Monday 19 March 2018

Dermot Crowe: Mayo can't be slaves to the past

Mayo fan Joe Murphy holding Sam in 1951 in Shrule.
Mayo fan Joe Murphy holding Sam in 1951 in Shrule.

Dermot Crowe

A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Tom McNicholas, then approaching 96 and at that stage the oldest surviving All-Ireland senior medal winner in football.

It was the summer of 2010 and all his team-mates from Mayo's first win in 1936 had long departed.

Tom had lived to see the Sam Maguire wins in the 1950s, and the hard times that followed with all those All-Ireland final defeats.

He no longer went to matches but he kept a keen eye on Mayo's fortunes. His faith had been all but broken.

Not too long after this interview he would see Mayo lose dispiritingly in the championship to Sligo and then crash in the first round of the qualifiers in Longford.

After that defeat James Horan stepped in as manager.

In his first championship match they almost lost in Ruislip and there was some added commotion over the flight to London, with a stop-off in Waterford. It did not look the most auspicious of starts.

Sadly, Tom passed away in 2011 before Horan's reign got a chance to build up a head of steam.

He wasn't the worst off. Many Mayo men andwomen went to their graves without seeing Mayo win an All-Ireland.

Tom had won one as a player and watched the two that followed as a proud spectator. But those became remote memories. He acutely felt the great chasm and longing that followed.

What Mayo stood for in his prime seemed obsolete now.

How proud he would be if he could see how Mayo have begun to reassert those old traits, what once made them great, a team to be respected.

There are only three survivors from the last team to win in 1951 and thereputed priest's curse that supposedly required all that team be deceased before they would win again is part of folklore.

Before last year's final a Mayo publican jokingly told how someone had spotted one of the three survivors on the street one day and momentarily toyed with the idea of running him over. He wasn't being serious, of course.

Least that's what he said.

Mayo will go haywire if they win this All-Ireland. But for James Horan and his team there is no room for sentimentality. The past is irrelevant. This is the drought that dare not speak its name.

Online Editors

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