Brendan Hoban….and Mayo football!

Hope springs eternal in this post-Covid era

Western People 15th June 2021

By the time you read this – if you follow Mayo football – you will know if Mayo beat Clare last Sunday and have (or haven’t) been promoted to the first division of the National League again.

If they haven’t it will be something of a setback as Mayo seek to rebuild for another tilt at All-Ireland glory. But, if so, we can just add it to the long litany of regrets and failures that seem (if anything) to focus again and again Mayo’s famed determination and resilience.

It would also dent the growing sense of expectation surrounding the opening of the lockdown for Mayo people, as a summer of football opens up ahead of us that, with our customary optimism and positivity, we imagine will bring us yet again all the way to Croke Park.

It isn’t just that summer is here or Mayo football (for Mayo fans) seems to be (regardless of the result last weekend) on the up and up. What Mayo fan (or indeed every true fan of Gaelic football) didn’t feel the heart lift at the introduction of Colm Boyle as a sub in a recent match? For so long and for so often Boyle has been at the very heart of Mayo campaigns and he has come to represent that never-say-die attitude that characterizes the best of Mayo football. Boyle’s bravery and resilience, proven so often in the past, are touchstones we still need to rely on. Boyle is not going away, you know.

Another reason for hope is that James Horan, in the last few years, has surfaced a cohort of fledgling stars of future Mayo football and is attempting to mix their athleticism and energy with the more established players. Experience and intensity produce a promising cocktail for the upcoming football season.

In any case, we need the lift. We’ve had our fill of chat about vaccines, painting walls, making bread, the woes of hair-cutters and publicans, the fears about mental health, the strains on relationships and the other many limitations of isolation.

Even though it’s summer, this has the feel of spring about it. We seem to be like calves released from our winter hibernation, stampeding around the place, throwing our heels in the air, excited and delighted that we can feel the grass growing under our feet.

What’s even better is that we’re promised even more if the official pathway laid out before us is not blown out of the water by our own carelessness or irresponsibility.

Thankfully, three things have conspired to create this visit to the anticipated land of milk and honey.

One is a new appreciation of the ordinary. What’s particularly moving is how much the opportunity to enjoy what we took for granted has delivered such palpable delight. Consuming a pint in a pub with friends is discussed with such solemn respect that you’d imagine someone had discovered a new Seamus Heaney poem. The satisfaction of meeting family members after a long lockdown sets in perspective all the easy chat about the limitations of home. Having a cup of coffee with friends is one of the new wonders of our new world. Not to speak of the discovery of grandparents’ joy in seeing and hugging their grandchildren.

Everything that we were denied that was ordinary we’ve discovered is now wonderful – thanks to the lockdown.

A second is that, even though no one wants to admit it, we’ve more money in our pockets than we ever imagined. With most shops closed, most avenues of pleasure cut off at the pass, foreign holidays effectively either outlawed or deemed socially irresponsible and a host of other expenses spared, we find ourselves with a small fortune of disposable, accumulated funds to dispense at will.

Mr Varadkar, who seems to know everything about anything, contends that we have six billion euros tucked away and that it’s our patriotic duty to get out there immediately and to spend it. Apparently, the reasoning is that if we spend our money, the generated business and taxes will pay the multiple billions we’ve already spent on PUP and the effects of COVID-19. If we do, Mr Varadkar says, the economy ‘will take off like a rocket’. We will, no doubt, take him at his word.

A third is that our ticket to this Shangri-la – the vaccine – is available to everyone – free of charge. All that has to be done is (i) to dispense it – and in fairness this is happening at breakneck speed – and (ii) to take it.

It beggars belief that a whole shaft of nonsensical reasons for not taking the vaccine is being peddled by a cohort of unconvincing and unimpressive self-appointed experts who inflict their crass wisdom on a mostly disbelieving public. Some of them even like to flaunt their pro-life credentials, which takes some neck when their advice has the potential to cause so much death to those around them.

The great worry is that they will convince enough of the gullible not to take the vaccine so that ‘herd immunity’, which needs to reach a particular level to block transmission of the coronavirus, will not be achieved. The ongoing lethal presence of COVID-19, now garnished with the Delta (Indian) variant, could be their malign legacy.

But though it seems like spring, the truth is that we’re trying to come to terms with the greatest miracle of all time. Summer is here. Mayo football is alive and well. God is good and all manner of things will be well. Enjoy.




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  1. Ger Hopkins says:

    My go-to example of the supernatural at work in our daily lives is the Mayo curse and two own goals in an All Ireland Final

  2. Fr Iggy O'Donovan says:

    As we used to say in Tipperary during our famine, 1971-89, “Dum spiro spero”. Mayo’s day will come. The question is when now that Kerry seem to be stirring again. Seriously though Mayo have given us huge enjoyment and entertainment over the past twenty years.

  3. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Hang out more flags! Good to see Mayo back in Division 1, so good luck for the Championship. But Mayo’s bold Green & Red colours do suggest a sort of GO – STOP approach. While I wouldn’t dare to propose that a Rainbow flag might bring final success, perhaps an Amber band insertion would make for a smoother advance.

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