Mayo's trip to the big apple to take on New York in the first round of the championship can only be described as a monumental occasion and event for all concerned with Mayo GAA.
The football match, to be fair, was a secondary event to what went on for the few days, although New York GAA informed me they have never witnessed anything quite like what they did last Sunday, accommodating their biggest ever crowd in Gaelic Park. The stories, the adventure, the drama (which didn't occur on the playing field ) and the craic will live forever in the memory.
The fun started upon arrival in Shannon with throngs of Mayo fans ready to board planes for the weekend. The David Brady party were leaving at the same time as myself and the man himself reminded me of Francis Brennan in his pomp taking a posse on tour. All DB was missing was the customary Francis Brennan flag so the Brady Bunch could follow their leader.
There was plenty of drama on our plane on the way out with a number of medical incidents, some mid air. Before we even taxied on the runway, Airport Police and medics had to come on the plane to assist a lady who had taken ill. Thirty minutes later she was given a clean bill of health and we were on our way. Only for the assistance of Robert Begley, a nurse from Claremorris, the plane would surely have been diverted as an unusual series of events occurred and Robert spent much of the six hour flight helping to attend different medical issues. Us Mayo folk on the plane will be forever indebted to him as we could easily have lost a day without his presence to assist the cabin crew.
No matter where you went in New York on any of the days over the weekend there were scores of Mayo jerseys and tops. It truly was a sight to behold. The meeting of Mayo fans that took place at 6pm on the eve of the match in Times Square would make the hair stand on the back of your neck. It really was remarkable when you realised where we were.
Thousands converged on the busy intersection at the viewing platform in Times square to give what I can only describe as not the best version of "The Green and Red of Mayo" I've ever heard - and that's being kind. It was still an extraordinary event all the same. Maybe Marty Morissey’s presence put the crowd off.
Pat Donohue the NYPD detective whom I worked with on Sunday for Radio One, told me that a police bulletin went over their radio on the Saturday for officers to attend Times Square, as an unofficial large crowd was congregating and they were concerned. The American-Irish police on the force informed them it was only us Mayo folk enjoying the craic. New York turned so green and red, even the Naked Cowboy was walking around the place singing songs about Mayo. Upon meeting him I realise now how he makes more money for his appearance than he does for his singing ability.
A huge crowd attended an Out for the Match in Rosie O'Grady's on Saturday night to raise much needed funds for charity and the Mayo GAA club in New York. Anthony Finnerty, Willie Joe, Michael Conroy, Alan Dillon, Kevin Kilbane and yours truly took to the stage to share storyies and have fun with the pundits. Kevin Kilbane's knowledge about Mayo is unquestionable, he really is a big Mayo supporter.
The only negative about the whole weekend, which was an uncontrollable factor, was the disastrous weather we had to contend with on the day of the game. Considering the weather was glorious the day before and after, was annoying, to say the least. It pelted down the entire day, leaving many miserable and cold. I expect there could have been another thousand people in Gaelic Park had conditions been more favourable.
The match itself was, as expected, a non event, as Mayo were way too strong for their opponents. New York’s inability to vary their kick-out strategy resulted in them getting devoured around the middle of the field in the first half by our far more physical and superior, half forward, half back line and midfield. Mayo did take the foot off the gas in the second period but some of the unforced errors and poor shooting were a little concerning none the less. I could hear Aidan O'Shea demanding retention of the ball as some of his team mates gave it away unnecessarily.
James Horan's eyes looked to the skies on several occasions as some of the shooting left a lot to be desired also. The ultimate goal however was to get out of the place injury free and although Colm Boyle looked like he was in trouble in the first half, having taken a heavy knock, that objective was fulfilled. There is talk that New York are not going to be involved in the Connacht championship in future years, which would be a great disappointment as sometimes football matches are not about the results but the promotion of the game and the occasion. This truly was a weekend to remember. Mayo supporters deserve all the accolade they get. I already plan on travelling in five years time.