Around 30,000 Mayo fans are expected to be inside Croke Park when Sunday’s All- Ireland SFC final gets underway. Thousands more will be watching and listening around the world, hoping and praying the Westerners beat Dublin and end Mayo’s 65 year wait for fame and glory.
Dotted around the globe too are many recently-converted, newly-born Mayo supporters who have stumbled across the ‘Green and Red’ story on their travels.
People who been drawn to the team’s quest to bring ‘Sam Maguire back home to Mayo’ (as the song goes), but many of whom wouldn’t know Swinford from Shrule.
One of the card-carrying members of this ‘new’ Mayo GAA fan club is Frenchman, Guillaume Treluyer from Rennes.
“I got caught up in the Mayo story because our player/coach in Rennes, Niall Murphy, is from Ballinrobe, and he helped organise a tour to Ireland where we played his club in 2013. That was the point where I became a ‘full’ Mayo fan,” explains Guillaume. “The club bar in Rennes is called the Westport Inn. It was established by a man from the town and the bar is full of Mayo photographs, flags and jerseys.
“I will watch the All-Ireland final there and all of the club members will be supporting Mayo. Each night when the bar closes, they play ‘the Green and Red of Mayo.’ It will be played many times on September 18!” he laughs.
Samvit Duta from India tells a similar story. He moved to Ireland nine years ago to start a new job in Galway city, and was introduced to the world of Mayo GAA by a world colleague, Eddie Murphy from Claremorris.
“He’s a die-hard Mayo supporter,” says Samvit, “ and he took me to Croke Park for the All-Ireland minor football final of 2008. That was my first taste of it. I was shown on TV roaring my lungs out on Hill 16 about three times during the game; I think the director had never seen an Indian man in a Mayo jersey before.
“That match against Tyrone ended in a draw and we lost the replay, so I got a taste of the true life of a Mayo fan early,” he smiles. “I don’t live in Ireland anymore, but I try to catch a game when I visit, and I get to an Irish bar in Dubai for games as often as I can. The locals and the Irish there have difficulty understanding how an Indian ended up being such a passionate Mayo fan!
“Unfortunately, I’ll be on a plane between Dubai and Sydney on Sunday when the final is on, but they have in-flight internet so I’ll be all set up and watching it as I travel with my Mayo jersey on. I fully believe we can end the long wait for Sam this time,” he declares.
Fernanda Mota from Mexico City has also learned quickly about the highs and lows of life as a Mayo football supporter. Based in Dublin since coming to Ireland in 2010, she cites the All-Ireland semi-final replay defeat to Kerry in Limerick as his personal ‘lowlight’. But she’s kept the faith, and after watching Mayo’s 2012 and 2013 final defeats to Donegal and Dublin on television, he’s still hoping to source a ticket for next weekend’s match.
“I didn’t even know the sport existed before my first trip to Croke Park,” she says. “I just went along with Colin [Kennedy, from Ballina] for the craic, but the game and the Mayo fans caught my attention. I’ve been going to games ever since. I watched sport when I was in Mexico. I would have gone to baseball and football games when we lived in Mérida. But I was never caught up in the action. With Gaelic football, the tension and the excitement is non-stop.
“I love the way both sets of fans just mix in together and can get so excited about the game sitting beside each other without any issues.
“Mayo fans are the best, they are so passionate and so into the whole chase for Sam, I’ve just got caught up in it myself.”
She and the rest of a county that continue to believe, ‘this will be the year’.
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