Weekend People: Not all quiet on Western front…


Not really sure what the difference is between Mayo and Roscommon people…does there have to be a difference? Maybe the intriguing reality is that there’s hardly a difference at all.

  Fundamentally, I’d say we’re very similar. Except in Roscommon we might traditionally feel a bit inferior to our neighbours. But that’s probably dying out. That was then, not now. And I am not just talking in football terms. Across the board, in politics, culture, sport, business, we may have felt a bit smaller, a bit less prominent, a bit less important, than our neighbours, but I think we’ve been challenging that, for decades in truth.

  Of course Mayo is bigger, that’s just the reality. A bigger county, more prosperous, more people, shouldered by the sea. And brimming with ambition, or maybe powered by pragmatism. The Mayos traditionally spread their wings with great aplomb and admirable success. Thus, it has become a cliché to speak of Mayo people rising to great heights in business and public life in our main cities, and in England and the USA and elsewhere. The Rossies have achieved on these stages too, but traditionally our march has seldom been on quite the same scale as that of the Mayo-ites. 

  It’s much the same on the GAA front. Mayo are seen as bigger and better than us. They have won just one more All-Ireland Senior Football title than Roscommon, but they compete at a higher level more often, have amassed far more provincial crowns too. At least it means we’re usually underdogs.

  The people? By and large, I’d say we’re much the same, but different! We are all of the West of Ireland. Mayo is a bigger, more prosperous county, but, like Roscommon, it too has been ravaged by emigration, depopulation, lack of investment, even discrimination.

  Our people are very, very similar. The Mayo man and the Roscommon man are much the same. The Mayo woman and the Roscommon woman are much the same. Easygoing, laid-back, generally fond of work, moulded by the land and rural life, fiercely proud of where we come from, intelligent, of good humour, salt of our much-loved earth.

  Put a Roscommon man and a Mayo man who have never met before together in a bar in Brisbane and they would probably be like long-lost friends after an hour or two.

  So we’re similar, because we are. We’re a bit different too of course, but I think that, historically, the Roscommon person is a little awed by our neighbours, the Mayo-ites. So we respect (sometimes grudgingly) the relative might of Mayo, but it can inspire us also, nowhere more visibly than in sporting combat.

  Mention the GAA to those Roscommon and Mayo men in Brisbane, or anywhere else, and deeply-held emotions will begin to move within them.

  Oh yeah, that match on Sunday.

  “It was always going to be Mayo” Roscommon manager Kevin McStay said wryly when addressing members of Club Rossie’s Business wing on Sunday evening.

  And though we all flirted with the various permutations and wondered about Cork and Donegal, in our hearts, from the moment the final whistle sounded in the Connacht Final, we sensed the epic derby would present itself. Not alone that, but the two sets of noisy neighbours would have to battle it out in front of the whole nation, on the greatest stage of them all.

  And so two tribes who have been warring on local soil for decades have been summoned by destiny and a curious audience to put it up to one another in front of everyone and on the most public of platforms.

  ‘Ballaghaderreen!’ all sections of the media exclaimed within seconds of the confirmation that Roscommon versus Mayo would be an All-Ireland quarter-final pairing.

  The first journalists began to arrive in the border town from Monday morning. Since then an entirely predictable but enjoyable pattern has emerged. Media focus on Ballaghaderreen.

  Ballaghaderreen is where representatives of the two tribes taunt one another and speak of impending battle all year ‘round, admittedly often over coffee or under the same roof/even in the same bedroom.

  Anyways, moving on, and we find ourselves on the cusp of what may prove to be something special. Friends, enemies, colleagues, rivals…the same but different, Mayo and Roscommon come together on Sunday – to engage in a high profile battle for bragging rights.

  We are entitled to expect a hell of a confrontration. It should be like Gladiators in The Colosseum, only with Corporate Boxes and Brolly, O’Rourke, Lyster and co. in that RTE thing-y.

  It may not shed much light on the differences, such as they may be, between Mayo people and Roscommon people. Truth be told, for all the football rivalry, most supporters of either county would normally be happy to see the other county progress. Just not this year in this match.

  As for that possible inferiority complex I referred to earlier, like I say, I think it’s probaby a thing of the past. Rossies can rule too, like our Mayo friends. We too have built, created, charmed, on the international stage.  Both counties, like their western counterparts, have produced the extraordinary from the ordinary.

  Back with the football, and I can’t resist saying that Mayo have by far the most to lose. We have watched their annual All-Ireland quest with fascination, cheering them on in the various finals they’ve reached, loyalty to ‘The West’ and appreciation of their long quest for a reunion with the Sam Maguire outflanking any more small-minded thoughts we may have been harbouring!

  Roscommon have time on their side. They are moving up, Mayo, great warriors though they still are, are probably moving down. We can’t be sure when the sides will meet in some levelling off area. But they will.

  The two tribes are going to footballing war. The battle-hardened Mayo – the big boys – and the exciting pretenders. Two sets of noisy neighbours’ whose fate, and off the field, is forever entwined.

  Should be worth a look.