Saturday 18 August 2018

Paul Kimmage in Mayo: Hope springs eternal for a race who refuse to accept defeat

Former players, managers, journalists and fans describe the county's great hunger

Mayo All-Ireland final 2016. Photo: Sportsfile
Mayo All-Ireland final 2016. Photo: Sportsfile
Paul Kimmage

Paul Kimmage

Twenty-one years ago, on a pleasant autumn morning in September '96, I sipped tea with a man in Castlebar who had come within 60 seconds of tasting sporting immortality. Ten days had passed since the drawn All-Ireland final when a miraculous lob had earned Meath a replay, but if John Maughan was disappointed, he was wearing it well.

An old Volkswagen Beetle, draped in green and red and with a megaphone on its roof was doing continuous loops of the town. The driver, Tom-Tom Denning, was trying his best to raise morale but sounded like he'd had his testicles clamped:


"Isn't that great?" Maughan smiled, rising from his chair.

"Gas," I concurred.

He'd picked the team for the replay the night before and seemed impervious to the pervading sense of gloom in the town and to suggestions his team had blown it.

"People have been writing to me all week," he said. "'Make sure the heads are up! Makes sure the heads are up!' The heads are up! There's no problem there."

But it was obvious I wasn't buying and a heated debate ensued.

"How can they turn it around?" I asked.

"How can they turn what around?" he fumed. "It was a drawn game. We didn't win it. We didn't lose it. You see, you've gone into this subconscious state where you're suggesting, 'Ahh they blew it.' The same as most journalists."

"And most of your supporters."

"Yes. Exactly. And I'm telling you the opposite but you're not listening."

Close quarters in the Meath v Mayo match in 1996. Photo: Sportsfile
Close quarters in the Meath v Mayo match in 1996. Photo: Sportsfile

"I am listening."

"I'm telling you now that this is not the situation with the 29 players. So it's not a question of asking Liam McHale, 'Can you turn it around?' No, it's a whole new ball game. There's no problem picking these guys up. They're all terrific. In great form. Last night in training everything was spot on. That's the reality of the situation."

"But you'd rather I put the question to you rather than Liam McHale," I countered.

"I would, yeah, I don't want that internal probing."

"Because you're preaching the positive and I'm sowing seeds of doubt?"

"Yeah, it's like, 'You've blown it, haven't you?' It sort of plays tricks with the mind."

"But are they not thinking that anyway?"

"They're not. They're not," he insisted. "You'll see on Sunday."

Four days later, they lost McHale after ten minutes - cruelly dismissed in that infamous and ugly brawl - and the All-Ireland by a point. A year later they lost another final to Kerry. And the one after that. And the one after that. And the one after that. And the one after that. I never went back to Castlebar. Sometimes sport can be too cruel.

Watching Mayo in the All-Ireland final has always reminded me of the movie Groundhog Day and the sound of the clock alarm every morning when Bill Murray opens his eyes and realises it's the same day as the day before. And the day before that. And the day before that. And the day before that. For the sound of the final whistle, read the sound of 'Sonny and Cher.'

But imagine if you were born in Mayo?


1 Groundhog Day

"I was in the Virgin Islands once. I met a girl. We ate lobster, drank pina colladas. At sunset, we made love like sea otters. THAT was a pretty good day. Why couldn't I get that day over and over, and over . . .

Bill Murray,

Groundhog Day

Mayo supporters get behind their heroes. Photo: Sportsfile
Mayo supporters get behind their heroes. Photo: Sportsfile


Paul Kimmage: Have you ever seen Groundhog Day?

Claire Egan: The Bill Murray film?

John Madden: Yeah, I've seen it.

David Brady: I know the storyline.

Angelina Nugent: I've seen it, but a long time ago.

John O'Mahony: I've seen it lots of times. And yes, every final whistle feels like 'here we go again'.

Angelina Nugent: I have memories of every single one of those final whistles. In '89, it was running outside on my uncle's farm to cry my eyes out. In '96, it was the silence in the ground after the draw - nobody could talk - and the silence on the train the whole way down to Claremorris. Last year, it was the Dubs singing and the sound of The Auld Triangle ringing around the stadium. I think that was the one that hurt most.

David Brady: I've lost All-Ireland finals and haven't felt hurt. I know that sounds disrespectful, but when you lose by 13 points, as we did in 2006, you walk off thinking: 'You know what? We didn't deserve that.' And if you don't deserve to win it, you shouldn't feel hurt. You're disappointed, but you're not hurt. I was hurt in '96. That still hurts. It was devastating.

John O'Mahony: '96 was the one time I really felt that the job was done. We led Meath by six points with 15 minutes to go. I can still remember the feeling in the stand that day: 'This is it. We can't lose this one.' And my mind drifting to what it would be like heading out of Jones' Road with the ultimate (prize).

Angelina Nugent: I was on the Hill that day with my father. There was a Tipperary man standing behind us and he started hitting us on the shoulder. "This is it! Ye have it!" And then the points started coming down . . .

David Brady: There's a style you should play when you're six points up and we didn't play to that. We made mistakes. We were naïve. We weren't cute or street-smart. We didn't play as a team that had won before, because we hadn't won before. Nowadays, teams have scenario meetings and make plans for every scenario. We didn't have a scenario for being six points up.

John Madden: When I talk about it now I'm almost . . . well, not dispassionate, but I don't have the emotional connection or the hurt I felt at the time. Your perspective changes. I have a young son with autism now, so losing a match 21 years ago seems almost an irrelevance. But I'm still defined by it, by plenty of people, and there were incidents in that game that they don't let you forget . . . the last hop of the ball in the drawn match . . .

David Brady: I still think about the ball hopping over the bar. Could I have got a hand to it as it was kicked in? I was following a man who was never going to get the ball, but if I had put more pressure on the kicker (Colm Coyle) . . .

John Madden: The hop? No, I could live with the hop. The thing that haunted me was the replay. A high ball came in to the edge of the small square and I went to catch it, like a midfielder, which is not what you'd see a goalie do now, they'd try to punch it. I didn't make a clean catch. The ball broke to Barry Callaghan and we conceded a penalty. They scored. We lost by a point.

David Brady: There's a difference between losing by a point and losing by 13 points. A point is the eye of the needle, not a gap 20 yards wide like it was in 2006.

Claire Egan: Mayo were very hard done by in that game. The big talking point was the melee. How did the referee pick out Liam McHale? He was a massive loss that day.

David Brady: There was a photo taken just after the final whistle. I'm on my knees and my head is buried on the ground. I was the youngest player on the pitch that day. It was my first All-Ireland. The heartbreak is the same in football and romance - the first cut is the deepest.

John Madden: You always look back with 'should have' and 'would have' and 'could have'. I still look back and think, 'That's the one that got away,' but don't ask me to change. Yeah, it would be nice to have a medal on the wall but what would that mean at the end of the day? I'd still have to get up and go to work tomorrow morning, and maybe I wouldn't have ended up in the happy place I'm in now.

David Brady: I am no longer David Brady the footballer, I am David Brady the Mayo fan. I've thought to myself: 'Christ! How do they do it? How did they do it when I was playing?' The supporters. The fans. I was cool as a cucumber when I was playing, now I'm a bundle of nerves.

Angelina Nugent: I don't know how many times I've been to Croke Park, but every time I walk in I think: 'Wow! What a magnificent stadium!' And then: 'Oh God! We're here for another All-Ireland!' And I'll feel physically sick. My sister, Bernie, is as bad. We can barely talk right-up to the throw in. "What do you think?" "I don't know. What do you think?"

John Madden: I don't regard myself as an ex-player, I regard myself as a supporter, and as a supporter, the one that hurt most was in 2013 when we let the team down. James Horan made a point about it afterwards: we were two points down with 10 minutes to play against Dublin and the place was quiet. I wasn't quiet. I stood up and started using choice language at the people around me to get up and shout. Edel (his wife) was absolutely mortified. It was a case of, 'I'm never sitting with you again.' And she hasn't. But unless I'm hoarse on Monday morning, I feel I haven't done my bit.

John O'Mahony: I don't like talking during a game. People often say, when there's a good score or a good move, 'Why didn't you react?' I still watch games with my manager's hat on; I'm looking to the sideline to see if there's someone warming up; I'm looking for any change of tactic; I'm trying to read the ebb and flow and absorb everything that's going on.

David Brady: I'll be up at six on Sunday morning - early you say, but not if you've been awake since four. I won't sleep. I'll go to the game, and watch it, and won't say a word, although sometimes I have to let a yelp out of me.

Claire Egan: I won't feel like that. I'm probably calm.

John Madden: James Horan's legacy is that he changed the culture of the team. What are the key attributes of the Mayo team now? Tenacity, stubbornness, work ethic - they're never beaten. And I think Mayo supporters have gained a lot from how the team has evolved. The case in point was the Derry match, when we kicked what felt like 200 wides and looked like losing. Then the chant went up: "MAYO! MAYO! MAYO!" It was the opposite of the 2013 final when there was silence, and no emotional engagement. The mentality has changed. It was: 'The team are there for the supporters.' It's now: 'The supporters are there for the team.' And that's the way it should be.


2 Faith

The Mayo football team of 1950s Ireland was united by friendships as much as football. None of them could have realised when they stood in Croke Park in September of 1951 that even as their finest hour beckoned, so too did their dissolution . . . In retirement, they became like other Mayo football supporters. But they also became like holy men, men who had unlocked the formula to winning, men who were living, warm-blooded proof of that time when Mayo were the All-Ireland champions.

Keith Duggan,

House of Pain


Paul Kimmage: Where are you from?

David Brady: I'm from the Quay, Ballina.

Angelina Nugent: I'm from just outside Castlebar.

Claire Egan: I'm from a village called Derrygarrow, which is ten minutes from Louisburgh.

John Madden: I'm from Ballycastle.

John O'Mahony: I'm from Mayo.

Paul Kimmage: What does that mean?

John Madden: It's what defines me. It's who I am.

David Brady: Pride is the first word that comes to mind.

Claire Egan: It's a place I'm very proud to be from.

John Madden: What makes me so proud? The landscape. The archaeology of Ceide Fields. We can have this claim to being the first farmers in Ireland within a couple of miles of where I was reared, and you can connect with that back 5,000 years.

Claire Egan: It's a beautiful part of the world. I can look out my front window at home and see Croagh Patrick; Clare Island is out in the Atlantic; Doolough is out to the other side, so there's just that natural beauty around you all the time. But there's lots of other things - you can't survive on scenery alone.

John Madden: I think you have to look at the history of it - "Mayo, God help us" was the line we were all accustomed to growing up. And maybe, subconsciously, we all have a chip on our shoulder.

John O'Mahony: The history is important, and the basic instinct of Mayo people. The population of Mayo (after the famine) in 1851 was 274,00, it's around 130,000 now. People were forced to emigrate; people were forced to survive; the people left behind were forced to survive. And I suppose that instinct to survive, to be resilient, had two effects - people had to be mentally strong and it also lowered their expectations. They didn't want to dominate the world but they wanted to survive. And I see a parallel picture in sport.

John Madden: We were a football force in the '30s; we were a football force in the '50s; then, with mass emigration through the '60s and '70s and '80s, it slipped away.

David Brady: It's a small world but fuck me its full of Mayo people. And it's family of origin. I'm not saying you would brainwash your child but my three-year-old daughter can sing The Green and Red of Mayo. I'll do three lines, she'll do two words. I'll do two lines, she'll do one word. "Who do you support, Hannah?" "Mayo, daddy."

Angelina Nugent: Why are we different? Well, if we're to take it in a football sense there's this massive drive to get over the line and win an All-Ireland, and I think in other counties they would have lost the faith before now. My father kind of summed an awful lot of that up for me. He passed away in January but he loved football so much . . .

(She pauses to compose herself) . . . I was at every match with him from the age of four. We'd walk out of Croke Park after another lost final and he'd say, "That's it! We've spent a fortune this year. We're not going again." And then, come January, it would be, "Find out Angelina where that FBD League match is on and we'll go."

(She breaks down.)

And it might be in the back end of nowhere and freezing out but there would be thousands there. I don't know if you'd get that in Roscommon or Kerry or Dublin.

David Brady: I have seen so many people who have gone to the grave and done everything in life. They've seen their kids born, they've walked their daughters down the aisle but they went to the grave not seeing Mayo win an All-Ireland. I've also known people who, unfortunately, have not done enough. I had a cousin, 38 years of age and the father of a three-month-old child, who died 11 months ago from cancer. He went to the arsehole of everywhere to watch Mayo play. When he was sick last year, a Mayo man laid on a helicopter to take him to the All-Ireland semi-final. The pilot didn't charge. They picked him up in Westport and flew him to Dublin and he was buried in his Mayo jersey a week before the final. You won't go to a funeral in Mayo without seeing some bit of green and red on the coffin. It's not about a piece of leather, it's not about the All-Ireland, it's about a sense of place.

Paul Kimmage: You weren't born the last time Mayo won an All-Ireland. What kind of presence in your life had the men of '51?

John Madden: My grandfather attended the final in '51. Tom Langan, the full-forward on the 'Team of the Century' and 'Team of the Millennium', played that day. My brother is married to a grand-niece of Tom Langan. I grew up playing football in Tom Langan Park. The association with '51 was an ever-present thing growing-up in Ballycastle.

Claire Egan: Joe Staunton from Louisburgh was on the '51 team. His son, John, still runs the pharmacy there. Joe was a lovely man and there was this sense of wonder about him; a sense of history and honour and reverence that someone from the parish had won an All-Ireland medal.

David Brady: I learned about the '51 team in my grandfather's house on the Quay. John Forde from Ardnaree, another part of Ballina, was on the team, and Willie Casey and (the trainer) Gerald Courell. These people were talked about and I would have seen the reverence my father had for them.

John O'Mahony: The team of '51, and the survivors of '51, were a touchstone of success. It kept dreams alive of modernising the arrival of Sam Maguire back to Mayo with colour photographs, instead of black and white.

John Madden: It was every kid's dream to play for Mayo, and the team of the late '80s that started it for me - watching Padraig Brogan in 1985.

David Brady: When did I realise football was everything? When I saw my father hugging another man. My father wasn't a hugger, it wasn't done in those days, but when Padraig Brogan scored that goal against Dublin in '85, we were in the Hogan Stand and I saw him hug a man. My father was a quiet man except when it came to football. That goal lit a fire in him and it lit a fire in me. It was the atomic bomb that ignited my football career.

John O'Mahony: There was no great pressure when I took over (as manager) in late '87. If you won a Connacht championship everyone was happy. It was a provincial thing as much as a Mayo thing: the All-Ireland hadn't come into the province since Galway in '66, so it was a mental barrier that needed to be attacked. In 1988, we played the All-Ireland champions, Meath, in the semi-final but did not start playing until the game was gone. So the following year we tried to address that situation and the mental weakness that was in the side. My mantra at the time was: "Keep the faith. We're onto something special here." We won the Connacht championship again and beat Tyrone to get to the final, the first for 38 years. The county went absolutely bonkers.

David Brady: I held the flag out the window all the way from Ballina. My aunt Bernadette and her husband Stephen were in the car. We played this song on a cassette, I think it was Georgie Battle, all the way up:

The Moy river is flowing,

Our hearts and dreams are glowing,

Sam's coming back to Mayo,

Back west where he belongs

I was 14 years old.

John Madden: Georgie Battle? The name rings a bell. I went up on the train with a bunch of lads from school but I remember some of the lines . . .

Come on Willie Joe,

And Kilgallon from Mayo,

John O'Flanagan, Sean Maher and John Finn,


Jimmy Browne will light the fire,

And we'll raise the Sam Magure,

John O'Mahony's men are on the move.

Jesus! I know it all.

Angelina Nugent: I don't know if Dad tried to get me a ticket, I was only six years old at the time, but he went up with Mam's brothers, and I watched it in my uncle's house with Mam and some of my cousins.

John Madden: There was a fear of God that Larry Tompkins was going to kick frees from all angles and sure we didn't concede a free all day.

Claire Egan: I was still a child in '89, but I remember Anthony Finnerty for some reason.

David Brady: The thing I remember most is being lost in the tsunami when (Finnerty) scored the goal.

John O'Mahony: Cork were teetering. They had lost the two previous All-Irelands and I could see self-doubt suddenly afflict their play. We had them on a cliff edge, but we could not apply the final push. That was, and remains to this day, a massive regret.

David Brady: I don't remember any of the negative part of it, none whatsoever. All I wanted to know was when Mayo was coming back.

John O'Mahony: There were 10,000 people out to meet us at Knock airport after losing an All-Ireland.

Angelina Nugent: I remember going up to the airport. The fence was nearly pushed in with the surge of people. They toured the county for about a month. It was crazy.

David Brady: They came to Ballina. It was an absolute carnival. I remember distinctly where I was, over in the corner of the Market Square, looking up at these men. The Jimmy Brownes, the Willie Joes (Padden), the Liam McHales.

John Madden: On the Thursday evening they made it to Ballycastle. I remember John O'Mahony going up on the trailer: "Keep the faith," I said. And he smiled and gave me this big thumbs-up.

John O'Mahony: My instinct was, 'We're treating a team like champions, and they aren't champions.' And I felt that was bad to be honest, and an insult to the goodwill of Mayo people that they were rewarding - and I don't want to use the word but - failure. We had lifted the barriers; we had cracked the ceiling but we hadn't won. We still haven't won. And we have invented every hard luck story in the book since.


3 Cursed

The legend tells us that while the boisterous Mayo team were passing through Foxford on the victorious journey home, the team failed to wait quietly for a funeral cortege to pass by on its way to the graveyard. The presiding priest consequently put a curse on Mayo football to never win a subsequent All-Ireland final until all member of the 1951 team are dead.

The curse of '51,



Paul Kimmage: When did you first hear about the curse?

John O'Mahony: I never subscribed to the curse whatsoever.

John Madden: Phhh, it's nonsense.

David Brady: That word honestly galls me.

Claire Egan: I wasn't aware of any curse before reading it somewhere.

Angelina Nugent: (Laughs) What curse?

John Madden: I don't recall when I first heard about it. I doubt very much if it was before 2004 or 2006.

David Brady: I don't remember hearing about it in 2004 or 2006.

John O'Mahony: I've heard the noise of it loudening over the years but I get annoyed if we have to acknowledge it. It's an insult to Mayo people. I'm not saying it's not authentic; I'm not saying people didn't say that something happened; I'm saying that if we play well enough, we'll win. So I don't believe it.

Angelina Nugent: The curse was concocted to explain some poor decisions on the sideline and the teams that weren't good enough.

'Oh! Two own goals! We've never seen that in a final before!'

'Oh! We've changed an All Star goalkeeper on the day of the replay! We've never seen that before!'

'Oh! That would never happen to Dublin.'

'It's the curse! It's the curse!'

David Brady: It's idle talk - piseogs! It had to be made up on a Monday after a big loss. Someone had to write it first, but it wasn't a proper Mayo man.

Claire Egan: It's just one of these things, they said the same about the Clare hurlers and Biddy Early (a woman reputed to have put a curse on the team when they refused to give her a lift to the Munster final in 1932).

John Madden: If someone says something often enough, and its articulated enough in the media, people eventually start to believe it. It's like, people are convinced Colm Boyle is taken off in games because of GPS stats. I've yet to see that confirmed by anybody. But it's been said often enough so people are inclined to believe it. It was said often enough that Aidan O'Shea had fallen out with (Stephen) Rochford and was dropped, but the team train in the Athlone Institute of Technology on Wednesdays, and I was there with the kids doing athletics, and I could see as clear as day that he had a different training regime to the rest of the players. So it was all nonsense.

Angelina Nugent: I've been lucky enough to speak to Paddy Prendergast and Padraig Carney (the two surviving members) numerous times, and to Dr Mickey Loftus, who was on the fringes of that '51 team, and they absolutely despise hearing about the curse. They have no recollection of it. It did not happen.

John Madden: I dismiss it completely and utterly, and I don't think it's nice. Mick Loftus, a great man from Crossmolina; Paddy Prendergast (living) in Kerry. How did they feel when they heard this story? Or when they hear these gullible twats in Mayo, a small minority, who say: "Well sure, when they're all gone, we'll start winning again."

David Brady: I think it's the most disrespectful thing that has ever been directed towards a team. It galls me, not that people say it, but that they don't realise that someone has a father, or a grandfather who was on that team. Paddy Jordan, another man from Ballina that I revered, Willie Casey, John Forde . . .

Angelina Nugent: There hasn't been much talk about it this year at the station but I remember Michael D (the Midwest presenter, Michael D McAndrew) calling me last year after the All-Ireland: "There's about 10 or 12 texts in here about the curse." I said, "Look, just avoid it. You're adding fuel to the fire." I don't buy it, not at all.


4 The King's Speech

The hands of the clock were moving inexorably towards the throw-in time of 3.15pm. In the Mayo dressing room, the captain Sean Flanagan was coming to the end of a rousing pre-match speech . . . No Mayo senior team had ever contested back-to-back finals, let alone won them. Flanagan was urging his men to seize the moment, to surpass the great Mayo sides of the 1930s, to put their own indelible stamp on history.

James Laffey,

The Road to '51


Paul Kimmage: It's Sunday afternoon. The hands of the clock are moving inexorably towards the throw-in and you've been invited into the dressing room by Stephen Rochford to address the team. What do you say to get them across the line?

Angelina Nugent: Golly! I can't wait to hear Brady's answer. I'd love to hear that speech.

David Brady: I would tell them that everything has been done. I would tell them that everything has been lined up for this. For now. I would paint a picture for them: "Two of the oldest soldiers in our brigade, Paddy Prendergast and Padraig Carney, are waiting outside that door to lead you onto the pitch. Walk behind them. Do not fucking run out until you get to the Sam Maguire and they peel left. It doesn't matter what people say. It matters what we say: FUCK YOU CURSE! HOW DARE YOU! Now, let's go and play football."

John Madden: When I was playing, I was the guy punching guys and thumping my chest in the dressing room, and appealing to their most primal instincts. But I think the psychology of the sport has moved on since then. What would I say? I probably wouldn't be able to help myself. I'd talk to them about the county and the people and 'Mayo, God help us' and how we've been battered. I'd tell them it was time to bury that once and for all and the myth about the priest and Foxford and the curse: "I NEVER EVER WANT TO HEAR THAT BULLSHIT AGAIN." I would default to primal instincts, because that's the way I've always done it.

John O'Mahony: There's been a lot of talk recently about Dublin being the perfect machine, a team able to cope with anything that's thrown at them. But the psyche of being invincible is a burden. And Dublin have yet to prove that they can carry that burden. I experienced the benefit of that burden on Meath in '01 (when managing) Galway, and it has to be a major factor. And that's what I'd tell them. "The script for this final has already been written by the nation. But we're going to walk out that door and remind them that history shows the script is written on the day."

Claire Egan: I think a cool head is good when you're going out on the day, but I would tap into the fact that they have history with Dublin. They should have taken them last year and owe them a beating. I would say: "You've been preparing for this. You've done the work. You've put in the hard yards. You've had the pain and the anguish and the experience of losing. You're ready for whatever is thrown at you. Now, play each minute and react to each minute, and go for it."

Angelina Nugent: I think it's important to tap into the emotion - not too much, control it. My words to them would be: "What does it mean to be standing here on the day of the All-Ireland? We've seen all the videos this week with the flags and the fans and the beautiful scenery but what does it really mean to be wearing that Mayo jersey? Do you want to walk away from another final defeated? Do you want to look at each other at the banquet tonight knowing you could have done more?"

Paul Kimmage: The game has ended. Mayo have won the All-Ireland for the first time in 66 years. Cillian O'Connor is leading the team up the steps to accept the Sam Maguire. You are waiting at the top with his speech.

David Brady: Fuck me!

Angelina Nugent: Oh Lord!

John Madden: God! That's not an easy one.

Claire Egan: Oh! What would I say?

John O'Mahony: There would be such joy and emotion. I don't think he would need a script . . . '51 would have to be mentioned, the death of the curse would have to be mentioned, the link with the people who sweated blood, sweat and tears but never got there, the Willie Joe Paddens and the TJ Kilgallons and the Joe Corcorans. And obviously the supporters.

Claire Egan: Cillian is so young but it feels like he's been around for decades, and he carries so much of Mayo on his shoulders. He would have to acknowledge family and friends because they've been through so much with him, and the family and friends of all that group who have been there during the losses. And also the county as well, and the connection with the supporters.

Angelina Nugent: How do you start? What would you say? And the roars would probably drown him out of it; you would hear it from Belmullet and Achill. I guess his first words would have to be: "We've finally done it. We've finally reached the summit." And then something about the team creating their own legacy. I think he should focus on what they've done, the effort they've given over the last ten years and the way they've rallied together when so much hurt and pain was thrown in their way. And in every press conference I've done they've talked about the supporters, 'the 16th man'.

John Madden: The poor guy. It's bad enough to have the pressure of kicking frees but to have this other, unwritten pressure if you do win the thing, and the expectations that will come with it is just . . . The Galway captain (David Burke) did a fantastic speech when they won so to even match that would be a superb achievement. But there's a part of me that thinks it doesn't really matter. It's all about the delivery. He needs to shout every word and give thanks that we're banishing the demons of history. But if he's the man that kicks the points that wins the match, the speech won't matter.

David Brady: I've given that speech a thousand times in my mind. I know exactly how this works. Aogán Ó Fearghaíl is waiting and about to present the Cup. Cillian walks towards him and says, "Thank you, Aogán, but I'll take the microphone first." He does not touch the cup. He turns to face the crowd . . .

(His voice trembles.)

"What I'm about to do is on behalf of every Mayo supporter, every player, every manager and every person here today. It is also for those who are not with us."

(He starts to weep.)

"This is for them."

And he lifts the Cup. Imagine that? Imagine if that happened? But it will happen. It might not be next Sunday but it will fucking happen.



John Madden (43) is Product Manager at Ericsson in Athlone. He was the Mayo goalkeeper in the ‘96 final and on the panel the following year.

Angelina Nugent (34) is the Sports Editor at Midwest Radio. She has attended every All-Ireland final Mayo have played in since 1996.

John O’Mahony (64) guided Leitrim to a Connacht title and Galway to two All-Irelands. He took Mayo to their first final for 38 years in 1989.

Claire Egan (35) is Communications Manager at Dublin City University. She won four All-Ireland titles with Mayo and was twice a losing finalist.

David Brady (42) is an Oncology Hospital Specialist with Amgen. He played in four All-Ireland finals and won an All-Ireland club with Ballina.

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