THE BEST VIEW IN THE HOUSE A couple of supporters watch on from their home near Tuam Stadium during Sunday's National Football League game between Mayo and Galway. Pic: Sportsfile
A Fan’s View
FORTUNE-TELLING isn’t my forte, but if you’d said to me on Saturday that Mayo would score 3-23 against Galway, I’d have been looking at you a bit funny.
And if you’d told me there’d be 15 points to spare against them, I’d have been reaching for the thermometer to take your temperature and wondering whether the pandemic hadn’t affected your mind.
But 2020 continues to surprise, and on this single, solitary occasion, to delight.
You don’t need me to tell you what a strange year it’s been. Regular summers are full of colour and craic and the anticipation of the next trip, the next do-or-die fixture, the highs and the almost-heart attacks that following Mayo bring.
Honestly, I haven’t missed racing about the country, spending a fortune, juggling weekends to make everything fit. Other things have taken precedence this year.
But I have missed the connection and the fun that comes with it.
Sitting down in front of the TV to watch a league game would feel alien in a regular year, but it felt particularly bizarre on a Sunday in mid-October, as did seeing Tuam so deserted.
My heart wasn’t really in it if I’m honest. But the echo chamber that has been social media in recent weeks sprang to life. Mayo not only impressed the neutrals from the outset with their footwork, but with their delectable lockdown ‘locks’. The dormant WhatsApp groups started hopping again. The photos of fans festooned in green and red in their living rooms started streaming in. When the goals also started streaming in, it started to feel like a good day.
The combination of TG4 — always deserving of praise for their sports coverage — and the partisan Midwest Radio commentary is the only way to go if you can just synchronise the commentary. Michael D [McAndrew] and Martin Carney did not disappoint.
The latter was a joy to listen to; full of delight, gleeful without being obnoxious, with some cracking one-liners. “They [Galway] don’t know in the game of god what’s happening to them”, he proclaimed with some jubilation midway through the first half.
Truth be told, I think we were all a bit shocked.
Ciara Buckley [Mayo GAA Hurling Board PRO] was on hand to capture the day in photos; something that gives a real sense for a day when you can’t be there. Always generous with her captures, it was good to see her tenacity rewarded this morning with a front page in the Irish Examiner sports section, and her shot of Aidan O’Shea reaching for the stars immortalised in memes throughout the evening. A post-game Mayo News podcast to round off the evening made for as good a lockdown league win as you could ask for.
I’d been cynical all week about whether the game would even go ahead and remain cynical about the remainder. I’d wondered whether it was right that games like these should continue in the face of the restrictions we are all facing.
But that’s easy for me to say; I haven’t been training all year, sometimes in isolation nor maintaining discipline (it’s been quite the opposite, I assure you) with my eye on a prize like a short knock-out championship.
But from 2pm on Sunday, for two glorious hours (the first since March), I didn’t give Covid or lockdowns or any of the worry associated with it a second thought.
It was pure, glorious escapism and for that, I’m grateful.
I always thought that Mayo winning an All-Ireland and not being there to witness would be a fate worse than death. Would I take it now? I’d bite the hand off you for it.
But for now, the win against the noisy neighbours will do just fine.
Never often enough, never by enough.