Sunday 28 December 2014

Tensions spill over from the stands as Mayo left to curse lost summer

Graham Clifford

Published 01/09/2014 | 02:30

30 August 2014; Mayo supporters, Lucy Hickson, aged 10, left, and her sister Abbey, aged 8, from Ballycastle, Co. Mayo
30 August 2014; Mayo supporters, Lucy Hickson, aged 10, left, and her sister Abbey, aged 8, from Ballycastle, Co. Mayo
Dejected Mayo supporters in the MAckey Stand after the game
Kieran Donaghy, Kerry, stops to get a selfie with supporter Noel Gately

AS MAYO desperately went in search of an equalising goal at the end of extra-time, tensions spilled over - both on and off the field.

Players from both sides pushed and dragged each other towards the corner of the Clare end terrace and the North stand - and for one Mayo supporter it just became too much.

He leapt from his seat, jumped the barrier and raced onto the pitch. In the mayhem he got close to the action before five yellow-jacket wearing stewards turned up to escort him away - but they needed all their combined strength to manage it.

A final act of defiance on a day of frustration for Mayo supporters.

In unfamiliar surroundings the Connacht Champions came up short against a ravenous Kerry side who emerged victorious to book a showdown with Donegal.

Earlier the Saw Doctors' classic To Win Just Once served as a source of hope for those Mayo fans who descended on JP's Bar, owned by Castlebar native Philip Burke, in Limerick's city centre.

But by the time they returned a few hours later it reminded them of another barren year. Another evening of heartbreak when hopes were dashed by their Green and Gold tormentors - this time on the banks of the Shannon. The gap since their last All-Ireland in 1951 grows wider, the distance making it seem more mythical with every passing summer.

From early morning they had poured into Limerick from north and south.

Kevin Quinn left Swinford at 7am to make the 175-kilometre journey - "I was down by noon but I stopped off in Galway for the bit of breakfast" he said. His and other fans' arrival into the city centre coincided with Limerick's Gay Pride march.

To the soundtrack of Dancing Queen, and with rainbow flags flying from lampposts and displayed on shop fronts, members of Limerick's LGBT community danced through the streets.

Meanwhile, supporters mingled and anticipation built. At the 'Bean-a-Tí' café on Little Catherine Street, owner John Canty said the decision to stage the replay in Limerick has given a huge boost to the city.

He said: "It's great for us, it's badly needed. You can see all the jerseys around the place. We need more days like these in Limerick. It's a great city and we want people to come here and enjoy it."

Inside the Gaelic Grounds it took time for the importance of the game and the general atmosphere to integrate fully.

But by the time Mayo's Cillian O'Connor found the back of the net for his second goal the tension moved up a gear. "If the American footballers up in Croke Park are hitting each other half as hard as these boys, I'd be very surprised," said Mark Foley from Killarney.

At the long whistle, Mayo and their supporters were crestfallen. In the city end terrace, children wept and grown men closed down.

Kerry celebrated wildly. Kieran Donaghy and the outstanding David Moran were swamped by delirious Kerry supporters who may never quibble again if they're asked to play in Limerick's Gaelic grounds.

Irish Independent

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