Knock airport: ‘On our Liverpool route I spotted at least 60 or 70 in Mayo colours’

Airport feels ‘like Christmas time’ as Mayo fans arrive home ahead of All-Ireland final

Ireland West Airport Knock

Ireland West Airport Knock

 

Ireland West Airport Knock in Co Mayo experienced a “brilliant buzz” on Friday as people arrived from flights, primarily from the UK, ahead of the county’s All-Ireland Football final versus Tyrone on Saturday.

“On our Liverpool route I spotted at least 60 or 70 in Mayo colours,” said Donal Healy, head of communications at the airport.

With the positive energy, and people donned in shades of green and red, Mr Healy said it felt “a bit like Christmas time” at the airport, which has been hugely affected by Covid-19 travel restrictions until a pick-up in bookings in recent weeks.

“There were a lot of smiling and happy faces coming off those flights today… We are fortunate enough here in Mayo that we have been in a few All-Ireland finals. The novel pairing with Tyrone is maybe encouraging a few more back this time,” he said.

Director of Public Health for HSE West, Breda Smyth, said everyone in the county wants “Sam to come west of the Shannon”. However, she warned there is still a “very high” level of infection in Mayo, with the county’s 14-day incidence rate standing at 400 confirmed cases per 100,000 residents.

“It is important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that we are in a pandemic… We are having, on average, 20 to 30 cases per day in the Mayo region,” she told Midwest Radio on Friday.

Mayo has one of the highest vaccine rates in the State, with 95.7 per cent of the adult population receiving at least one dose, recent figures show. Frank Harburn, manager for the vaccine rollout in the West, said the team has been “very pleased with the vaccine take-up across all age groups” across Mayo. He said the numbers arriving for vaccination at the county’s walk-in centres and pharmacies is “going up all the time”.

Still, Dr Smyth warned that those who have not been jabbed are at “really high risk” of catching the disease, and she urged this cohort to stay away from crowds. Even vaccinated people should wear masks if in a crowded space or indoors, she added.

Dr Smyth urged spectators and publicans to adhere to indoor hospitality guidelines requiring patrons to be “immune” through vaccination or recent infection if over the age of 18.

Alan Gielty, head of the Mayo branch of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, said publicans have been operating with the Covid vaccine passport system for months now, and they are well used to turning punters who don’t comply.

“The publicans are going to do what we have to do. It will all depend on the result. How are you going to control Mayo people after 70 years waiting for this?” he said.

The Achill Island publican said there are many Mayo fans travelling to Dublin even though they have not managed to secure a ticket. If Mayo manages to trump Tyrone, publicans will be dealing with a rowdy homecoming, he said. There will likely be uncontrolled house parties, but publicans will stick to the guidelines to protect public health, he said.

“We will limit the numbers that watch it. We have loads of outdoor space too… You will get a very big boost if Mayo wins the All-Ireland. Sunday would be a very big day if they win after 70 years,” he said.