n the end, there was no act of expiation. The natural order restored. All concerns I may have had for a Mayo success signalling our decline as a people towards irreversible egomania were rendered obsolete by Dean Rock and his stones. Good name for a band, that.
As the game descended towards its inevitable entropy, you had a feeling you were watching a movie you had seen countless times before, all the while hoping it will climax differently. Except it doesn’t. They all die in the end.
Afterwards there was an air of “let’s not talk about it” among us defeated. There seemed little point. Dubliners smiled their sympathetic smiles and even ventured to say they’d have been just as happy to see us triumph. Really? Ciaran Kilkenny didn’t seem to share that view when he tried to dry-hump Lee Keegan at the death. I know I’m not alone in preferring my nose rubbed in it than hearing such condescension.
At first glance it’s difficult to know where to apportion the most sympathy: The couple who cut short an epic holiday to Canada, admittedly booked when Mayo were struggling to beat Clare, or the parents who postponed toilet-training their infant son as Mayo began a series of draws and replays and victories that saw the phrase “well, we can’t do it this weekend because…” become a family motto. Spare a thought for the literal shit-show that awaits them next weekend.
There are those who came from Perth and Chicago, Netherlands, and The Neale. There are those who had unmerciful rows with their partners, arguing that they needed to be uncontactable for a few days and not be burdened with familial responsibility WHEN Mayo win. Arguments all for nothing. Those same husbands made it home in time for the Sunday Game autopsy, chastened.
Of course, most sympathy goes to the players and their families. Though I scarcely believe they want it. Their pain is far more acute than that we suffer. We will endure a foggy hangover that will eventually lift — the effects will follow them into winter like dormant malaria. I hope they realise the joy they bring to so many. It sounds patronising, but their herculean efforts unite and inspire in equal measure. Heartbroken we may be, but following this team is a privilege for us, not a chore.
There were moments yesterday when I thought we had it. Barrett’s turnovers. Keegans goal. 50 minutes, and Diarmuid O’Connor appeared on the big screen. Wearing the weight of the world on his face all summer, he had appeared to be a man who had seen far too much for one so young. In that moment he looked fresher and less burdened. On he came and immediately made a positive impact.
54 minutes and Aido hits a hail mary from the Cusack Stand sideline. He wheels away with the certainty of a man who had split the atom, never mind the posts, and for the brief moment between boot and turf, I glimpsed heaven. Well, if this goes over, I mused, nothing will stop us! It didn’t. Aido’s hubris was representative of a grander tease that the universe has involved Mayo in for the last 28 years. We are Jim Carrey in The Truman Show and are only after realising it. We can’t get out.
On the upside, you’d have to be happy for Jim Gavin. Just to see how much it meant to him. The way he ripped that earpiece from his ear at game’s end... wow! That half smile/half yawn. You’d swear he had just woken from an unintended afternoon nap, the type you might have poolside on holiday. It really softens the blow for us long-suffering plebs when you can at least reconcile that this means as much to Jim as the rest of us arriving to work on Monday only to find your boss is off for the week.
As for Dermo Connolly. Well, sporting his sister’s sleeveless vest and a set of arms he had recently purchased in Minsk, his warm up was as overtly confrontational to his manager as a Real Housewife of New York showing up uninvited to a party in order to parade her killer bod in front of the ex. You can imagine Jumpy Jim would’ve loved to call Connolly’s buff bluff and leave his new arms on the bench. Alas, he needed him and his guns. I’m sure they shared a firm congratulatory handshake afterwards.
In a way. Stephan Rochford made it so much easier for us last year. It was convenient to indict him on the goalkeeping selection and pin all our woes on that. This year there was nothing so obvious, not Donie Vaughan’s red mist or David Clarke’s Zoolander-esque inability to look left on kickouts. It seems as if Dublin could be reduced to four men, all encumbered with back spasms and we would still conspire to lose by a point.
Walking down Grafton St at midnight on Sunday, it’s as if none of this ever happened. The city was oblivious. The buskers busked and the revellers revelled. I don’t doubt how much this meant to all the true Blues. Nobody I met after even argued they didn’t deserve it.
The best team always wins. It just hurts. We are as far away as ever now.
Suddenly I’d swap a lifetime of epic but ultimately unfulfilled odysseys with winning just the once. Be careful what you wish for and all that. The sun sets on this chapter. But soon, January and FBD league beckons. For the players, their families, and all the rest of us romantic fools, let’s remember that the sun also rises.