In ‘Time to say Mayo’, we have an anthem we can finally rally behind
As we lost All-Irelands, the fun got marginalised but this year it’s different
Schoolchildren sing along to Time to say Mayo in the county yesterday.
If Mayo football is honest with itself, it will accept the standard of song produced since 1989 was nowhere near the level required to win an All-Ireland title.*
The writers could have resisted the obvious temptation to pair “bullet” with “Belmullet, but they didn’t. Jimmy Burke, the 1989 full-forward, “was lithe and tough”, with the “tough” purporting to rhyme with the Burke, while “McStay is like an antelope with his dodging to and fro”.
Oh, those songs were grand at the time. We wore them to a thread on the tape-deck of the Fiesta we called Gráinne (that, too, belongs to another era, doesn’t it, naming your car?)
But not mould-breaking.
Clare had The Banner Roar in 1995. It was self-deprecating and self-confident. Clare won the All-Ireland.
We dug in, of course. As we lost All-Irelands, we got grimmer. Fun got marginalised.
A year later, Wexford rolled out Dancing at the Crossroads, fresher than new strawberries, comfortable in its greatness. It even referenced poitín: poitín, for God’s sake, and we one of the undisputed poitín capitals of the world.
Wexford won an All-Ireland too.
In Mayo that very year, a man got publicly hanged for being seen with a happy head on him exiting Clonliffe College, after parking his car, the morning of a semi-final. His daughter got off with a warning, citing a nervous tick.
Link to Lanzarote
Last year took the biscuit entirely. I remember the very moment I realised Donegal were nailed down to win the All-Ireland. It was my brother who sent me the email link to the video of a lucky, lucky Jimmy (who’s not from Donegal, he comes from Senegal) and Rory Gallagher, sitting back against a Lanzarote rock, singing Jimmy’s Winning Matches.
The song had less than 1,000 hits at the time – it’s at 872,494 as I type, and surely our faith in human nature is such that we believe virtually all of those hits are for the song, and not for a sneaky look at the suncream-applying topless woman whose cameo starts at about 1 minute 51 seconds, or so I’m told.
It was early August, just a couple of days after they had beaten Kerry in the quarter-final. I’m fairly certain the comment I left was just the eighth one. Not even Malcolm Gladwell adopts that early.
How the antelopes on the Sunday Game panel failed to at least put Jimmy’s song in the final three for the man of the match award remains one of the great mysteries.
But this year, let me tell you about this year. If an army can be said to march on its songs, drape the canister in green and red now and put it on the next flight to Knock (some years back, the county council, in a bid to boost the ailing airport, decreed that every Mayo song and newspaper article must end with the cup coming back to the place built by another James Horan).