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Time to pick things up again

The beauty of the National Football League is that you can dust yourself down after a particularly bad performance and within a week or two you are presented with another opportunity to redeem yourself. I know the Mayo lads were hurting after their defeat against Derry in Ballina two weeks ago, so there shouldn’t be too much energy expended in getting their heads right for this one. I was speaking to a few of the players after the Derry game and they were understandably annoyed that they didn’t get off to a winning start.

Two of the best games I’ve ever seen

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Last Sunday I witnessed two of the finest games of football that I have ever seen on All Ireland final day, and I have been at most finals since 1977. We occasionally get a memorable match, but rarely do we get two wonderful exhibitions of football. The two games were enthralling, exciting, nerve racking, at times but it was football played at its very best. I left Castlebar early on Sunday morning as I wanted to get to Dublin with time to relax and soak up the atmosphere before the games. Jones’s Road, on big match day, is a hive of activity and last Sunday I mingled with friends and acquaintances for almost two hours before going into the ground. We were blessed with the most glorious day that added greatly to the feel-good factor. There were lots hovering about the place hoping to pick up a spare ticket but I got the impression that there were very few floating about the place last Sunday. (No harm to see the touts taking a hit too in these economically depressed times.) I had my son Johnny and my daughter Sally Rose with me bedecked in their red and green ensembles. They were excitedly looking forward to seeing the Mayo minors play Tyrone. Others from my house were content with the luxury of home viewing. I met and chatted with a few of the 1983 Galway footballers as they made their way into Croke Park for lunch. They, and the Dublin footballers, were guests of Croke Park as they were part of the 25 year jubilee celebrations. I sent my two on their way into the game and made my way upstairs to the media section as I was lucky enough to be asked to work on the game for RTE Radio 1. I had a cup of coffee in the canteen with a few journalists and the unanimous consensus amongst these experts was that Kerry would win their third All Ireland in a row. They couldn’t call the minor match, but I did get the impression that if they were pressed they would side with Tyrone. I spoke with Micheál O Muireachtaigh to establish his views on the two sides. He thought Tyrone had some excellent players but “liked this Mayo team”. He referred to their physicality and suggested that this year’s team reminded him of some of the great minor teams he had seen from Mayo in years past. Micheál is too much of a gentleman and diplomat to suggest either team would win it, so he said that we should have a great game of football. And what a game we had.

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