6 am Sunday queues for petrol. Yes Mayo are still in the championship

One of the many inconveniences of working at night is the sleep patterns. The nights you work aren’t the problem, it’s the nights you don’t that cause the trouble. Last night was one such night for me. Two attempts to hit the hay failed miserably and so I got up at about 5:30. Non- smokers won’t understand this but there is nothing more potentially murderous than making a cup of coffee only to find you’re out of smokes.

The nearest 24 hour petrol station to me is 500 metres away. The nearest 24 hour petrol station with decent coffee is in County Mayo.

Mayo it is then.

When I grabbed the keys and headed out the door I was immediately reminded of one of the little treats of working nights. The beauty and calm of the world asleep. The sun was shining at 5:45 am this morning in a way that is rare in Ireland – It was shining the kind of confident light that you just know isn’t going anywhere for the rest of the day. Magnificent, undisturbed and all mine for awhile.

Twenty five minutes later I’m in Ballindine where cigerettes and coffee await. As I pull into the car park a curious sight greets me. There was – what can only be described as – a queue. A queue at a little after 6 am on a Sunday. A queue of Green and Red.

Ah of course…….it’s the height of the summer, the championship is in full flow and Mayo are on the eternal march again. Today’s venue Killarney is probably a good 3 or 4 hours away from where we stand.

Maybe it was the combination of the sun, the music I was listening to and the sudden sight of 30 or 40 Mayo supporters but I was suddenly a little jealous of them. While it has been 70 odd years since they have won an All Ireland football final, it is really only in the last 6 or 7 that the misery and pain has been accentuated. So close. So often.

The age range in front of me seems to be from about 5 to 75. Again, I am reminded that the Mayo football supporter is composed of one key demographic. All your life.

At this time of the morning all I can discern is quiet hopefulness amongst the gathering. In the warming sunlight it hits me that they never give up hope these people. They don’t shout it from the rooftops, far too much built up hurt at this stage, but it does strike me forcibly this morning that these fuckers will never give up hope.

They fill their cars with fuel and fuel themselves with teas, coffees, muffins and sausage rolls. The main casualty from Celtic Tiger mark I to Celtic Tiger mark II seems to be the breakfast roll.

The older ones look to the newsstand for a copy of the Sunday Independent but alas the Sindo doesn’t make an appearance in Mayo at such an ungodly hour.

I grab my own coffee and cigerettes and head to the car and sit for awhile. Just watching them as they come and go. At this stage, most of the country are half in love with this Mayo team. Many are nearing the end of their career. Indeed more than a few have passed on to the next world. The world of the supporter.

But from whatever background they have come the support for the team never seems to waver. Some day they will reach the promised land and when they do these mornings will be even more special in hindsight. The rushed Cappucino and Muffin in Ballindine. The cursed Brolly article read on a motorway between Gort and Ennis. That snatched pint in Limerick. For some reason, on this morning, I am certain that all these sausage rolls are not being eaten in vain.

By the time I make my move to leave there must be close to a hundred people that have passed through this corner of Mayo, all going in the same direction full of hope and understated dignity.

It gets me thinking about my own county Galway. In my twenties we won a couple of All-Ireland’s. A team full of names that are still remembered today. Ja Fallon, Padraic Joyce and Michael Donnellan to name but three. But did we ever love that team as much as Mayo people seem to love this team. Probably not is the honest answer and that is not meant as a criticism. The honest truth is we never had to suffer like they have.

Galway is the type of county that wins an All Ireland every generation or so just to remind themselves that they can do it. The rest of the time, Galway’s youth get busy enjoying the fruits of the summer. The two week Arts festival, The Galway Races, the Oyster festival, Connemara on it’s doorstep, the influx of exotic Spanish students – you know that kind of thing.

Galway city has too much to offer the county for any sport to dominate the consciousness for too long. Just when things might quieten down at the end of the summer there is the not inconsiderable matter of 20,000 students battening down the hatches for the winter.

But on this beautiful summer morning it is not of my own county I think, it is these Mayo supporters that I envy and the sacred pilgrimage they are on. It’s not for nothing that Croagh Patrick is in Mayo methinks.

As I hit the road for home a U2 song comes on the radio. If Bono didn’t write it for Mayo supporters well he damn well should have.

See the stone set in your eyes
See the thorn twist in your side
I’ll wait for you
Sleight of hand and twist of fate
On a bed of nails she makes me wait
And I wait, without you

With or without you
With or without you

Through the storm we reach the shore
You give it all but I want more
And I’m waiting for you

With or without you
With or without you
I can’t live
With or without you


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