Over one thousand visitors are expected to travel to Mayo this weekend from London through Ireland West Airport Knock ahead of the historic Connacht Final clash between Mayo and London.
As Mayo aim for three Connacht titles in a row, their first treble since 1951, London are seeking a bit of history of their own - their first ever Connacht title.
And so the stage is set for a weekend of celebration and camaraderie as temperatures are expected to soar.
The London GAA team are homeward bound with Aer Lingus Regional for this historic final with the airline chartering a plane to fly the team to Ireland West Airport from Southend Airport on Saturday. They are expected to arrive in Mayo at 12.45pm.
The game represents the first time London will play in a Senior Connacht Football Final and comes after a season which has seen them overcome both Sligo and Leitrim to make the final.
This year has been a historic and epic one for the team, which saw them win their first Connacht championship match since 1977, when they overcame Sligo on London’s home turf at their Ruislip grounds. This was followed by a draw with Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon and finally victory for London over Leitrim, by a single point, in a nail biting game on June 30 last. It is the first time Mayo and London will meet in championship action in Castlebar since 1975. TD John O’Mahony was playing for the green and red that day as well as other greats such as Tommy O’Malley, Eamon Brett and the late Ger Feeney whose son Richie is lining out for Mayo on Sunday.
The London team, with players representing over 20 counties in Ireland, adds to the uniqueness of this year’s Connacht Final.
Sales and Marketing Manager of Ireland West Airport Donal Healy said the airport is ready for the influx of Londoners this weekend with both London and Mayo bunting flying proudly. “We’re looking forward to welcoming the London team to the west of Ireland and we are looking forward to a good match,” Mr Healy told the Mayo Advertiser.
London GAA are being hosted by the McWilliam Park Hotel in Claremorris and hotel director John Finn is delighted to be playing such an integral role in this weekend’s festivities.
Mr Finn, a former Mayo great himself, will be part of the Mayo ‘88 and ‘89 Connacht Final winning teams to be honoured on Sunday in McHale Park. He is looking forward to the occasion which will see him reunited with his former county teammates at a pre-match reception and post match dinner as well as the on-pitch dedication.
“Hopefully it will go well for both teams and it will be a competitive game. It is an honour for us to have them (London ) staying in our hotel in Claremorris. We have had a close association with the GAA since we opened nearly seven years ago and we will be providing all of our services, including our leisure facilities, to the London team over the weekend,” Mr Finn told the Mayo Advertiser.
The London Supporters’ Club will host two fundraising functions in the Fáilte Suite of the Welcome Inn Hotel in Castlebar on Saturday and Sunday nights. Tickets for both events cost €10 and the London team and management are expected to be in attendance on the Sunday night.
Sunday’s match and the festivities around it are expected to provide a welcome boost to the economy in Castlebar and surrounding areas through bed nights and to the hospitality trade. Castlebar Chamber President Oliver Kelleher has extended a warm Céad Míle Fáilte to all the visitors to the town on behalf of the local traders. “I want to welcome all the people who are coming to Castlebar this weekend. They are coming at a good time and I invite them to hang around and enjoy the facilities available here,” he said.
The Mayo minors will face the challenge of Roscommon in the Minor Connacht Final with throw in at 12 noon while the clash of Mayo and London in the senior decider will throw in at 2pm.