Sunday 18 February 2018

Boyle draws line in sand for return of Mayo exiles

Colm Boyle. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Boyle. Photo: Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

We've all heard stories of houses divided for the championship. The husband from Kilkenny and the wife from Tipp has resulted in one or two rows around September.

Having London participating in Sunday's Connacht final has thrown up an interesting meeting of friends as Mayo's Colm Boyle and Mikey Conway are likely to face their former Davitts clubmate Aidan McTigue, who now wears the London livery.

Personal knowledge often edges a battle and the fact that the trio also shared a house in Claremorris until February this year means there will be no surprises at MacHale Park.

But since London edged past Leitrim in their semi-final replay, the lines of contact have been severed. Football chat has been put on the back burner.

"A clubmate and a good friend of mine is on the London panel at the minute, but we haven't been talking football as such in the last couple of weeks," says a cautious Boyle (26).

"I suppose it's something different but it's a game of football at the end of the day so the same things apply."

McTigue (25) reckons Mayo must be feeling the heat if the GAA talk has dried up, but he has come to expect a good poker face from Boyle.

"Ah, Colm is like that. He keeps his cards close to his chest. At this stage I know himself and Mikey very well after living with them for two years," explains McTigue.

"The three of us go way back. We played on U-16, minor, U-21 and intermediate teams together as well as St Colman's College in Claremorris. Myself and Colm both played for IT Sligo too, so we'd know each other's game inside out."

Sunday sees Mayo try to become the first team to win three Connacht titles in a row since Galway in 1984, but it will just be back-to-back crowns for Boyle, who made a return to the Mayo panel last year after a three-year break. For a long time he thought the call would never come, but when it did it was like walking into a different sport.

"To be honest I thought I was finished with Mayo but I've been lucky. I had a good year with the club and James (Horan) gave me a phone call and ever since I've been training hard and doing whatever needs to be done to get to a high level," Boyle outlines.

"Last year being my first year back in, it was great. This year the intensity of training has definitely upped. We are doing a lot of focus on skills work and the team at the minute is very fit.

"The speed of the game, the speed of training, the extra work that has to go into it. Between gym and extra running work was just a different level really from what I had experienced before. In the space of three or four years it was like coming back to a different game."

The Davitts club is no stranger to big-game rivalries, straddling the Galway-Mayo border around the towns of Irishtown and Ballindine. But McTigue realises the green and red flag will be hard to shift from outside his home place.

"I've been chatting to home a few times alright since we got through to the final and it is going to be some occasion for us all. It's funny, my father will still support Mayo. He is a die-hard Mayo fan to the bone so I'm not expecting him to start roaring for London.

"But personally I'm really looking forward to the weekend, coming home to MacHale Park with the chance of playing in a Connacht final is a great opportunity for all of us Mayo lads," McTigue adds.

"Sean Kelly, Tony Gaughan and Danny Ryan are all Mayo men too, so it will be huge for them as well.

"But hopefully I'll get the nod to be part of the match-day squad. I'd be pretty hopeful, I'm going fairly well in training and we have one or two injury worries so I might get the nod."

While Boyle and Conway are Ballindine men, McTigue hails from the Irishtown side of the parish. But since the clubs amalgamated in 1952 they are all part of the Davitts family.

The only time the friends have been in the opposite dugouts was after Boyle finished his college course, while McTigue lined out for IT Sligo against his home side in the FBD League in 2008.

While fate didn't pit the unused sub Boyle against the corner-forward McTigue that day, he'd love a run against him on Sunday, with 'Roy of the Rovers' dreams taking root.

"Coming on and scoring the winning point against Mayo wouldn't bother me at all. It'd be some achievement, but we'll give it a right shot," asserts McTigue.

It is the assumption that Boyle and Conway will get to play on a higher stage as the championship unveils its destiny, and Boyle has his eyes on the Sam Maguire.

"That's the ultimate goal at the end of the day. But (for now) we are looking to do something we haven't done yet this year and perform for 70 minutes," says Boyle.

"We probably played well against Galway for 35 minutes, probably a bit less than that against Roscommon. We have hit the ground running well in both those games and we are looking to do the same again against London."

Family, friends and parish loyalties have been abandoned. There's a game to be won.

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