In a word . . . Mayo
I’m losing my favourite game, I’m losing my mind again . . .
It is a mantra of mine that some of the best writing in this newspaper is in the sports section. And not alone at the weekends. Indeed the article I speak of here appeared on Friday, August 25th last.
Former Kilkenny hurler Jackie Tyrrell wrote about the unbearable feeling of losing in an All-Ireland final. “Nobody needs to remind you of the ones you lost. They stay with you and come to mind far quicker. That shapes the person you are to a certain extent.”
In his own case he was on losing Kilkenny sides in 2004, 2010, and 2016. He reflects that “the heartbreak of those days will jump straight into my mind” and wishes the memory of his hurling career was about “happy days of winning All-Irelands in Croke Park”. Instead, “it is laced with hurt and it means you can’t fully luxuriate in the years we won. That’s the best way I can describe what losing a final does to you.”
I could only think of Mayo. What heartbreak has that county, its supporters and senior footballers endured? On Sunday, Mayo will be in its 11th All-Ireland final, including two replays, since 1989. It has lost all.
For one man it ought to be crushing. I speak of the great Andy Moran. Now 33, he lost his first All-Ireland with Mayo 13 years ago, in 2004. It happened again in 2006. He missed out through injury in 2012. Then there was 2013, and last year those two games, including a replay, against Dublin.
Such relentless sacrifice ought to have made a stone of his heart. But not with Andy Moran. He remains the ultimate optimist, tried, tested, still hoping. Other long-serving members on the current Mayo side include Keith Higgins and David Clarke, both there since 2006, and Alan Dillon who has been on and off since 2004.
Remorseless disappointment on this scale would have destroyed lesser men but they, like Mayo’s fiercely loyal supporters, go on and on through the slings and arrows of an outrageous fate.
Were there justice, it could not be so. But this is sport, the cruellest domain. While wishing no ill on this magnificent Dublin side, a tilt towards balance in the natural order makes it a requirement that Mayo wins tomorrow.
Mayo, Mhaigh Eo, “plain of the yew trees”.