Friday 25 May 2018

Mayo's '51 veterans pray curse will end as Dublin fans confident of victory

Former Mayo footballer James Burke with his students at Scoil Mhuire in Howth Picture: Caroline Quinn
Former Mayo footballer James Burke with his students at Scoil Mhuire in Howth Picture: Caroline Quinn

Ryan Nugent and Caroline Crawford

One of the last surviving members of the Mayo team, who brought the county to glory in 1951, will miss out on this year's All-Ireland after suffering a fall.

Pádraig Carney (88), who lives in California, had booked his ticket home for the final immediately after the semi-final win.

However, his dream of witnessing the Mayo team once again vie for their first All-Ireland win in 65 years was dashed after he broke his leg just weeks ago.

"He's bitterly disappointed," said family friend Bernie O'Hara.

Former Dublin footballer Paddy Christie with pupils at Our Lady of Victory Boys National School Photo: Frank McGrath
Former Dublin footballer Paddy Christie with pupils at Our Lady of Victory Boys National School Photo: Frank McGrath

"He was supposed to arrive in Ireland last week but he fell and broke his leg not long before he was to leave.

"It's an awful blow for him. Pádraig loves coming home for the All-Ireland finals and they are all the more special when it's to watch Mayo.

Paddy Prendergast with his friend Paddy Joyce Picture: Domnick Walsh
Paddy Prendergast with his friend Paddy Joyce Picture: Domnick Walsh

"He made the Mayo-Galway match in June.

"After the match, he met with some of the Mayo team and told them he still had faith in them. He knew they were still able to do it," he added.

Mr O'Hara said to miss out on the final was "an awful disappointment" for one of Mayo's greatest fans. "The greatest present the Mayo team could give him would be to take home Sam on Sunday," he added.

Only one Mayo man in Croke Park come Sunday will have held the trophy aloft as part of the winning team in 1951.

Paddy Prendergast said he "would die happy" to see his home county finally shake off the curse.

He referenced the famous curse that was said to be put on the winning '51 team after the returning heroes passed a funeral in Foxford.

It is claimed that because the team didn't attend the funeral, the county would never win an All-Ireland while any of that team lived.

The supposed curse and the story around it have long been denied by all members of that team.

Pat Quinn (95), a brother of Peter Quinn, who won an All Ireland with Mayo in 1951, with his extended family in Ballina, Co Mayo Picture: Keith Heneghan/Phocus.
Pat Quinn (95), a brother of Peter Quinn, who won an All Ireland with Mayo in 1951, with his extended family in Ballina, Co Mayo Picture: Keith Heneghan/Phocus.

"There was no basis whatsoever for it but I often think to myself when you're not winning an All-Ireland year after year people begin to say there's something in that thing about the curse," he said.

"They have a game to play, they are up there. They are in the final and if they are in the final they should be capable of winning it.

"I hope to God Almighty we're capable of winning it.

I would die happy, that's all I can say," added Mr Prendergast.

The family of another Mayo hero and '51 team member who passed away this year have told how his spirit will be cheering on the team from on high.

Fr Peter Quinn had to play under the name of Quinlan due to a ban on clerics playing intercountry football at the time.

When he played on the winning Mayo team in 1951, he had had to seek a special dispensation from the Bishop of Meath.

His niece Margaret Syron said: "We're all hoping that he's up there doing a little bit of magic and hoping they have an extra special push on Sunday."

Pádraig Carney
Pádraig Carney

All eyes will turn to Croke Park this weekend to see if Mayo can finally shake the 65-year curse by dethroning the reigning champions, Dublin.

As the excitement builds toward the All-Ireland decider, both counties have been awash with colour as more than 82,000 people prepare to descend on Jones' Road tomorrow.

Tensions have been building and one man who found himself behind enemy lines is former Mayo star, James Burke, who now teaches in Scoil Mhuire in Howth, north Dublin.

His classroom is draped in green and red bunting, much to the dismay of his Dublin pupils - although they have managed to find a way to exact their revenge.

"There have been so many pictures of my head super-imposed onto fellas in Dublin jerseys lifting the Sam, plastered to the door saying, 'I wish I was a Dub' or something like that," Burke said.

"We'll make sure to look them all up on CCTV, we'll get the culprits," he joked.

Mayo will be up against it tomorrow that's for sure.

Even the band that Mayo's 15 starters will follow around before the throw-in will be in blue. They'll be supporting the Dubs too - be it in secret or not.

A drum major with the Artane Band, Gavin Hodson, said being objective was something that pretty much goes out the window when he's playing in front of a jam-packed, sky blue Hill 16. Nevertheless, he intends on giving it a go.

Nerves: Emily O’Donnell of the Artane Band Picture: Arthur Carron
Nerves: Emily O’Donnell of the Artane Band Picture: Arthur Carron

"It's a little hard to stay neutral when the Dubs are out there on the field.

"You try your best but you can't help but cheer them on, especially when it's an All-Ireland," he said.

It's the 130th anniversary between the Artane Band and the GAA - and its extra special for 18-year old Emily McDonnell.

"I'll be the first woman to lead the band at Croke Park in its 130 years history… I'm not sure who'll be more nervous on the day, me or the players," she told the Irish Independent.

In the run-up to the final, Dublin supporters have been accused of taking their recent success for granted.

Several schools in the capital are already planning a no-homework day on Monday, while hardened fans are already wondering what songs will echo down O'Connell Street during Dublin's glorious homecoming.

But that's just human nature, according to former captain Paddy Christie.

"It's a natural thing that happens. People can forget about the tough times very quickly and all the bad days," he said.

But pride sometimes comes before a fall and the ball is in Mayo's court as its team attempts to spoil Dublin's party.

Irish Independent

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