Flaking Fermanagh (July 2016)
Well we have to be raging favourites after that one. Shamie says them Fermanagh lads should have beaten the Dubs last year - the Quigley fella hit a rocket that put Cluxton, ball and all in the net. They were very unlucky to lose by 8 points and I heard the ref gave the Dubs everything - as usual.
Mammy woke me at 8 with my favourite - boiled egg and toast soldiers. But I told her it was too early because I was tired after the match and to come back at 10 - so she did. She’s great. Shamie only got ordinary toast - he was raging.
Mammy then read the papers to me and I knew something was wrong. ‘The feckers, the feckin feckers, feck them feckin feckers’ she kept saying under her breath. Tell me says I, who is annoying ya now Mammy.
Well she says according to that Twitter machine thing you are getting fierce crissisism - I think that’s the word she said - because some fellas say you went down like a sack of spuds and no-one near ya. That you’re a cheat God forbid. Who is that feckin @dcr22B thing? Is it a bus route?
I told her to calm down they were just keyboard warriors but she went baloobas. They’re not warriors at all Aidan son - you’re a warrior! A real warrior! Then she pointed at my poster on the wall that Jumpin Jack Flash made for me - and I felt three feet tall. Awesome.
Daddy put his head round the door and said you brought the family no honour again. Well to see him duck out the door and the milk jug flying at him was priceless. I wish I had as good an aim as Mammy.
Diarmuid rang then and said the AOS blow up doll was being withdrawn because it goes down too easily. We laughed so much.
But as I said to Keith after the game, it was a ferocious challenge. My fringe was not right for hours after it. It was probably worser than the Tyrone fella last year - sure his hair was nearly destroyed for life. I heard Mickey Harte was saying the same thing in some papers. Fair play to him.
Then poor Conor came into the room a bit upset at not getting a run yesterday. He jumped on Shamie in the bed and started bating him with the pillow. There were hen feathers everywhere.
Stop! I said to him, Shamie doesn’t pick the team! Me and Cillian do. The great thing about deciding to go the back door this year is more games so I told Conor he’ll get plenty between now and winning Sam. He was moaning about going the scenic route and never leaving McHale - we’re worse than the feckin Dubs he said. Some people are only happy when they’re not happy as Mammy says.
All I can say is we are flying. I am in the form of me life and you look at who we springed from the bench - Vaughan, Doherty, Andy and Barry Moran, Alan Dillon … Jaysus things are mighty.
I’d say the Dubs are shittin it. Maybe I’ll give Trevor and Connor a ring.
Plucking the Lilies (July 2016)
Jesus the wheels are back on the wagon now big sthyle! Sunshine in McHale on a Saturday evening with the cows milked and all - it’s mighty! There was 15,000 there but you could double that if the Bangor Erris Field Day hadn’t been on.
And we were on Sky too so I got the split ends taken out of my fringe so that Uncle Padraig in Nottingham didn’t think we were all ‘hair ignoramuses’ in Maigh Eo.
Shamie said being on Sky on Saturday nights was like playing in the Premiership. He said I could be Gary Neville but he had to be Phil. Conor was giving out that he’d have to be Tracey Neville and we all laughed - except Mammy.
'Twas great to be on Sky alright but as Paidin Beag Mac Suibhne said to Fr Mike ‘tis shag all use to anyone from Bohola to Kiltimagh with only RTE 1 and 2 so I’ll be heading to the feckin blessings of the graves in Islandeady anyways to pray for the lads that did deliver Sam.’ Sure he’s right.
I asked Daddy how did it look but he said he was watching Britain’s Got Talent because Mayo haven’t got any. Mammy said not to mind him. She’s great.
Anyhow as Kevin Mc Loughlin says Kildare are the best team in Leinster cos they’ve now won 2 Minor titles in a row and god he’s right. Sure they were promoted out of Div 3 ahead of Clare.
Meself and Cillian were delighted to give all our mates, I mean the lads, a run. A few of the U21s think they should be in the squad but sure what have they ever done?
Conor even got a few minutes and scored a point. Mammy said he was averaging a point every two minutes - she’s gas. And I can even slot in at full back if need be - how cool is that. It’s not just Dublin that can play total football.
We blew them away and their manager was with Kerry last year so as Evan pointed out that makes us better than Kerry.
It’s certainly beginning to feel like our year. I met John Joe Duffy, our ninety year old neighbour and he said it feels like '51 again. I was thrilled until Shamie said that he said that last year, and the year before, and the year before, etc.
Still we are the team to beat this year no doubt. Cillian is a bit worried about Westmeath wearing the same colours as Galway and he wants me to tell them that they can’t do that because it’s not very fair.
We all had a chat about it in the dressing room and I said don’t be worrying about that and that’s it’s not the colour of the jerseys that matters - it’s the sponsors logo. The lads all cheered and said damn right. Then Stephen popped his head round the door and said the food was ready.
I love being a Mayo player sometimes.
Walloping Westmeath (August 2016)
Just three games away from Sam now – I can nearly touch it. Westmeath are a serious outfit – they won Leinster in 2004 and were a Division One league team …in 2014. Shamie says you have to beat the best to be the best and I said you can beat an egg too but it can also be fried. That got him thinking.
I was delighted to get the winning goal though and maintain my record of scoring important goals against Division 4 teams. The dressing room afterwards was unbelievable – there is a feeling that this is our year. Cillian said he hasn’t felt this way since last year, and the year before, and the year before.
The Custom Cabinet company in Balla offered us all a deal of €1,000 to fit a Sam sized Cabinet in all our houses and did the last one last week in Keith’s house so nothing can really stop us now. The Co Board paid for it all when we told them what would happen if they didn’t! I got a loan of a plastic one last week to see it in the cabinet and it looks super altogether. Mammy even polished it – she’s great.
We have Tyrone next but they aren’t up to much anymore. Ulster football is a bit of a joke and Donal says a bit of football might even break out. We laughed. I’d say when they saw our performances so far they will be thinking damage limitation. It can be hard for a purist county like Mayo to come up against negative teams but once we play our total football we should be ok.
Last week when I ended up in the full back position Colm said it was like watching Holland in the 70s - total football. Daddy said it too – he said nobody had any positions and that we were all over the place. I told him it was unusual for him to pay a compliment and he threw his eyes to heaven. It was a nice moment.
This week we have a few promo things going on. But jesus I don’t know why they pick words like mastitis, brucellosis and myxomatosis for animal diseases. It makes doing the radio ads fierce hard and if I hear ‘Take 152’ one more time I’ll cry. Though Stephen has been very good at arranging these things for us. It leaves me and the older lads with the time to work out the training drills and pick the team. We picked up some great training material on the Boden U10 site there last week. Our pick up skills and soloing have improved no end – though don’t look at Cillian in the lead up to my goal. Shocking.
Mammy says that all these Saturday games remind her of that great Travolta film Saturday Night Fever. She says I would look great in a white suit and has promised me one if we make the final. She is great. I have been looking at the moves on the video and ‘busting some’ as Diarmuid says – and all I can say is if we win there is going to be some celebratory dance. Complete with slicked back hair.
The atmosphere down home is mighty now. I passed two cars in a row last week – one green, the next red. Conor said it was an omen but Kevin Mc said it was an Opel. We laughed. But when you see the sheep painted and the dogs wearing Elvery jerseys you know that the place is gone feckin’ mad. Bring it on.
Slapping the Red Hands (August 2016)
Not long to go now. Jaysus it was great to beat that Tyrone shower. Leeroy’s WWF move on Cavanagh that got him the first yellow was class. Even better than the one on Dermo last year.
Cillian came running up after the game and jumped on me but the fecker landed on me big toe. I instinctively kneed him in the town halls. So there was the two of us waving to the crowd in tears. It looked emotional but it was feckin painful. I could see mammy too. She was waving her knitted Mayo flag with ‘All Ireland champions on it’. She has had it since 1951. She’s great.
The dressing room was buzzing. Stephen said he’d bring us all for a pizza but Shamie said we’re not going to put the kit man to that expense. So we all paid for our own. Except Diarmuid – he never pays for anything – sure I’m a student he says.
It’s great to have the All Ireland final to look forward to. Bit of a nuisance to have to play this Tipperary crowd first though. I don’t know why these counties are allowed play at this level but sure I suppose Leitrim are allowed in Connacht. I was saying at the dinner the other day that all they have done is beat Galway who are pure feckin useless. They are, Daddy said, sure they only bate ye by three points. ‘Exactly’ said Conor.
But myself and Cillian decided not to get too complacent about it so we got some videos of the Tipperary team. We all agreed Seamus Callinan and Bonner Maher are their best players. I decided to give Cody a ring. He gave great advice. He told me to always be aware of what code you are playing. No wonder he’s at the top so long.
Keith Higgins said he played them before and expects them not to be so good without the hurls. I like Tipperary though - Shane Long is from there. I wonder did he see my step over and drag back in the last game. It was megacool. The lads were calling me Messi after. I said mammy always says I’m messy. She’s great.
It’s about keeping our feet on the ground now. But Donal said to Tom P that he should try to get his feet off the ground the odd time – especially for kick outs. Tom told Vaughan the only time he gets near the leather is selling shoes. We all laughed. The slagging is great though now that we have got all the old crew back together and playing.
I watched a bit of the Dublin Donegal match after ours. God it’s hard to watch that defensive stuff. Dublin even have that Kilkenny lad in defence now. I really hope for the sake of our game that our total football wins out this year. We were all over the place against Tyrone again. Total football. We even call ourselves the Aristocrats in training. Daddy calls us the special ones but Mammy says don’t mind him.
We are also recording a song for the final and were in the studio last week. It’s a rap called ‘Where’s the Mayo, Marty’. I’m the Eminem of the team and I have to say when I wear the baseball cap backwards I look a bit like him. Kevin Mc says I’m full of rap … at least I think that’s what he said. But I love my chorus line … ‘Will the real Slim Aido please stand up, on the steps of the Hogan with the big silver cup.’
Pump up the volume! Laters …
At the Tipp Top (August 2016)
It was great to beat Tipperary and twas some achievement too as they have not lost a football semi final in 81 years. To be honest I didn’t break sweat. Once I saw they had no hurleys I knew we’d be grand. Conor got a great goal too after a super ball by Evan. Sublime pass and finish.
Meself and Cillian allowed the lads to have a few beers on Sunday night after our famous win. We don’t mind the lads letting their hair down – as long as they don’t touch the fringe! Jesus them lads can down some alcopops. Jason is a hoor for the fat frogs and the drink as well.
Keith got up to say a few words. He told the lads they were within touching distance of immorality. ‘Don’t you mean immortality?’ asked Andy. ‘No’ said Keith. Kevin Mc says we could nearly go down as nearly the greatest Mayo team ever. We had to think about that one for a long time … and we still are to be honest.
Shamie says it’s like we are men on a mission now. Daddy said ye are alright – mission impossible, more like. Mammy told him not to be so smart. She’s great. But it’s all about the here and now … and the where and the when, the why and a few other things too if the truth be told. I have a quote hanging on the bedroom wall beside my Corrs poster that the lads live and die by – it says ‘The more we play, the luckier we get’. I think it was Greg Player the English golfer who said it and it sums Mayo up nicely thanks.
Stephen has been doing great work in the background with the grub and protein shakes and things. He has also negotiated an exclusive deal with ‘Mighty Mayo Merchandise’ who are now producing a fine line of goods, or tat as Mammy says, to mark our final appearance. There are the Leeroy blinds collection – they pull down very easily, the Vaughan bobble head which does and then the Cillian kettle which turns off when the heat comes on. All reasonably priced and are flying out of the shops here.
The squad went over to Knock the other day too. We told them it was a warm weather training surprise so when we got them all a coffee in the airport they were raging. Diarmuid said we should climb Croagh Patrick for our ‘spiritual well-being’ but Dillon said there was feck all point in getting to the summit of Croagh Patrick when we fall on our arses at the summit in Croke Park every time. We all laughed. I’m still not sure why.
It’s getting hard to walk down the streets here too, what with the potholes and bad weather. Any teenagers I pass start rapping at me ‘Will the real Slim Aidoplease stand up, on the steps of the Hogan with the big silver cup.’ So I reply with some moves and high fives and we all do the main chant ‘Boom boom boom let me hear you say Mayo, Mayo.’ It’s great fun. They ask me, ‘Aido, are you going to end 65 years of hurt?’ and I tell them ‘I’m only 26.’
I don’t know who I want to beat in the final most. I like Kerry because their butter is gorgeous but myself and Cillian are planning and banging our heads together on this – just like we did in the replay in 2014. But I would love to beat the Dubs because everybody hates them but really they don’t they just say they do. I spent my teenage years pretending to be Whelo but never told anyone. As Mammy says if there wasn’t any Dublin there’d be no teachers, nurses, guards or civil servants coming home every weekend with their washing and cakes. She’s right.
Bring them on …
Dubs on the ropes (September 2016)
So the mighty unbeatable blue machine didn’t win – ha! Everyone said all week we wouldn’t win and they were right - so up theirs. We showed what we were made of with an exhibition of total football not seen since we were in the semi. It was great to hear our fans on the Hill chant ‘it’s just like watching Brazil’. I love our fans – they bring such colour to the games – usually green and red.
Cillian got a fella called Jim McGenius I think it was, in to talk to the lads last week. He is apparently a guru whatever that is and he beat the Dubs once and has dined out on it ever since. He was very good – he told us to go out and win. Brilliant advice.
The bus journey was incredible. The Garda bikes with blue lights and sirens was awesome. I said to Donal this is like being in an episode of Ros na Rún. We were so excited – I think one of the lads even had a little accident. Diarmuid said it was ice but it looked very yellowy to me.
I had the headphones on in the dressing room. I love a bit of the Spice Girls to get me going. But I was in a trance and panicked when I opened my eyes and everyone was there - gone. I charged out the tunnel and there were Dublin fellas trying to block me. I barrelled past them roaring ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ just like Scarey Spice – and they were scared! I was like a cow in a China shop.
There was some noise when I got out on that pitch. It was deafening. Then I realised I still had the headphones on and the volume had accidentally turned up.
But conditions pitch side were Mayo like. It was very wet and my hair got destroyed. I spend 12 hours with the GHD on the Saturday straightening it and it was a mess after two minutes. I asked the umpire had he a comb but he gave me the brush off. It really affected my game. The last thing you want is to score a point and be on the telly with your hair sticking up.
It was a weird game. It felt like a final. We got off to a great start with two goals in the first 11 minutes. But then Andy said they were OGs and sure enough on the big scoreboard they were down for Dublin. I still think we were robbed and can’t understand how nobody spotted this.
I wanted to swap shirts with my hero Dermo Connolly but Leeroy said he wanted it and sure enough he went for the swap long before the finish. He always gets what he wants the fecker.
I was relieved at the final whistle because we hadn’t lost another final – yet. Mammy was in the stand signing autographs after her appearance on Up for the Match. We had a family hug but Conor was moaning because he didn’t get a game. Seamus said its cos you’re brutal and they started flicking each other’s ears – in front of everyone. I was mortified. Ear flicking should only be done indoors.
Daddy said if the ref was doing his job I should have got more cards than you’d see in Hallmark. He said I reminded him of the German flag – black, red and yellow. Mammy told him to mind his own business. She’s great.
I was so disappointed to hear that we weren’t going to the banquet. I had some real smart answers ready for Marty and we were going to do rabbits ears on Stephen when he was interviewed on the Sunday Game. All down the drain.
Instead we had to warm down. But it was great to leave Croke Park on All Ireland final day without losing. It was such a strange feeling for a Mayo man. Only the team of 1996 have ever done that before so we will go down in history. I hope we can go on to do what they did in the replay.
So near and yet sofa (October 2016)
I can’t wait for it! It is a shocking disappointment to have to miss the Ploughing Championships this week but if it means another Garda bike escort next Saturday week it makes it all worthwhile.
We were the better team over the two days and we still lost. It is definitely a curse. Mammy says we need to get the Pope down to Knock and then get him to McHale with the holy water to exorcise the place. She’s right. Leeroy was muttering something about a contract on a couple of ould lads. Donie said no point in giving it to Cillian because he’d miss.
But we definitely got a couple of things wrong. I had promised Rob a long while back that if we got to a final I’d give him a game. It was after he made his Communion and bought me a Curly Wurly with the money. You can’t go back on your word.
Then the Dublin media got Leeroy the black card. I was standing beside the ref and he said ‘look Mr. Keegan, Charlie Redmond, Ger Brennan and Paul Clarke cannot be wrong – it’s black for you.’ Imagine mounting a media campaign to ask somebody to apply the rules! Mad!
The one good thing was that I was able to get Conor on the field too. It was such an honour to have 3 brothers on the field at the final whistle. I think it’s the first time a losing Mayo All Ireland final team had three brothers on it – so that was great. Mammy was delighted. Daddy said it was the kind of record every father could only ever dream about. He seemed very emotional and was shaking his head as he said it. I didn’t know what to think. I still don’t.
I was devastated when I got back to the dressing room – because someone had stood on my hair gel and it was just everywhere. Firm hold and CK boxers do not mix well. Lots of the fellas were crying so I told them my Dermo Connolly joke about him counting to infinity twice – but nobody laughed.
Sometimes the lads can be a bit of a pain to be honest. Cillian was particularly bad – whinging like a baby. I would’ve thought he did enough of that on the pitch. But I suppose when you are the joint manager and miss the chance to save the match you are going to be sad.
Stephen then came bounding into the room then with a big box of Fat Frogs. He got a great alcopop sponsorship deal so at least we knew the bus journey home was going to be fun - as long as we could stop for a pee.
The homecoming was a great bit of craic. I love being on the back of a trailer – especially when there is no hay on it. The sound system was awful but as Keith said at least we were getting good feedback. Thousands of people coming to McHale in the rain even though we lost again – no wonder they are the best. I wanted to borrow that plastic Sam from the old guy on the Hill for them but I couldn’t see him anywhere. He probably couldn’t get a ticket because Mayo fans hoovered them all up. I love us having more fans there than Dublin to see us losing.
I didn’t even go to Coppers because I heard Cluxton say they were going there. I’d really love to be a Dub and if I went and had a few drinks I’d probably let the cat out of the bag. I love practising my Dublin accent when I have a few pints. ‘Story bud, will ya gerr off out dat, sound as a pound, the process, gwan ya good thing, ya know wharr I mean.’ I got very good at it in DCU. Once I was doing it in a Dublin pub and the barman said are you from Mayo? I was raging. I said, ‘how did you know?’ He said, ‘it’s the string holding up your trousers’.
Anyways I think I’ll take a few months off now. As Mammy says you can bring a horse to water but a pencil has to be lead. And I don’t know how many more times we can go to the well without going home thirsty. And then there’s the hunger too. Sure if we get any hungrier we’ll be skeletons.
I’ll work on me book for a few weeks. Typing with the two fingers is very slow but thank god for spell check. My book title ‘Super Aido the Curse Breaker’ will have to be changed. Daddy says ‘Heavy on the Mayo’ would be a good title but I’m leaning towards ‘If Only We Had 15 Aidos’. Keep a spot in your Xmas stockings. But I’m having a fierce row with the publisher about keeping the colour-in pages in it.
I better go – Shamie is calling me for a game of GAA on the Playstation. I get to be Dublin … and I always win!
Slán go fóill …