Heroic Mayo perish on the Rock



It was, I thought, a wonderful match.

  Some purists have probably pointed to some imperfections, but most of us were utterly gripped by this great battle, a war waged with a glorious intensity.

  And, marvelling at the epic below me, I felt great pride at the magnificence of this occasion, this peerless coalition of a great stadium, wonderful supporters and the highest sporting stakes we Irish know.

  It may not have been the historic day so many of us had wished for, but there was still something very special – and historic – about Sunday in Croke Park.

  After all, not only did Dublin seniors win a three-in-a-row, there was also the remarkable feat of Kerry minors winning a four-in-a-row.

  And what a pleasure it was to see the extraordinary David Clifford in the flesh. He has all the skills and wonderful vision. Most of all, like Messi in soccer and greats in other sports, he appears to have all the time in the world to do what he does. A sensational star is born.

  Of course Sunday was, with respect to the minors, all about the big battle, and what a game it was. I watched it from high in the Davin Stand, surrounded by tortured Mayo fans.

  The atmosphere was just fantastic. With six minutes to go in an epic, Mayo’s huge army of supporters dared to believe. I was willing them to a sensational win. Then, all the ghosts of the past surrounded the stadium in the way the stewards used to descend on the sideline near the end of a game (do they still? Hadn’t time to look on Sunday). When Dublin got the late free, I said to anyone who cared to listen, ‘he’s hardly going to miss that.’ On television later that night, I realised it was a lot more imposing than I originally thought. We watched as Dean Rock did what he usually does. An eruption of Dubs in front of us, the stadium rocking. Mayo heads in their hands. A few agonising minutes later, the final whistle. The Mayo woman on our right sat in shocked silence. The Mayo man on our left bounded out of his seat and jogged away in silence, alone with his dread.

  The harsh truth is that Mayo should have won, had every chance to end their famine, ultimately have only themselves to blame.

  And yet you have to say they were, for the most part, superb. They had rattled Dublin and come so close to a truly great win. Mayo were mighty. Our hearts went out to them. They had perished on the Rock – with the Holy Grail within reach.

Thursday/Friday (quite often)

Overheard in the Oval Office: “Okay Donald, I mean Mr. Trump of course…sorry, President Trump…it’s been a great week, a really, really great week!

  “You’ve not sacked or lost any key staff…and hey, you’ve been playing a blinder with your response to those hurricanes…

  “So can I respectfully suggest that we keep going in this direction, in this, er…new calming phase. Nice and steady does it, nice and steady…”

  Half an hour later…

  “He’s tweeted what? He’s called Kim Jong Un ‘Rocket Man’!  Are you serious?”

  Ah sure I suppose he’ll calm down again.

  Oh, oh…update: Three or four days on from labelling Kim Jong Un ‘Rocket Man’, President Trump addressed the UN and rather undiplomatically announced that, if required shall we say, the United States will “totally destroy North Korea.” He did rather helpfully add that “hopefully that won’t be necessary.”

  Maybe just as well that the North Korean ambassador to the UN had walked out before Trump’s speech started!

  In other Trump tweeting news, the U.S. President has switched his attention from speculation about nuking North Korea to commenting on the Emmys.

  “I was saddened to see how bad the ratings were on the Emmys last night – the worst ever. Smartest people of them all are the ‘DEPLORABLES’” he tweeted.

  What a guy!

Then and now

Brian Clough may not have wanted them, but I was happy to get Leeds…

  My brother had suggested to his siblings that we close our eyes and run a biro over the league table in the Sunday newspaper; after my three brothers and one sister ended up with West Ham, Sunderland, Newcastle and Chelsea, I got Leeds.

  It was 1975; Chelsea were in the doldrums, but Leeds were in the European Cup Final. Now officially a Leeds supporter, I took great pleasure in finding out about the club’s glory era; but at first I didn’t realise I was arriving just as the party was ending. So be it.

  Leeds had enjoyed a lot of success – and also a lot of near-misses – since winning promotion to the top flight from the old second division, in 1964. In the mostly golden era that followed, Leeds won two First Division titles, two European trophies (The Fairs Cup), the FA Cup and the League Cup, and also finished runners-up on multiple occasions (including a heartbreaking five times in the league). All in the space of a decade or so.

They lost that 1975 Champions League equivalent (against Bayern Munich and a dodgy ref).

  Turns out that by the time I got lucky and found Leeds, with manager Don Revie moving on, and several of the Leeds greats now past their best, I had missed the good old days; and neither Brian Clough (manager for 44 days after Revie left) or anyone else could make Leeds great again.

  Still, we had Tony Currie in the 1980s and later there was Tony Yeboah and in fact Howard Wilkinson miraculously won the league with Leeds in 1992. At one stage David O’Leary had Leeds flying again, reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2000-2001.

  Then came financial turmoil, a devastating decline in fortunes, a humiliating slide down the leagues – all along with/due to mismanagement on a Fawlty-esque scale.

  It’s early days yet (in this new season) but the club of Eddie Gray, Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles, Allan Clarke, Peter Lorimer and many other great stars has now nudged its way to the top of The Championship. Victory over Premier League side Burnley in the League Cup on Tuesday night adds to the sense that Leeds might indeed be on their way back! Could the great Leeds be back in The Premier League soon (you get the point)?


 To be continued…