Monday 26 August 2013

Bravo Mayo!

All-Ireland SFC Semi-Final:

Mayo 1-16; Tyrone 0-13

Mayo came good in the second half to qualify for the All-Ireland senior football final on September 22nd. The weight of favoritism seemed to get to Mayo for a long period in the first half. They seemed nervous and indecisive and kicked a lot of bad wides. Tyrone's grinding play contributed to this. Mayo started to move much more smoothly before half-time and got within one point of Tyrone which was very important for their morale. They played with much greater confidence in the second half and had players getting into space all the time; and were capable of taking their scoring chances when they presented themselves. The loss of Peter Harte and Stephen O'Neill was huge for Tyrone as was the loss of Cillian O'Connor to Mayo. I thought that the Mayo full-back line played very well, as they have being doing all year.

I would have sympathy for Mickey Harte; but I am pleased that a large section of Tyrone supporters will not be in a position to display their boorish ignorance in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day, as they have done in the recent past. What a sad contrast to the days when followers from the six counties arriving in Croke Park following their Ulster final wins (mostly for the first time) were like a breath of fresh air to the place. Many of those present from other counties, who had never spoken to anyone from Northern Ireland before, were fascinated by their accents and expressions.

I was present as a spectator when Down, in their first All-Ireland senior football semi-final, were beaten by Galway in 1959. I was also present for the historic final the following year when Down, led by their captain Kevin Mussen, became the first team from the six counties to win an All-Ireland senior title. On both occasions, from my standing position under the old Cusack Stand, I spoke to a number of Down supporters who would not normally have attended Gaelic Games. They were obviously from a different tradition than mine and the vast majority of those present, but they were wholeheartedly supporting the Down team. I have often considered since what great work could have been done to unite communities, and indeed North and South, if the right approach of responsible people had been supported. Unfortunately, the evil of terrorism intervened and the blight it emitted has left many blotches.

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