Fans who get in will have to shout for four who didn't

And so to Saturday night. Another sunset evening when we will play the weekly summer game of Russian roulette, another orange-bathed occasion, with the mid-year heat seeping through our bones, warming the blood that will run rapidly through our veins, as our hearts pump-pump-pump with the 'pick and move' shape of another emotional Mayo qualifier.

The events of the past week into which we were unavoidably dragged have at last been put to the side, and will create food for thought for those who define the finer points of the rules for next year's competitions.

Newbridge-gate was a saga for everyone who ever had any row with the GAA. Nobody was spared. Officials, Sky, fat umpires, Dubs, managers, Mayos, fast-food sellers, Dubs, Boris Johnson, Brolley, suits in Jones Road and then maybe some Dubs as well.

For Stephen and his team though there is just one goal — getting in, doing the job, and getting out. That is the one requirement, but it is a task that will be made somewhat more difficult by the existence of the cause all week. However, the Mayo senior set-up is such a finely-tuned almost professional regime that will I'm sure, have schooled the players not to let the events of the week past get to them. We have seen in the World Cup with the long-running Russian team just how energised a team can become when they have the vocal backing of their home support.

And therein lies the crux. At this stage, it looks like Mayo will have maybe 60-70 per cent of the fans in St Conleth's Park. Those of us who are lucky enough to have secured a ticket for Saturday knows that each one will be representing four fans who could not get in. So, let those who are inside sing as if they are four people. Let the Green and Red of Mayo be belted out loudly across the plains of Kildare. For the guts of two hours, let us turn Newbridge into Castlebar.

Mayo did not play any part in this saga. They have no guilt to carry, no axe to grind. The only opinions expressed from this side of the country were those espousing a desire for as many of our fans as possible to get in to see the game, and not be forced to watch it on Sky, as will be the case now.

Just because Mayo sups at the top table of senior football, does not mean that we are not cognisant of the needs of those counties who do not have the facilities we have, or the unique spirit that has created the unconquerable Mayo support.

Those of us who follow Mayo as a birthright and birthmark do so knowing that we are living in privileged times. I dread the thought of a summer that does not have a Mayo run to it. I wonder if that day ever comes, will we feel like those Kilkenny hurlers sitting and watching Up For The Match a few years ago and wondering what was this strange programme that they had never seen before because they were all tucked in bed for those eight or nine All-Ireland finals they competed in.

Fair play to Kildare for standing their ground and being principled. Maybe this will be a turning point where other strange favouritisms will be eliminated from our national games, so that those who don't need help to win don't receive it; and so that success and resources will be for the many and not just the few.

Let the play begin. And may the best team in Green and Red win.



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