Monday 16 July 2018

It's widely accepted we have the best supporters in the country

Flying the flag: Imelda Hunt and Willie Joe Padden with Chris Heneghan and his daughters Naoise and Chloe in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photo: Keith Heneghan / Phocus
Flying the flag: Imelda Hunt and Willie Joe Padden with Chris Heneghan and his daughters Naoise and Chloe in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photo: Keith Heneghan / Phocus
Willie Joe Padden with head bandage in the game against Tyrone in 1989

Castlebar resident Willie Joe Padden is a legend of Mayo Gaelic football and the image of him playing against Tyrone in the 1989 All-Ireland semi-final with a bandage over his head (below) is imprinted in the memories of GAA supporters.

He is celebrated in a number of songs including the Saw Doctors' 'Hay Wrap', which features the line: "Will Galway beat Mayo? Not if they have Willie Joe."

Willie Joe, who grew up in Belmullet and moved to Castlebar 23 years ago, says: "The people of the town are very open and friendly. It is a progressive place and I think it will go from strength to strength over the next few years."

Now working as an estate agent, he says: "Like everywhere else in the recession, it stopped growing for a number of years.

Willie Joe Padden with head bandage in the game against Tyrone in 1989
Willie Joe Padden with head bandage in the game against Tyrone in 1989

"This is a town that will recover. It is coming back now, but it will take time. Big business and industry is mostly based in Dublin, but with time, I think that some of that will have come out to bigger towns such as Castlebar. People won't be able to afford the property prices in Dublin.

"You can still get very good value in housing in Castlebar, with three-bed homes available for around €160,000."

Willie Joe, who played on the Mayo team for 15 years, believes the success of the county gives the town a lift.

"I think it is widely accepted that we have the best supporters in the country."

He says the game and the discipline required to play has changed immeasurably since his own time.

"Now they have a back-room team with psychologists, dietitians and masseurs. None of that was there when I was playing - and we trained just twice a week."

@KimBielenberg

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