Friday 23 March 2018

Sinead Kissane: There's Something About Mayo - why it's easy to be drawn in to their quest

Mayo's Aidan O'Shea in action. Picture: Sportsfile
Mayo's Aidan O'Shea in action. Picture: Sportsfile
Sinead Kissane

Sinead Kissane

The political party with responsibility for Creating Mania around Mayo was clearly not happy with the low-key build-up in the county ahead of the All-Ireland final.

Where was all the hype? It was time to crank up the mania machine. What they needed was someone to make a traditional call to arms to Mayo. Someone with unrivalled status who could deliver a rousing speech.

There's no foundation to any rumour that Mel Gibson was called first. But, hey, the Taoiseach could always be called from the bench to do the job.

Sure, Enda hit all the buzz-words in his video message to Mayo fans. It was far from the All-Ireland whingers remark he had for his county folk earlier this year as he pleaded with them to "dare to dream".

It's like all those psychological thrillers with the word 'Girl' in the title after the success of Gone Girl; stick the word 'dream' in your speech and you're onto a winner.

But, to this outsider at least, the Taoiseach's speech had as much passion as a limpet on the rocks in Inishturk.

And so the political party with responsibility for CMM (Creating Mania around Mayo, obvs) needed another plan.

They needed someone from Mayo to show the lengths they would go to get a ticket. Someone who was willing to embarrass themselves publicly and use buzzwords like 'discrimination' to really grab the attention. Someone who felt they were entitled to a ticket which would piss off everyone.

Step forward Michelle Mulherin and the "this isn't about me" mania she created.

No county does All-Ireland final foreplay quite like Mayo, although the locals would probably like to distance themselves from some of the paddywhackery above.

There's something about Mayo which brings out the irrational in you before an All-Ireland final.

After I finished my interview with Stephen Rochford in the build-up to tomorrow's final, he asked about the disappointment in Kerry. It was three days after Dublin won the semi-final.

I was launching into a despairing monologue about Kerry's defeat when it hit me. Jesus, what am I doing banging on about hurt to a man from Mayo?

There's a masochistic nostalgia involved in revisiting those All-Ireland defeats Mayo have endured. Because they've been on such intimate terms with disappointment, re-watching those clips, listening and reading about those stories again becomes this irrational comfort because it's familiar.

There might be also a bit of irrationality in the way some of us have framed our recent conversations about Mayo. The facts show it's 2-1 to Dublin in terms of wins over Mayo since 2012 with one draw. Yet if someone sounded vaguely optimistic about Mayo's chances for Sunday did your retort go along the lines of: "Really? Do you really think Mayo can do it?"

And right there, just before logic hits with everything we know about Dublin, is the moment you realise that we're not quite sure what to expect from this Mayo side.

Back in August I asked Seamie O'Shea if he thought this could be Mayo's year (he sensibly laughed off the question). I don't know why I asked him that because, apart from their win over Tyrone, there hasn't been much else to suggest it could be.

Elsewhere on these pages I've gone for a Dublin win. But I keep being pulled back to the lurking possibility of 'what if'?

What if all the talk about hurt will eventually manifest itself into an unstoppable onslaught?

What if this is the final that Mayo players will actually perform close to their best?

What if this is the year Mayo pull off the rope-a-dope of Irish sport - that defeat to Galway? Sure wasn't that just a ruse to keep Mayo off-Broadway, and wasn't it a bonus that their qualifier and quarter-final wins were hidden away on pay-per-view TV?

It was Rochford who brought up Connacht and Leicester City when I interviewed him a few weeks ago. You could never classify Mayo as underdogs who came out of nowhere to win. But would any other team frank this year of the unpredictable more than Mayo winning an All-Ireland?

There's something about Mayo because you just don't know what they'll do next.

What other footballer could wear white boots and tie his blonde hair up in corn-rows and still have his skill seen as the flashiest part of him?

What player from any other county would have the gumption to pull-up his jersey to reveal 'Micheal Jackson RIP'?

What other team would have the balls to head down to the Hill to warm-up and still look less awkward than that Dubs team who went through a phase of pulling at each other like teenagers in a slow set at a disco?

No other team has suffered as much heartbreak as Mayo in terms of how close they've come to winning Sam. Yet each summer they pitch up wearing a new break-up haircut better than Taylor Swift and ready to go again for another championship.

All that's left for Mayo between now and tomorrow is to be tormented by hope.

Without doubt, this Dublin side is the team of a lifetime. But maybe tomorrow Mayo will live out a dream they've been waiting a lifetime for.

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