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Dublin: 9°C Saturday 16 January 2021

Check out this superb open letter to the Mayo team from a supporter

Willie McHugh’s brilliant and evocative piece first appeared in the Mayo News this week.

FOR THE MAYO News excellent 64-page All-Ireland final supplement this week, sports editor Mike Finnerty asked their columnist Willie McHugh to pen an open letter to the Mayo team in action on Sunday.

The result is a magical and evocative piece that encapsulates just how big an occasion Sunday is for the Connacht county aiming to end their 62-year wait for Sam Maguire.

“We got a lot of reaction to the piece since our supplement came out during the week”, says Finnerty.

“It resonates will a lot of Mayo people, particularly those abroad and we got a lot of emails from Mayo fans that have emigrated about it. It’s a really great piece.”

McHugh featured on Morning Ireland on RTE Radio 1 earlier today to read out his letter.

Soundcloud: Morning Ireland

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Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

Here is the letter in full, reproduced with the kind permission of The Mayo News:

Dear lads,

HERE we go again. Another September and we rest our dream on your young shoulders. It’s a lot for you to carry on All-Ireland Final Day. But if we can’t trust you, where else can we turn. We’re squeezing the ticket of a lifelong journey into your safe hands for you to get us a travel pass so as we can live a dream.

Who are we? We’re the woman serving the meal at a wedding in the Castlecourt. We’re the kid playing in the schoolyard. We’re the girls on the B shift in Baxter. The exiles in London or Long Island. The five Ballinrobe lads who took off one morning for Australia.

The patient in hospital wearing her Mayo neckband. We’re the mother who worries daily about the price of the school books or the uniform. We’re the fly by nights, the chancers, the sleeveens, and the all right sort of an ‘auld character’.

We’re the singletons, the married, the divorced, the widowers and the widowed. We’re the dreamers and believers and the legends of the road. We’re Mayo.

You’re the gift we inherited when dad brought us to see you play. It’s the Sunday of childhood that has become every day of our life since. From high infants you were there.

We were Morley and Prendergast in sixth class. In secondary school you were with us too. Tickeen and Joeeen. We were you wearing our Mayo socks in Presentation College Headford. No replica jerseys then. It was years later we proudly adorned ourselves in Larry’s (McEllin) famous shirt.

You were there playing gooseberry when we fell in love. If she had no heed in football she was ditched. Didn’t matter a damn if she had a dowry and road frontage. Ours was a different kind of love. Monday’s when we woke with our football hearts broken.

You were there when the kids were born. We passed on the baton on. The easiest gospel we ever preached. All the roaring getting them up for Mass we could have saved ourselves if the priest wore red and green vestments.

They are mothers themselves now. In the car with us now on this crusade. Full driving license too. The next generation in the back. Too big a stack to be strapped in the baby seat either. A growing reminder that precious time is slipping away.

Because of you we have to put an extra set of tyres and tax the car most years. Never had a right holiday either. Wouldn’t know Lanzarote from Pavarotti.

Met a woman once who was going to Cornwall. “Ah lovely,” I said by way of saying something. “Were you ever there?” she asked. “No” I replied, feeling a right idiot.

Didn’t bother asking her was she in Scotstown on a cold crisp January Sunday in 1996, the day Kenny Mortimer was sent off. We burdened Kenny and his brothers with this dream too. Left it on Noel Connelly’s shoulder also.

Others too like Ronaldson, Geraghty, the genius Ciaran McDonald, Willie Joe and McStay. They were worthy of our hopes and aspirations. Their want was ours.


Mayo’s Ciaran McDonald
Pic: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

You’re the reason we clutched at straws in the gale. 1985 when Mayo and Monaghan were in the All-Ireland semi-finals and some pleb told us Old Moore’s predicted two M’s would meet in the All-Ireland.

We scoured every page for confirmation, but two M’s for the Maam Cross Fair was as near as we got. We just want from you one September Sunday when an unimaginable world unfolds.

Small things will do us thereafter. A night around Christmas when the family are gathered. A warm fire and we watching the video of Mayo winning the All-Ireland Final of 2013. Hair still standing on the napes of our necks.

We’ll get a nice picture too standing between Donal, Kenneth, Mickey and Colm holding the Sam Maguire. For the coffin. Our jersey strewn on the lid beside it and the congregation singing our Mayo anthem “The Green and Red of Mayo” when they wheel us out.

That’s what we’re living a lifetime for. You’re carrying us on your shoulders now. In Mayo we trust.

Good luck,
Willie McHugh

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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