Monday, August 28, 2006

Day of days

Well, how to describe yesterday in Croke Park.

Leitrim played a final in Croke Park. Something I never saw before and who knows when I'll see it again. The emotion of seeing men I know running out onto that pitch along with the size of the Leitrim support was nothing to the emotion of the defeat. We were, we are just not good enough and it kills me to say it. It's not like I didn't know this before yesterday but the final confirmed it. We just don't have enough players to choose from and unless there's an incredible baby boom soon, I can't see us going anywhere. I was crying at the full-time whistle.

Two things about it though. When Christopher Carroll was taken off yesterday, I stood and applauded what was probably his last appearance for Leitrim. The man has been a great servant to his county and he deserved to go out in Croke Park. It's just a shame that he didn't get a medal.

And the other thing was Declan Maxwell (another probable retiree). He almost swung it back for us. Unfortunately, the ball didn't get into him enough. His last point, the last point of the game was the finest score of the day. And when you consider the quality of the game that followed, that's some achievement.

Poor Leitrim. Apparently that's what they were saying on the TV. Boy, am I sick of hearing that.


Now... Mayo v. Dublin.

I have been to a lot of football matches. I've been to Croke Park on a number of occasions. Yesterday's semi-final was one of the finest matches I have ever had the privilege to be a part of.

The game had everything. How can I describe it without using cliches? The brilliant idea of Mayo to warm-up in front of the Hill. The ensuing reaction from the Dublin fans, footballers and coaches showed that they were rattled. It then took Dublin seventeen minutes to score!

By that stage, Mayo were four points up. To be honest, I thought they should have been further ahead; they had a couple of goal chances that they put over the bar. Dublin got into the game with a couple of points and then they got their first goal. We got a little worried but we knew it wasn't going to be easy.

Mayo fought on and went in for the break two points up. They were playing well. I'll never forget Trish at the blow-up for half-time.
- I'm dizzy, I'm dizzy, I'm dizzy in the head!

At the restart, Dublin predictably threw everything at Mayo. And what they threw, stuck. They ran at them and scored and scored including a goal from Jason Sherlock. Before we knew what, Mayo were losing by seven.

We've all seen this before. Mayo come to Croke Park. Light the place up for a half or more only to have it pulled from under them. They find themselves getting beat bad and they drop their heads. We've seen it again and again.

But not this time.

Whether it's Mickey Moran's tough Ulster touch or not, there's a difference to this Mayo team. They stood up and fought back. Two points, a goal and two more. They took the lead, Dublin equalised. Dublin went ahead so Mayo equalised. It went over and back until Ciaran
McDonald scored the winner and what a score it was.

Then the torment as we waited to hear the whistle. Dublin attacked and squandered their attacks. Mayo hung on and hung on. Dublin had another free. They missed it and then it was over.

I looked at Trish and she was nearly in shock. Dublin surely were. My head felt like it was going to come off. My voice was almost gone. I threw my head back and roared at the gods.

Mayo for Sam... will I ever learn?

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