Did you ever consider how many miles it would be to fly from Castlebar to Boston? It is very doubtful that sort of random thought came into your head. Do you follow Mayo around the country religiously to every senior game home and away? Well if you’re from Castlebar and take MacHale Park as your starting point for each of those journeys this season, then you will probably have travelled about 120 more miles than it is by air from Castlebar to Boston, by the time you get home from Sunday’s All Ireland final. Crazy as it seems, these are the lengths Mayo fans go to.
Those of us lucky enough to go to games for a living see the same faces popping up at games, be it a cold January day in Kiltoom, a froggy-frosty February night in Tralee, or a boiling hot summer day in Croke Park. Why do Mayo have such a fanatical support? That's the question we asked two diehard Mayo supporters ahead of Sunday's game and what following Mayo means to them.
Michael Maye from Swinford is a well known face in the stands at Mayo games, snapping away pictures throughout. According to him, being a Mayo fan means "A roller coaster of emotions in recent years, some great great days out with a little bit of heartbreak as well. Some of the best days out following the green and red off the top of my head, beating Dublin in the semi final in 2006 and that point from Ciaran Mac. Meeting an old school mate at the New York match in 2009, whom I hadn't seen in 20 years. Over in Ruislip in 2011 and Trevor Mortimer saving our bacon in extra time. The league match in Pairc Ui Caoimh in 2013 with Cillian kicking two sideline points from each side, to win the game and keep our unbeaten division one status, epic!
"Up in Kiltoom in January this year with Andy blitzing the Rossies with a couple of goals in as many minutes to win that FBD match, it was like a Connacht final day there that day, such was the crowd and atmosphere. Of course there were a few heartbreaking days too, but I tend to put those memories to the back of my mind, as I'd say many fans do. The good days far, far, outweigh the bad though. The people you meet, new friends along the way, the best of friends. Organising trips away to league games up and down the country. Meeting up with fellow Mayo fans at matches, we really do have the best of days following Mayo. The Mayo fans and the team really are like one big family. As the great Andy Moran said, 'We're in this together'."
Ann-Marie Kenny is another diehard follower of the green and red. Using the Twitter handle @MAYOMAD, she explained her love of following to the team to the Mayo Advertiser saying: "Supporting Mayo is like any good marriage, we support each other in good times and bad, in sickness and in health. There are many words to describe our feelings for this team. It's a deep sense of belief, loyalty, passion, pride, and togetherness. It's about family, friendship, a sense of belonging. We are all dreaming the same dream. From leaving the house to go to a match to the minute the game begins it's an adventure. I burst with pride when I see them run onto that pitch. The heart beats a little faster, the voice gets a little louder, and the goosebumps appear once that Ma-yo Ma-yo chant begins. I'm emotionally invested and there's no going back.
"The reason we support this Mayo team is because of their resilience, strength, and the belief that they have in themselves. They are such role models to young children and adults alike. The way they recognise their supporters, the time they give them on and off the pitch. It's the smile on my nine-year-old's face when Jason Doherty and Kevin Keane can greet her by name. It's Aidan O'Shea coming to visit my terminally ill Dad two days before the 2012 All-Ireland final. He will probably never know what his visit meant to us as a family.
"These lads have never given up on their dream no matter how tough the road gets or how many times they get knocked down. That's what we as supporters feed off, we love their never say die attitude. There is an unbreakable bond between the team and supporters. As Andy says, 'We’re Mayo and we are in this together'. It's more then just a game for some of us. It's daring to hope, dream, believe."
Just for the record, according to the AA Route Planner, by going to all Mayo’s road games this year and using MacHale Park as a starting point you would have clocked up 2,980 miles. Meanwhile www.distancefrommeto.net has listed the distance from Castlebar to Boston being 2,862.82 miles by air, or 2,487 nautical miles if you are the seafaring type.