Ciarán Murphy: Time for Mayo to round up the posse for one last ride

As Dublin and Kerry loom large once again, Horan’s grizzled heroes can inject some badly-needed romance into the football championship

Exterior - night. Darkness. Darker than a black steer’s tookus on a moonless prairie night.

Camera follows a man down a wild west streetscape. Our protagonist arrives at a saloon door.

Interior - a dimly lit bar. Green and red flags lie scattered on the floor, untouched it seems for months. At the end of the bar, there’s a figure hunched over a bottle of whiskey, wearing a baseball cap, pulled down low over his eyes. If you’ve got something to say to me, his body language says − say it quick.

Silence.

Baseball Cap Man - “What in hell do you want?”

The Visitor - “You know what I want. You know what your country wants.”

BCM - “I’m out. Don’t you people take no for an answer?”

TV - “I know how you feel. I know you don’t need this anymore. But we’re at our wit’s end.”

BCM - “Keep talkin’ if you like [cracks knuckles] – I’m out of practice and I’m gonna need some motivation if it’s fightin’ you’re after.”

TV - “Listen, just hear me out. We’ve tried everything to make the public happy since you gave up your territories out here. And the new guy around these parts is doing okay, I suppose. To the south, the east . . . they’re tired of their sheriffs but there ain’t a damn thing they can do to get rid of ‘em. Every man that’s faced those guys down got filled full of lead.

“Up in the North Country, we got a team of bandits that have taken control of the whole shooting gallery, taken down every sharp-shooter up there . . . but nobody loves ‘em. The mood is black. The people want you.”

The man in the baseball cap snorts derisively. He’s heard this before.

BCM - “So what, you want me to ride into town, shake things up a little. You remember that working out well for me before?”

TV - “You give the people hope. Ain’t that what we’re all looking for?”

BCM - “Hope. That’s a one-way ticket to Palookaville.”

TV - “Joy, then. What about joy? Don’t tell me you don’t remember.”

The baseball cap man looks deep into his whiskey glass, like he’s found answers there before.

BCM - “You know winters out here on the frontier can be long. Can drive a man crazy if he don’t know what’s good for him . . . I swore last September . . . never again.”

The Visitor knows enough to say nothing. He waits.

BCM - “And then back I come, ol’ fool that I am. But six weeks ago, I got wise. No-one wants us around. Ol’ Jimmy here found out the hard way. Well that’s it. You won’t have me to kick around the place anymore. I’m through.”

TV - “What if I told you the country was up in arms. What if I told you every man, woman and child in all 32 territories is telling us the country’s gone to hell in a handcart? That the game’s up? That we might as well all just pack up and go home?”

BCM - “The hell with ‘em.”

The Visitor pauses for a minute. He takes in his surroundings. There are a few locals watching his every move – but they’re wary. They used to revere this man. Now it looks like he couldn’t get arrested in this town.

TV - “Ok. Forget about the people. Who cares. But what about the old gang? What about Leroy, and Killer O’Connor, the Doc. Surely they deserve one more go. Death or glory.”

The man in the baseball cap turns and faces his inquisitor for the first time.

BCM - “You hear from any of ‘em this past month or so?”

TV - ‘Sure did. What if I told you they’re waiting for you at City Hall right now. What if I told you they’re ready to ride with their old compadre one more time, startin’ this Saturday evening.”

BCM - “[gazing dreamily into the distance] Those sons a bitches . . . [snaps back into reality] ah what’s the use. I ain’t deaf, and I ain’t dumb. I’ve heard all the talk. Those loudmouths from back East are hoopin’ and hollerin’ like it was Mardi Gras all over again. And those good ol’ boys from down South got heads bigger’n their ten-gallon hats. What use are we against all that?”

TV - “I gotta be honest with you, I can’t rightly say. But there just ain’t no romance no more. Who all else is gonna do it, if you don’t?”

BCM - “Maybe the public you care so much about would rather someone else take a shot at the big boys. Maybe they’re sick and tired of our hard-luck stories.”

TV - “I guess sometimes in life, a man just has to stand up and fight for what he believes in. Now get down off that stool, get on your damn horse, go round up a posse of the meanest, roughest, toughest gunslingers in this territory, and get ready for Saturday. You know why? Because that’s what you were put on this earth to do, godammit.”

The man in the baseball cap raises his head, looks straight ahead and catches his reflection in the mirror behind the bar.

BCM - “Lookit. Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Saddle up.”