All Ireland final day looms again and we’ll make the long trip to Dublin in hope of seeing a Mayo team climb the steps of the Hogan Stand to lift the Tom Markham Cup this time. Hopefully it’ll be Sam next year. It’s been a long road for the Mayo minors to get to where they are and the Mayo faithful are hopeful that they will bring home the victory.
But while they have been busy putting in the work on the training fields, the committee members of the clubs up and down the county have been working equally as hard trying to source tickets for their members. Mayo got an initial allocation of 1,500 tickets with a couple of hundred more coming on stream earlier this week. 1,500 out of 82,300 doesn’t amount to much for the supporters of one of the three teams involved on the day.
All Ireland finals are special days which attract interest from not just those whose county is involved but also from the neutral, and tickets can be as hard to come by as hens’ teeth. But the long-serving, long-suffering officers and committee members in the clubs around the county will have been fielding phone calls, writing down names and frantically trying to figure out who the tickets are going to. Who is deserving of a ticket and who’s just unlucky, is a hard thing to decide. And holding a draw to see who gets them holds it’s own particular set of problems that can be thrown up. So if you’re desperaetly trying to get your hands on a ticket today or tomorrow, just have a thought for those in your club who have been balancing the books, training the teams, washing the kits, paying the fines for the love of the game and little else. They are more than likely the same people who have been working hard since the final whistle blew in Limerick and the ticket headache began.
The game itself is what counts in the end and this year Ray Dempsey and his backroom team have assembled a fine panel of young men, who will have been busy trying to avoid the hype and pagentry that comes as part of the parcel with an All Ireland final. While we can all get carried away with emotion at sporting event ranging from euphoric highs to calling players every name under the sun when it doesn’t go right, it has to be remembered that these are a bunch of 17 and 18 year old lads not professional athletes, they’ve had to balance education with their sport. While their peers were enjoying the summer they were disciplined and stuck to training regimes, and are on the verge of getting their reward. But even if things do go awry on Sunday, it still has to be remembered that they are still only a bunch of kids on the verge of becoming men. They have put in a huge amount of work to get to where they are today and deserve to have those efforts acknowledged no matter what theout come is.
It’s a familar feeling going to Croke Park on All Ireland final day isn’t it. Since 1989 we have been involved in the showpiece occasion in some way or another be it senior or minor on nine occasions in the last 19 years. We were in senior action in 1989, 1996, 1997, 2004 and 2006. And the best and the brightest of the youth were there in 1991, 1999, 2000 and 2005. This year’s minors will be the tenth appearance in less than two decades of a Mayo side on the final day of the season. But as we all know too well none of those previous nine final appearances have yeilded any silverware.
You have to go back 23 years to find the last time that a Mayo captain brought back the silverwear when Michael Fitzmaurice captained the class of 1985 to victory. There are some links with that team this year with Tom O’Grady and Kevin Beirne members of that panel. Let’s hope that it brings some luck on Sunday. And just so no one says I’m sexist, yes the Mayo ladies have had more than their fair share of success in the past decade and have been fantastic ambassadors for the game not just for women but for everybody in the county.