Belfast Telegraph

Time for Mayo to break free from the chains and land Sam Maguire

By Declan Bogue

We don't know how you feel about veteran Galway band 'The Sawdoctors'. You might feel they are nothing more than culchie chancers, or you might be a sucker for their lesser-exposed melodies.

Seldom outside of a concert have we heard a song that fits the mood of a crowd quite like 'Green and Red of Mayo', blasted over the speakers immediately after Mayo's win over Tyrone.

The first verse refers to the county's soft and craggy boglands, tall majestic hills, the ocean kissing Ireland and waves caressing shores, and peaks with the perfect 'Oh the feeling it came over me, to stay forever more.' It's at that point the emotion in Croke Park bites into the soul of everyone that has one.

What comes from the soul, touches the soul.

Mayo, God help us, they used to say when asked their origin when they climbed off the emigrant ships in America, the platform in Paddington or wherever else the exiled sons and daughters of that county would fetch up while fleeing famine, unemployment and destitution.

With All-Ireland final defeats in 1989, '96, '04, '05 and last year, everyone apart from those in Dublin and Kerry want to see Mayo deliver their first Sam Maguire since 1951.

In their post-match interviews, it was notable how all the Tyrone players wished them the best of luck in the final.

In the meantime, there is nonsense talk of curses, the diaspora will arrive home and the scramble for tickets is under way. It feels like a quest and that breaking the chains of bondage can only be achieved by winning a football match.

There is a strain of Mayo fan who, should they win Sam, might despair of what to do next. They could be put out, like Mrs Doyle when Father Ted bought a new-fangled tea maker to make her life a little easier, only for her to hiss back "Maybe I like the misery!"

This is the county that had an excellent book written about their failings; Keith Duggan's 'House of Pain – Through the Rooms of Mayo football.'

One of their favourite footballers, the RTÉ analyst Kevin McStay, once stood for the duration of a trans-Atlantic flight with journalist Liam Horan discussing the structures, failings and goings-on of Mayo football.

In conversation with this writer years later, McStay would attribute that length of conversation to the madness they both had for Mayo.

The Sawdoctors also have a song called 'To Win Just Once', with earthy lyrics that urge the listener to be their own person and not succumb to 'inbred fears', warning us against cynics and pessimists.

But the last rhyming couplet could be written for the Mayo footballers; 'Time is passing so come on, and face the ball, the game is on.' 'Hon Mayo!

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