The first Mayo game I attended was in 1975. I was 10 and my Dad brought me to see Mayo play Roscommon in the Connacht Semi Final. I was sitting in the car on Saturday in case he would go without me. That June Sunday, going with him soon after early Mass was a huge adventure. I held on to Dads hand the whole time, wide eyed at both exotic and distant Roscommon and the big crowd.
We won that match beating Roscommon by three points. Ger Farragher scored a goal and a few points and I also remember JP Kean getting a couple of points.
Cold rasher sandwiches provided by my mother and a bottle of coke in The Key West in Islandeady on the way home rounded off a great day out. For a few years, before teenage independence led me to make my own way to matches, going to Mayo games in the Summer with Dad was our thing. The shared interest in Mayo is one of the many things I miss now that Dad is gone. However the sense of excitement and anticipation for the first game of the Summer is something that hasn’t dimmed for me over the intervening 45 years.
This Sunday I will again travel in hope to Castlebar for the much anticipated clash with Galway. This match is the start, once again, of our quest for an All Ireland. The shortened season adds a sort of breathless excitement to the journey.
My chest will swell with pride at being from our great place. Fobbing off some good natured ribbing from my fior Gallimh nephews will only add to the craic. I will sing the National Anthem and shout for Mayo with neighbours and friends. Cold rasher sandwiches still taste as good now. It will, as always it has been, be a great day out.