I remember about a decade or more ago sticking my notebook under the nose of the then Health Minister Michael Noonan, when he was in Castlebar opening the hospital or something and asking him a question about something health related for the Galway area. And in the way he had about him back then, in the days before he was canonised, he cocked an eye and said to me “Right sonny, you're here from a Goll-way paper. This is not a day for Goll-way. Today is Mayo's day, not Goll-way's day.”
And before I could explain to him that I was a refugee from Mayo myself, that I had been cast out upon the Goll-way waters, he was gone, off waving to the Mayos who stayed at home, celebrating Mayo's day.
This weekend Mayo's day is back again, and this time it's official. This time, for the first time, the world of Mayoness will be unified as one. Us emigrants bravely flying the flag for a county that has punched above its weight in the great Olympic bout of counties. This Sunday sees Mayo Day, when all the Mayos on the planet will step out of the cupboard (we don't have closets in Mayos...and our cups are kept in presses and we get messages in the shop and the weather is cat and the mood is mighty.
If you step out among the Ceide Fields and whiff the ocean as it lashes Ireland, you'll get a sense of Mayoness.
Because here is where it all started. Five thousand years ago.
And while only three All-Irelands may seem poor pickings for five thousand years, you have to remember that with these three titles go 4,997 years of glorious endeavour to right it all. And this process has seen us pick up a few Taoisigh, a President who probably can't believe she's a Mayo head on her, and of course a few Rose of Tralee titles, as well as a place on the judging panel of The X Factor.
When I nearly expired last year. And then didn’t, I assumed that God was keeping me on in the hope that Mayo would deliver the All-Ireland title that I had assumed I ‘d never see in my lifetime. As I ran messiah-like down the hospital corridors in my blue gown, bare arse exposed to the wind, ripping tubes from myself and getting ‘Lazarus Rocks’ tattooed on my chest, I knew then that God had kept me on so that I'd see a Mayo All-Ireland victory last September.
So you can imagine the expletives come August when Kerry dispatched us to Kingdom gone. “You broke your deal, God” I roared, to which he replied, “No, if there was wan thing I didn’t want in Heaven, it was seeing some flute in a Mayo jersey.”
There’s nothing that annoys a Galwayperson as much as the sight of “some flute in a Mayo jersey” at something like the Masters or Wimbledon or the Boat Race at Henley or the Royal Box at Ascot.Or the Oscars. You think of a most unlikely location and there will pop up a Mayo head with a red and green jersey. You can be sure when Kate Middleton carries out with her new child, Princess Samantha or Prince Samuel next week in London, there in the crowd among the Union Jacks and St George flags, will be a 'flute in a Mayo jersey” with a Mayo4Sam sign above his head.
And so the ‘flute in the Mayo jersey has become the symbol of Mayoness. And this week, those same red and green colours are gonna rock the world in a celebration of this Mayo state.
Even the cute hoors in the Saw Doctors (Galway diehards ) acknowledge that while they may have penned The Green and Red of Mayo,’twas To Win Just Once that was the real Mayo anthem….Tommy Tiernan says he can spot a Mayo head at 100 yards by the size of their forehead, and yet there is always a self-generating coolness about Mayo. The Roses, Aoibhinn and Maria, the O’Sheas, the Joe.ie factor courtesy of Niall McGarry, the Ciaran McDonald factor. All Mayowomen (and some Mayomen ) want him, other Mayomen want to be him, this combination of coolness and soundness. And then there’s the Mayo sense of humour that has us all a bit daft, a bit touched. A bit living for the day. A mad hope that has us all blockbooking as holidays the third Monday in September for the rest of our working lives.
This weekend, Niagara Falls will turn green and red in honour of Mayo, every Mayo person worldwide will be asked to do something to show their Mayoness, to expose themselves to the world, a sort of coming out of Mayoness. And sorry folks, but this is mine.
Galway has been good to Mayos. In fact, in all of the places that a Mayo person can call home, Galway is up there with the best of them. Given the choice of hopping over to Sligo or Roscommon, Galway is always a good option for us.
And so we Mayos say thanks to Galway for giving us a home, jobs, for welcoming us into your bosom. Especially the bosoms. Thank you talking to us in the street and not ignoring us like you should. Galway is a better place because it has Mayo people in it. Ourselves and our big happy heads on us and our Mayo4Sam tattoos and our Elverys green and red jersey stitched into the inside of our Tommy Hilfiger gear.
Enjoy Mayo Day this weekend. Be nice to us. And we’ll promise not to laugh if New York bate ye. Honest. Muigheo Abu.