Mayo madness alive and well on the Corrib banks ahead of All-Ireland

Galway “spiritually 95 per cent” Mayo this weekend

It may be little known in Dublin, but is well-known in the west: Galway is the unofficial capital of Mayo. For decades Eyre Square has been first stop on the county’s emigrant trail, extending to London, Boston, Singapore and beyond.

Hence that “annihilation” of Galway earlier this summer will be forgotten on Sunday, the cognoscenti say. And if it seems as if half of Mayo is studying or working in the city on the river Corrib, “spiritually it will be 95 per cent this weekend”, according to Prof Donncha O’Connell, head of NUI Galway’s (NUIG) school of law.

And why? “Because Mayo is not Dublin,” says Prof O’Connell, who admits he knows very little about the game. He will be at the All-Ireland though, on a “promise of a ticket”, because he is “far more interested in tribalism than sport”.

“I love Mayo football and I love Ireland soccer, because it is pure tribalism of the most harmless kind. I’ve been at all the recent All-Irelands that Mayo lost, so I was almost tempted to stay away this time to help them win!”


NUIG has seven current and former students on the Mayo senior football panel, while former intercounty star James Nallen, who is a selector with the Mayo side, is a chief technical officer in the university's physics school.

Similarly, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology has blue blood GAA connections, and may be renamed Mayo-Galway IT for the next few days.

That “blood is up”, as Prof O’Connell puts it, across the county, with more flags flying in parts of Galway than across the county boundary. One man, who has to remain nameless for obvious reasons, has 1951, the year of Mayo’s last All-Ireland win, as part of the security code to his gate.

“Have you tickets?” is the first question on most people’s lips, with even the GAA’s Asian branch being tapped for possible passes.

Castlebar native John Dunne, a retired Customs and Excise official living in Galway’s leafy Clybaun, has a “promise of a ticket”, and has bedecked his home with five flags and bunting, while a large green-and-red teddy bear stands sentinel inside his door.

“The teddy has no eyes, but I’ve taken him out of the attic and I’ll bring him with me anyway,” Dunne says.

“ I suspect some Donegal lad whipped his eyes out last year – for shouting too loud!” he quips.

Anthony Finnerty, senior Mayo player for the All-Ireland final in 1989 and 1996 and manager of Ward's Hotel in Salthill, got his match ticket just yesterday. Ward's is expected to become a "virtual" Lower Hogan Stand for those who cannot make it to Dublin for the game.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times