Saturday 24 March 2018

The pitch invader against Kerry, fancy dress to beat Croker ban and spooky story that will have Mayo fans dreaming

Mayo supporter Mick Barrett goes onto the pitch at the Gaelic Grounds during Mayo’s 2014 defeat to Kerry. Photo: Sportsfile
Mayo supporter Mick Barrett goes onto the pitch at the Gaelic Grounds during Mayo’s 2014 defeat to Kerry. Photo: Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

There's no lamentations out of Big Mick Barrett, the man who jumped the Walls of Limerick.

The word lamentation brings with it the picture of an old hag wailing above the screeching wind and pouring rain on a wild Atlantic headland far away from faraway places in old Mayo of the perpetual sorrow.

But this image of Mayo couldn't be further from the truth. Mayo people are endlessly optimistic. The great deeds of the Mayo team are a glorious ode to the ethos of always giving your all and never giving up.

"Will ye beat Kerry, Mick?

"Of course we will win. Why wouldn't we?"

And, who you might ask, is Big Mick Barrett?

Mick is the man who invaded the field of play when his beloved Mayo met Kerry in the Gaelic Grounds some three years ago in that epic semi-final replay when Kerry won in extra-time. Mick didn't really invade the pitch. It was more of case of the pitch invading him.

Mick couldn't help himself. He was taken over by the red and green mist.

Anyone of us, and I wouldn't be great myself, who are inclined to get excited at games felt for Mick, even if he did cross the line. I know he shouldn't have run out onto the field and he was suspended for a year. But there was no one killed and no one was going to be killed.

"What came over you at all?" I ask Mick.

Sure there was a melly (melee) and we were being bate all over the place. And one of our lads got sent off in the melly or whatever it is you call it. Before I knew it I was on the pitch."

"And what would you have done to the ref, Mick?"

"Ah sure nottin. I was only going to say something to him."

And now three years on Mick says he hadn't a clue exactly what he was going to say to the ref , only that "it wouldn't be good but I wouldn't use any bad language or anything".

I didn't have the heart to tell Mick his tilt at the windmill sent him in the direction of the linesman. Mick couldn't see the wood for the trees.

Mick's daughter Laura was the heroine of the piece. She ran out after Mick and tried to stop him, but Laura might as well have thrown herself in front of a bulldozer freewheeling down Croagh Patrick for all the hope she had of halting her dad's bull run.

Laura was only 17 at the time. It took some courage and some love for her dad to do what she did in front of 50,000 people. The teenager was the victim of vile internet abuse.

"That wasn't right," said Mick with some sadness in his voice. "That wasn't right at all. I'm fair game. It wasn't Laura's fault at all. She was very upset."

I think it was the father-daughter part that got me interested in Mick's story.

I go to most of the games with my daughter Lainey who was a handy enough player. She keeps me from going over the edge. And there are times when I need fencing in.

"She's a super girl," says Mick. "I'm always No 1 with Laura."

"Did the missus give out to you, Mick?"

"Oh sure she did. I'm still in the black books." Mick's wife Marie is from Louisburgh.

She's the greatest woman in the world," says Mick. His young lad has no interest in football and Mick observes: "And would you blame him after seeing me in action?"

That giving-out from Laura and Marie was a worse penalty than the suspension. Sources close to Mick, the source might even be Mick himself, tell of how the suspended man was seen wearing a maroon wig in Croke Park.

"Did you dress up as a woman, Mick?"

"Ah no," he laughs, "I wouldn't be good looking enough."

Mick and Marie worked hard in England. The young couple came home to Mayo about 15 years ago with their kids.

Mick is a small builder. There's a hint of the bad times in his voice when he says, "Work is nothin' hectic at the moment. But things are picking up. Ireland is the best country in the world. I couldn't wait to come home when I was over across the water."

I wouldn't be standing up for Mick if he was a blackguard. I had him well checked before I wrote this piece. Mick is very well got in Mayo.

He asks if I have a spare ticket. We will do our best. But Mick, your ticket will be so near the roof of Croke Park, you'll need to abseil down the Hogan to get on to the field.

Mick will be travelling to Dublin with his three bodyguards - Colm MacMenamin, Michael Cooney and John Joe Chambers.

"We won't be staying in Dublin but we will stay over for the final.

"Ah but we had some craic at last year's final. We went up one of them, what do you call 'em? Like a bike pulling a wheelbarrow."

"Is it rickshaws, Mick?"

"That's it, rickshaws."

Then he tells the story of the new doctor.

"I do a bit of business with this lad and his wife told me she went to a fortune teller before the birth of her child about 27 years ago. The fortune teller told her the child would be a girl and that she would become a doctor. But wait till I tell you. She told her that when the child would get her first pay cheque, Mayo would win the All-Ireland."

And you all know what's coming next. Says Mick, with glee: "You'd never guess, but didn't the daughter, the doctor, get her first pay cheque only the other day. Sure doesn't that bate any stupid curse about funerals. Ye are gone, ye are gone, Billy. Come on Meeo!"

Lads will ye spancel that man next Sunday.

I will never change my colours but good luck to you Mick Barrett . And Mick, for feck sake, this time, will you try your best to stay behind the white line.

Irish Independent

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