The name Willie Joe Padden is synonymous with Mayo Gaelic football and the image of him playing against Tyrone in the 1989 All-Ireland semi-final with a bandage over his head is imprinted in the memories of football supporters around the country.
The 1980s was one of the most successful periods for Mayo football and Padden formed part of the backbone of the team. In that decade they won four Connacht titles and became the first Mayo team to reach an All-Ireland final in 38 years. Cork got the better of them by three points in the decider but it was still a very special time for Padden.
"That All-Ireland semi-final win over Tyrone is a game I'll never forget," he says. "It was such a proud day for us players and the county, we had waited a long time to reach a final so it was very unfortunate that we didn't win."
Padden won two All-Stars in his career in 1985 and 1989 and was renowned for his skill, stamina and his high-fielding ability. He's never lost his love for football but feels it's changed a lot.
"There were a number of years there where the spectacle of the game wasn't overly entertaining to watch but that seems to be changing now," Padden says. "Teams like Kerry and Cork have reverted back to the long ball again which is good but the positional aspect of the game is gone. At some stages certain teams are playing 10 or 12 guys behind the ball, the game seems to revolve around defence rather than attack."
He is a dedicated follower of Mayo football and goes to as many games as possible. Today they take on rivals Galway and Padden will be in the crowd.
"Galway and Mayo games take on a life of their own," explains Padden. "If one team is showing better form than another, that's not necessarily a sign that they are going to win. But if Mayo could get back to playing the way they did in the earlier part of the league and combine that with home advantage, it should be enough to swing it."
His son Billy Joe transferred to Armagh this year so he goes to watch them play too. Padden was an estate agent for years but as the property sector has quietened, he is now researching possibilities in renewable energy.
Sunday Indo Sport