This is a guest post written by my son Sean Burke.
Let’s be real … we all want the same thing
An unorthodox Mayo man of sorts, born in England and brought up in a rural north Wicklow village ’til I was 11 years of age, before moving to the homeland of Mayo. My father was a native of Achill Island, it was there we spent most of our holidays as kids. It was always Mayo from day one, it was part of who we were and the county team was where I identified my connection to the place that will always be home.
My first memory was the old Salthill in 1984, travelling down with my comrade and chauffeur, my father. This is where it all began , the adventure of the journey down west, the anticipation of seeing the flags out of the car windows and then to the climax of seeing the footballers of Mayo run onto the pitch. Unfortunately we lost out to Galway on that day. My memories of the game itself are not too clear, I was only 6/7 years of age I suppose, but it’s amazing how silly things remain in the head, like only knowing the name of Willie Joe
The years went on and the same journey was taken. ’85 I got to see them lift the Nestor Cup in Hyde Park; that was special but again too young to really take it in . ’87 seems a lot clearer, a really low-scoring game against Galway in Castlebar, but another defeat.
1989 is where it really comes alive for me.
We as a family had moved down home at last, to a rural village in east Mayo, Kilmovee, where my grandmother came from on my mother’s side. The first game against Galway in Tuam. We never won there (at the time) so a draw was a mighty return and we easily did the business in Castlebar in the replay, McHale and Larry with the goals. Next it was the Rossies and another draw, the replay was epic and no Mayo supporter of my age or older will ever forget Jimmy Burke’s goal in extra time. Hyde park erupted into an explosion of green and red; it was just priceless. The semi v Tyrone was of course the first time a lot of Mayo supporters ever seen Mayo win in Croke park in senior championship including father/mother and daughter/son generation. I suppose it was a bit like what winning the All-Ireland would be like now. The weeks leading up to the final were indescribable in terms of excitement – all the towns were decked out, the songs were released. As a child, the memories are of sheer happiness, the crowds at Knock airport to see our heroes off, running after the team coach with my new school mates from Tavrane NS through the thousands of fans singing ‘Willie Joe, Willie Joe’’ – it is just something that will stay with me forever.
What a journey we have had since. The losing of finals down the years is what everyone likes to throw at us and of course it has been disappointing but is there any Mayo supporter out there who would swap all those journeys we have had in 89/96/97/04/06/12/13 for some form of mediocrity like the vast majority of counties experience ?
We are now in a phase where we have reached the last two finals and are about to contest our fourth semi-final on the trot. People are getting uptight about where we are at – have we still a chance or are we burnt out as a unit? There is a sense of supporters being divided on aspects of what should have happened in finals and other issues. The truth is nobody really knows, we can all guess but let’s be real, everyone has one thing in common – we all want the same thing.
So let’s get behind our bucks the next day in Croke park against Kerry, and roar them on. We are favourites with the bookies to beat Kerry in an all Ireland semi-final. Don’t be frightened by it, embrace it. Horan, Buckley, Prendergast and the panel have earned the fucking right to be a top team, now let us act the same, and fill her up with green and red!