Croke Park heartbreak for heroic men from the West

Dublin Con O'Callaghan breaking past Mayo's Colm Boyle on his way to scoring a second minute goal in Sunday's All-Ireland football final at Croke Park.
Dublin Con O'Callaghan breaking past Mayo's Colm Boyle on his way to scoring a second minute goal in Sunday's All-Ireland football final at Croke Park.

IN the end, it was heart-rending. Two seats away from me in the upper deck of the Cusack Stand, shortly after 5.05pm on Sunday, a warm-hearted woman who would have entered this world around 1951 – the last time Mayo won the All-Ireland – exploded into tears.

The sobs were uncontrollable and there were tears too shed by hardy men with ruddy faces who had seen tough times from Bellmullet to Ballyvary, but most of all, on that crowded walk along the Clonliffe Road and up Dorset Street, there was silence . . . a deafening silence. The 1-17 to 1-16 scoreline for the Dubs said it all.

A county, indeed 31 counties, seemed to share the pain of another All-Ireland one-point defeat for Mayo, now the third time over recent years that the all-conquering Dubs have beaten the men of the West in an All-Ireland final by the flimsiest of margins.

Two of us from the heart of Galway, who walked in the middle of a mass of green and red jerseys, at least were able to talk about what we had seen. But we didn’t speak too loudly: to do so would have been disrespectful.

We mused over the impact of the Donal Vaughan sending-off; the ball coming back off a post in the dying minutes with no one there to pick up the rebound; the self-destructive withdrawal of Andy Moran just when he was needed most; and just the sheer hard luck of it all.

It was the most magnificent of occasions in Croke Park and yet the most draining too. There was a sense of sheer nervous exhaustion among the masses, apart that is, from the Dublin supporters, who watched their three-in-a-row dream come to pass after the most epic of battles.

As we swung down the North Circular Road and the pedestrian traffic at last started to thin out, the faces remained drawn and silent. My friend beside me said: “There’s a curse on them – after today, there has to be,” he blurted out.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.