As the week has ticked on and we have got back to normal life after the event, the disappointment has started to slide as we look forward to next year and what it may bring. For those who had slogged since the start of the year in the green and red and the men and women who guided them from the sideline, the pain will take much longer to subside. But to each and everyone of them we owe a great debt of gratitude. They gave us a summer to remember and made us dare to dream again. They do not owe the people of Mayo anything, they gave their all and then some, that they came second best is something we have to take and move on from and something the Mayo senior team and their backroom team will surely rise from again too. They are the young men who have put their lives on hold, put their bodies through torture, and kept coming back looking for more, long, long after the rest of us would have said ‘no more’.
And there is no rest for them as they head back to the normality of life with their clubs for the next couple of months. A far cry from the high of last Sunday in Croke Park as the autumn and winter sprawl of local rivalries, parish pride, and battles against the men they soldiered with shoulder to shoulder all summer. And unfortunately, there will be some smart comments thrown in their direction from a local wiseguys over the next couple of months no doubt from the sidelines around the county. The same wiseguys were no doubt cheering them on all summer. But the same players will shake them off and will no doubt assemble again come the start of January on the frozen pitches of Connacht, as they get ready for another year of blood, sweat, and tears as they look to achieve their dream and the collective dream of this GAA mad county. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote on failure and success has been used plenty of times in the past when talking about Mayo and falling short at this particular final hurdle, but it is as apt a summation as you are likely to get about this particular quest. “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” And rise again these men will.
But it was not a weekend of pure sadness and mourning as a special group of young men gave Mayo great hope for the future, and a reason to cheer on All Ireland final day come full time, in a game for the first time since 1985. Enda Gilvarry and his coaching ticket put their faith in a bunch of teenagers who delivered in spades on and off the field for the county this year. They were tested in battle on numerous occasions and answered every question put in front of them, and when they saw the finishing line in sight nothing was going to stop them. For some of those who won the Tom Markham Cup on Sunday last, it will probably never get better than this on the football field. If it is to be like that for them, they have achieved greatness already at an early age that they can be proud of till their last days. And we as a county are proud of them. In a day of agony and ecstasy, we will remember the latter fondly for a long time to come.