, seemed destined to plant the ball in the net before being hauled down on the edge of the square by Mayo player Eoghan McLaughlin.The resultant free kick taken by Galway talisman Shane Walsh brought Galway to within one point of Mayo. Despite having two more chances Galway failed to score again in the final minutes. Those were heart-stopping final minutes as Galway laid siege to the Mayo goal. I had to leave the car and go for walk.The daughter’s smart watch read her heartbeat as 144!
So Mayo have their first Nestor Cup since 2015.Their best players on the day were Chris Barrett, Eoghan McLaughlin, Cilian O’Connor, Tommie Conroy, Brian Walsh and man of the match Matthew Ruane. Galway’s top performers included Paul Kelly, Paul Conroy, Shane Walsh and goalkeeper Bernard Power.
In this year of the pandemic when one of the rules of lockdown level 5 that we presently enjoy, we may not travel beyond five kilometres from home except for food or medical reasons, another verse from a Sawdoctors song may be appropriate.
This went to number 1 in the Irish charts at Christmas 1990.
And I wish I was on that N17.stone walls and the grasses green.
I wish I was on the N17.
Stone walls and the grasses green.
Travelling with just my thoughts and dreams.
- The words of that verse reflect my thoughts when we will be able to travel without limits and enjoy the experience of being present at different stadiums when Mayo are playing.