Thursday 25 May 2017

Green and Reds get chance to end 65 years of hurt

Brave Tipp are toppled but 'Mayo for Sam' bandwagon is back on

Fans Zara Hennigan, Annie Hughes and Orlaith Finn Photo: Stephen Collins
Fans Zara Hennigan, Annie Hughes and Orlaith Finn Photo: Stephen Collins

Ryan Nugent

For a moment, it felt all too familiar - 2016, the year of the sporting underdog, as Tipperary came storming back into contention at a rain-sodden Croke Park.

Leicester, Connacht, Iceland . . . Tipperary?

Maura Fox with her son Liam and daughter Niamh from Ballycastle, Co Mayo, at the match yesterday Photo: Tony Gavin
Maura Fox with her son Liam and daughter Niamh from Ballycastle, Co Mayo, at the match yesterday Photo: Tony Gavin

The weather seemed to have turned the game on its head, with the seasoned men from Mayo unable to stay on their feet.

So who would have thought it would be just that - a Mayo slip - that would hand the Green and Red the goal that sealed the match.

And with that fortuitous fall, a spot in yet another All-Ireland Football Final.

The team, the county, the supporters from the west, they just keep coming back for more no matter how much pain they've been put through. Now they took the opportunity to inflict some heartbreak of their own.

Tipperary fans Caoimhe Comerford and Niamh Richardson Photo: Tony Gavin
Tipperary fans Caoimhe Comerford and Niamh Richardson Photo: Tony Gavin

It was exacted on the Premier County, who have taken more than a few scalps from teams in Connacht in both football and hurling.

When the referee blew his whistle, the final score was Mayo 2-13 to Tipperary' 0-14.

And boy, did the Croke Park crowd know it, as a rousing rendition of the Saw Doctors' classic echoed around GAA HQ.

Mayo's support has been put through the ringer enough over the years - particularly with semi-final defeats in both 2014 and 2015, so any route to the final is sweet.

Tipperary fan Tom Conway and Mayo fan Fiona Feely Photo: Tony Gavin
Tipperary fan Tom Conway and Mayo fan Fiona Feely Photo: Tony Gavin

Although while they were firm favourites going into the clash, it wasn't a simple task.

As one supporter put it, this was nerve-wracking stuff up until the last 10.

But some believe that just might be the good omen they need.

The optimists from Castlebar, Ballina and Westport will tell you 'Mayo for Sam' each year since the last one - in 1951.

The realists, however, say the buzz is a lot quieter in 2016 than in recent years, and that by "falling over the line" in most of their matches this year, nobody will get too hyped up.

Sal Walsh, Erin and Deirdre Foley, from Cong Photo: Arthur Carron
Sal Walsh, Erin and Deirdre Foley, from Cong Photo: Arthur Carron

But who are we kidding - it's Mayo, right?

Erin Foley (20) from Cong, got the ultimate birthday present with the win but had been in tears during the week, when her supposed lucky omen was smashed to pieces.

"I think this year is the year. I say it every year, but sure look it . . . I got a mug that says Erin #MayoForSam2016, and I actually broke it during the week, I was crying, I was like, 'Aw lads, it's over', but it isn't.

"So you never know, it could be our year," she said with a grin.

"I think this is the year," Gary Dunleavy from Bohola added. "You can't give up, can you?"

If there was ever a chance of the optimism dying down, it came briefly from Brid Walsh from Crossmolina.

"There's no hype around Mayo this year, it's different," she said.

But even that was short-lived. "We'll see you in the final," she said.

For Tipp, there was very little to be down about.

The Premier were proud of their team, who gave more than their money's worth.

And they've got a hurling final to look forward to in two weeks' time.

Although that's going to be a little too much for Stephanie O'Halloran (24) from New Inn, Tipperary - she's eight month's pregnant.

"They did way better than anyone expected," she said.

"We still have the hurlers - I won't be at that match though, that'll be too close.

"I could be having a baby in Dublin," she joked.

Leaving Croke Park, one Mayo fan, in a world of his own, was whistling to the tune of the famous 'Sunday Game' anthem.

Whether or not he'll be doing the same, after his team take on the might of Dublin or Kerry on September's third Sunday, remains to be seen.

They'll fancy their chances, though. They always do.

Irish Independent

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