Aido - the works


#1

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Diarmuid rang then and said the AOS blow up doll was being withdrawn because it goes down too easily.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 …


#2

The South African Diary (January 2017)
The lads took myself and Cillian to South Africa as a thank you for picking them this year. Fair play to Stephen who as usual arranged all the logistics and travel arrangements. As a reward we let him take charge of the Mayo team for the FBD games. He can work with the younger lads but they won’t be getting a look in once the real business starts and we get back to picking our buddies. We left Hennelly at home too. No point in bringing bad luck with you.

We couldn’t bring Mammy either and she wasn’t best pleased so we agreed to leave Conor at home too to keep her company. Of course Daddy insisted on coming as he said he did all our training sessions. Mammy told us to look after him but not too much. She said to put him in an open top jeep on his own if we went to a safari park. She’s great.

The flight over was very long but myself and Cillian were in business class so it was grand. Keith kept coming in and robbing our pillows until the hostess told him she’d have him thrown off the plane. He sat down fairly quick after that. We could hear our lads in economy doing their chant, ‘Mayo, Mayo for the Cup, Mayo, Mayo runners up’. It was touching and raw … and real.

The airport was much bigger than Knock and amazingly not a sinner was selling rosary beads. We were going through customs and Cillian was asked if he had anything to declare and he said ‘only my genius’. We hadn’t a clue what he meant but the guard just looked at him sympathetically, shook his head and said that was very sad. Cillian went red. We laughed but nobody knew why.

Table Mountain was excellent. Andy said it was like Croagh Patrick only flat. The scenery was like in Mayo - except without the constant rain. We went to a wildlife park and Diarmuid started making monkey noises at some monkeys. One of them turned around and started scratching his behind and pointing at Diarmuid. It was so funny. Then he started banging his fists on the ground and we all looked at Cillian and laughed. He stormed off.

Seamie wanted to go to Robbin Island though Colm said it might not be a good idea to be robbing in South Africa as you can get shot. Clarkie explained it was where Nelson Mandela was kept in prison but Colm thought Nelson Mandela was a character in the Simpsons. It was very confusing. Anyway Seamie bought tickets for Nelson Mandela House online but when we got online directions it was sending us to Peckham. So we gave up.

Donal arranged for us to go to Mass on the Sunday but we got the times mixed up because of the different time zones and we got in just as the Credo started. He went mad. He said ‘if we can’t get it right for the big man what chance do we have.’ He can be very funny sometimes.

We also went to a local rugby club and pumped some iron. I could tell the locals were very impressed. One of them asked me if I would like to try my hand with the oval ball but I told him we didn’t play rugby in Connacht. Jaysus I don’t think we even have a provincial team anymore and if we do I don’t know the last time they won a match. I told him that the only team in the west of Ireland is Mayo. He really looked puzzled and wouldn’t even believe I was from Ireland. Some people live in their own little bubble. Funny bunch.

Kevin Mc bought a vuvuzela and drove everybody on the bus mad. He was blowing it non-stop until the driver told him he’d put it somewhere that Kevin wouldn’t be able to blow it any more. He went red. We laughed. He said he was going to get a few thousand sent home so that Mayo fans could blow them when we win Sam next year. Daddy said it was usually the Mayo team that blows things. I was raging Mammy wasn’t there to tell him not to be so smart.

Anyways we’ll be home soon but it has been the best adventure since I went to Brackloon Wood with the scouts in 2002. But I really don’t think I could live in South Africa. It is just so big in every way. You would be nobody here. As Mammy always says ‘better to be a very big fish in Mayo than a bloody nobody if you left home’. She’s right – and great.

The injury (February 2017)
I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that my life flashed in front of my eyes. For a second I thought it was all over. The pain in my ankle was excruciating, far worse than childbirth. I couldn’t even feel my toes but then I never can reach down that far. The physio came running over and told me to act like I was playing for Mayo – I said how do you mean – he said ‘don’t move’. At least my hair was relatively okay though there was a small piece of the crown out of place as the gel had worn out from sticking my face and head in the towel like all basketballers do.

Thankfully I was still able to give high fives and all that to my team mates as they came over to see if I was alright. If you are a basketballer and can’t give high fives, low fives and fist bumps you are at nothing. Myself and Cillian introduced some of these moves into the Mayo dressing room last year but the lack of co-ordination among the lads meant it was a disaster. Four of them broke fingers and we had a lot of bruised knuckles cases so we gave it up. Donal said basketball was a very rough game - turns out he was right.

Anyways Mammy was out having tea with the other Mammies and she came bursting into the gym like Rambo on steroids shouting ‘who hurt my boy?!’. I went very red and told her I just twisted my ankle myself and she said it couldn’t be my fault. She said the court must have been wet and I slipped. She’s great.

Daddy came in then and said ‘you feckin’ eejit I told you not to play that girls’ game’ and Mammy told him to shut up unless he wanted to spend an hour trying to get out of a metal hoop. Everyone was laughing – except Daddy. Mammy said to ring an ambulance – Daddy said to ring a solicitor. I said I didn’t want any fuss so one of the lad’s Dads was going by in a tractor and I hopped on the trailer as he was going by the hospital. I started going – nee naw nee naw – it was gas craic.

When I got to the hospital my worst fears came through. I heard the doctor say to Mammy he’d have to put me down. ‘What??’said Mammy roaring, ‘Why??’. ‘Because he’s too heavy’ the doctor said. So that was a relief. But it turned out I was right about how serious the injury was. He said it was a minute inflammation of the stabilizing lateral ligaments of the ankle joint.

I bit my lip, trying to be brave and holding back the tears, and said to him, ‘Doc, give it to me straight – I want the blunt truth’. ‘Ok’ he said, ‘it’s a very slight ankle sprain and you should not put full weight on it for a couple of days’. I was devastated. Shamie and Conor had arrived by now and fair play to Shamie he was straight in, ‘Doc, can we not even play jockeybacks?’. The doc gave him a funny look, up and down, and said ‘If I was a crane I wouldn’t play jockeybacks with you.’ Daddy snorted but nobody else knew what he was saying.

It was then I saw the moon boot in the corner. ‘Can I have that?’ I asked the doc. ‘Sure you’ve only a bloody light sprain,’ he said. ‘That‘s for someone with a real injury like medial ligaments or a broken leg.’ But fair play to Mammy she wasn’t having it. ‘If my Aidan thinks he needs that strap on contraption then he’s having it. And it looks great too and it’s grey – his colour. Put it on there son.’

So off I went in me moon boot – the Michael Jackson boot Shamie said. He reckoned I’d be able to moon walk in it once my critical long term injury cleared up the next day. We sang Billie Jean all the way home – it was great.

The basketball team is EJs All Stars and are actually from Sligo which I originally thought was in Mayo! Then I remembered we played them in Gaelic a couple of years back when I ran amok scoring 3-4 or something. I was on fire that day and even Andy said to me I was always great against Division 4 teams. I was chuffed. It reminded me of the time I played for the U12s when I was 16 – I got 3-5 that day and squashed a few small lads. Some craic.

Anyhow the lads in the club were very disappointed that I wouldn’t make the Cup Final in Tallaght. I was glad to not be going to be honest and was horrified when they insisted I come along as part of the squad. An overgrown mascot Daddy said - before Mammy spilt her tea on him. I didn’t fancy Tallaght much at all but figured if I had a moon boot no-one would rob me. I also had Dermo’s Dublin jersey on under my own just in case. And I was muttering bleedin, jaysus, story bud and other phrases to myself all the way up.

We were playing Neptune in the President’s Cup Final and I said to Diarmaid it was my first time coming up against a Greek god. Roman he said – whatever that meant. We were introduced to a man called Michael D at the start and I worked out he must be the President of the basketball association – like Aogan Ó Fearghaíl is for Gaelic. But he was quite small for a basketballer – maybe he had a good leap.

They lost by 97-85 and I said to the lads in the dressing room after that I reckon I was worth 14 points to the team so we would have won if I played. They just look at me for ages and then started shaking their heads to signal I was right. You’re a peculiar genius alright the manager said. I told them I’d been in losing All Ireland final dressing rooms loads of times so this was not new to me and that after about 8 pints everyone would feel better.

I also pointed out that just because you were a bit of a loser (I was careful to say bit) didn’t mean you couldn’t be a celebrity. I took out my Gold Card from Copper’s and starting singing ‘here we go, here we go’ but they all just walked out. I could never understand basketballers to be honest – must be the personal fouls and all but they get very touchy sometimes. I hate to say Daddy was right but maybe he wasn’t fully wrong.

I also had to make a dreaded phone call to Stephen about what happened. I was not looking forward to it. But, like with the doc, I bit my lip and got on with it. ‘Stephen’ I said. ‘Bad news but I was playing basketball and destroyed my ankle. I thought it only fair to ring you as you are the only man who deals with these things. What I need to know is – does our insurance cover me?

Aido goes to the Hill (March 2017)
The ankle was still the size of a marble after my catastrophic slight sprain so I decided to give the Dublin game a skip. Daddy said there’s not much point in going up there and getting beaten when you can do it later in the year instead. Mammy shot him one of her looks and said if we were good at being losers it was because we had a great role model. She’s great.

Conor is the only one playing at the minute and he’s not even getting a game because Cillian is picking the team without me at the moment. I’ll get him back when I drop the Diarmuid fella for the Connacht final. Stephen rang to see if I’d go on the bus as he was trying to book hotels and get numbers organised but Shamie had a better plan. So I told Stephen the moon boot was a bit heavy for a long journey and I’d give it a skip. He said he understood and fair play to him he took my order for gear for the season and also sent me a list of the carbs drinks deals he’d arranged. I asked him was there any sign of us getting any deal with a motor supplier and he told me to keep it very very quiet but things were progressing well with Massey Ferguson.

Anyway Shamie’s plan was to do something that was on the ‘list of things I want to do before we win an All-Ireland.’ He suggested we get into a bit of disguise – he loves dressing up - and head up to Croker and watch the match from Hill 16. I nearly didn’t make the toilet with the excitement … and those marks were definitely there from before. It was his best idea ever – or at least better than the other one he had in 2008. He had a load of disguises but I told him a nurse in a latex uniform might look strange in March on the Hill and his hairy armpits did nothing for the look. He ended up with a moustache and curly hair and a tee shirt and I said to him you’ll come in handy if we need a number nifty – but he didn’t get it.

So we got the train and I used my student card to get a cheap ticket. The guy at the station asked me what was I studying and I said ‘the form – sure Cheltenham is coming.’ Shamie laughed. Your man looked a bit annoyed and said ‘tell you what so – here’s a tip – stop acting the gobshite or I’ll charge you double.’ Mammy always told us to act with dignity in these situations so when he turned his back I stuck me middle finger up at him and he said ‘do you know what a mirror does?’ Thank god the train arrived and we just ran for it.

You could get alcohol on the train but we are off it for Lent. I don’t mind that so much but off sweets, crisps, X-Box and the soaps is a real killer. Leeroy goes ON all those things for Lent - he’s a real rebel. I don’t think he even got ashes this year. I think that’s why Mammy is not overly fond of him. We played cards for a good bit of the journey but had to stop when one of the other passengers complained. I keep telling Shamie not to shout so loud and bang his fist so hard when he sees a Snap!

The rest of the journey passed without major incident aside from the two Mayo fans playing Buckaroo! in the aisle. Shamie thinks they were drunk but one of them hunched down and the other sat on his back and their friends put crisps and peanuts and cans and bottles on the first fella until he shot up and sent the other lad flying. He flew across a table, knocking a cup of hot chocolate all over a nun. She was raging but said nothing - probably her worst day since she joined that silent order. The quare fella got up with half a soggy digestive in his hair and muttered sorry and said he’d say 10 Hail Marys. He was definitely from Swinford. They’re all like that there. Shamie roared at him ‘don’t be making a habit of that’ and we all laughed – except the nun.

Anyhow we got off in Heuston and Shamie said it’d be better to get a taxi than a Luas into town. Even the alsatians get on the Luas in pairs down there he said. The taximan was a real Dub. He asked us were we up for the match and I said yeah.

He told us Dermo Connolly just got out of the cab an hour ago and wouldn’t be playing as it was only Mayo and the Dubs were ‘going with our second team for this one’. He asked us did we know the famous Mayo footballing brothers and me and Shamie went a bit red. ‘Great players them lads’ he said, ‘the heart and soul of Mayo football. Real warriors. Jaysus – what’s their names?’ Shamie and me were going even redder now and were about to tell him when he said ‘feck yeah – Cillian and Diarmuid – that’s it – the O’Connors. Better than them other two – or is it three now – halfwits. Them fellas that only last about 20 minutes but everyone thinks the sun shines out of their …’ Just then Shamie said ‘Drop us here please’… The end of the worst journey … ever.
Croker would surely be better than this ….

When we got out of the taxi we were starving. Shamie said he thought there was a McDonalds in Dublin and I said no way! Turns out there is one in Phibsboro - you learn something new every day. I thought we only had Supermacs in Ireland and we never go there because they sponsor that Galway shower. I have to admit I was really excited and Shamie had to tell me to stop singing ‘Da, da, da da, da - I’m lovin’ it’. ‘Everyone is looking at us ya feckin eejit’, he said.

There was a rough looking jackeen in front of us with a real thick head on him and a big skull on the back of his jacket with ‘Bohemian Dub’ wrote under it. He looked like an escapee from a Mad Max film. He was talking to his mate about the match and saying things like ‘I bleeding hate Mayo, them brothers are saps, they will never win Sam, hate them.’ Blah, blah, blah. I went up behind him and said ‘Do you have a problem with me and Shamie.’ He looked up and dropped his strawberry milkshake with the shock. Then he stuck a French fry up his nostril he was shaking so much. ‘No, no’ he stuttered, ‘You guys and Conor and even Mammy and Daddy are great. It’s the O’Connors I was talking about.’ Then he ran out the door, white as a ghost. Shamie shouted after him, ‘What about your Happy Meal?’ but he was gone. I was delighted because I got to keep his toy.

I ordered two Big Mac meals, both super size. Last time I had a Big Mac meal was in the States so finding one in Ireland was like finding fresh water in your dessert. Anyway as Mammy says I’m a growing lad and Daddy always adds only physically unfortunately. There were a few Mayo fans there but when we sat down we pulled our hoods up and pulled the cord tight. It meant we had privacy but made it hard to eat. I got a few mouthfuls of hood fur and there was a fair bit of ketchup on the fur too but it was delicious. We finished with a Creme Egg McFlurry - the icing on the apple pie so to speak. Shamie was so happy that now he started singing ‘Da, da, da da, da - I’m lovin’ it’. And sure we were. Next stop Croker as our great adventure continued.

‘Can we pay at the gate?’ I asked Shamie. ‘No’ he said. ‘I read it was all ticket. Sure them Dubs games are always all ticket and I think when they show their dole cards they get tickets for nothing – that’s why they do it that way. They even get to train in Croker all week because they don’t work as they are professional. I think we can get tickets at the ground but not off them Dublin tout fellas. They always charge more than the ticket is worth for some reason. There’s the ticket van there.’ I looked over and realised that Shamie’s eyesight is getting even worse. It was an ice cream van. ‘No’ I said ‘that’s not it – it’s further down the road there.’

Shamie had been practising his Dublin accent all week and was mad keen to try it out on a Dub. So he went up to the ticket van with his best Dublin accent and said ‘Howya bud, gis two tickets for the bleedin Hill like a good man.’ Then he pretended to take a call on the mobile and was saying things like ‘Story, horse, yeah that’s rapid, man, know what I mean, yeah, laters.’ Then he hung up and asked your man ‘What’s the damage there pal?’ The fella said ‘€30 … and what part of Mayo are ye from?’ Me and Shamie couldn’t believe it. 'How the feck did you know? Shamie asked. ‘It was the string holding up your trousers’ said your man.

The smell of drink queuing to get into the Hill was worse than the back of the church at Breaffy Sunday morning mass. It was weird being there among the enemy. They even have their own little shebeen which has Handball Club written outside but is clearly a place where you can buy Dutch Gold and cheap cigarettes. More favouritism for the Dubs. We went behind the goal and when Mayo came out Shamie jumped and hollered ‘woo hoo the Wesht is best.’ He completely forget where he was. I was sweating then I had a great idea. ‘Jaysus lads,’ I said, ‘not easy being this lad’s carer. Come on I’ll bring you to the toilet.’ And with that we escaped – just. I warned Shamie to keep his emotions in check. That’s rich coming from you he said and you blubbing like a baby here last year and you only won a quarter final.’

Then we very nearly got in even bigger trouble because Mammy saw Shamie’s jacket on the telly – it has a big pink fluffy hood. She rang and said ‘Where are ye bucks tonight?’ Shamie said ‘Watching the Mayo game here in a pub in Galway drinking Ribena.’ ‘What’s all that rough shouting and singing about? Ye’re on that bloody Hill 16 – ye’ll get killed.’ ‘We’re not Mammy’ said Shamie, ‘sure that’d be stone mad.’

Luckily Daddy was in the room and Shamie heard him saying ‘Them pair of halfwits wouldn’t be able to find Croke Park if ya left them on Clonliffe Road. Some other eejit must have a big girls coat like our lad’s too.’ She believed him thank God. She just told Shamie to make sure he said his decade of the rosary and to make sure to share the toothbrush before we went to bed. She’s great but it was a close escape.

The match was woeful and showed up how important the O’Sheas are to Mayo football. We were clueless without us. Daddy often says that Mayo teams are the Garth Brooks of football – they can’t perform at Croke Park – he’s right. But Cillian’s tactics were shocking and he is lost without me. When he went to take his first free we starting booing him for the craic and it soon took off. I was watching Stephen closely too and in fairness not one Mayo player was short of a drink of water when he needed it. Dublin ran riot and we looked like earwigs that were a bit startled as Kevin McStay said once I think. Conor only got about 10 minutes of a run and even in that time you could see how he would have completely changed the game if they started him. The rest were pure useless. Eat without salt Shamie said. Makes me wonder why we bother at all. Carrying these losers we are.

We found ourselves singing ‘C’mon ye boys in blue’ with the rest of the lads and I said to Shamie on the way out the sooner this transfer market in the GAA comes about the better. The Dubs would break the bank to get the pair of us and then my favourite fantasy of all could come through. I love standing in front of the mirror at home in my Dermo jersey pretending to be making a speech in the Hogan Stand. In the end I give three cheers to the losers as well. And it’s always Mayo.

Mother’s Day (March 2017)
Shamie, Conor and me had fierce rows over what to get Mammy for Mother’s Day. What do you give the woman who has everything – “Nothing!” Shamie said - but he was only messing I think.

I wanted to get flowers, Shamie said chocolates and Conor said perfume – probably because he uses her perfume all the time. And the Shamie fella would fairly horse into the chocolates too. At least my flower suggestion wasn’t about getting something for me – though I do love the smell of fresh flowers in a room – except lilies. Mammy goes mad when her Light Blue perfume ‘evaporates’ as she says. She runs around the kitchen after Conor trying to smel l him but he just says ‘because I’m worth it’ and runs off. She’s great.

We asked Daddy what did he think would be the best present to give Mammy and he said if we all got our own place. But sure you wouldn’t be a Mayo son unless you lived with your Mammy til you were at least 40. She’d lose the will to live if she’d didn’t have the housework, making dinners, ironing, washing, painting, DIY, gardening and all that. It keeps her young and I’d never get my shoes shining like she does. I still don’t be as clean after a bath as when she washed us but at 20 it was time to at least try to learn to scrub meself.

If you look at the young ones today they all know about smoothies and takeaways but are sadly lacking in the area of ‘wife material’ as Shamie says. I always judge them on Mammy and they are coming up way way short. Some of them can’t sew a button or iron a shirt. They think they have their independence or equality or whatever but it’ll all catch up on them when they have a husband and kids and aren’t able to run their home properly. I was out with a girl a while back. I won’t name names but Lisa wasn’t able to make a basic Irish stew. To me that calls her whole Irishness into question. It’d be like a young girl from Peking not being able to make sweet and sour chicken. That just wouldn’t happen.

Anyway it’s very hard to keep secrets from Mammy because she can read our minds. She’s great. Daddy says there’s not a lot of reading there – whatever he means by that. So we decided to go into town and see if we could pick up a few ideas. Shamie drove us in the car he got from the team sponsor the other week. I always loved Opel Mantas especially the black vinyl roof and the racing stripe. And such a cool reg - 87 MO 87. He has it for six months once he puts new tyres on it and gets it a service. Conor calls it the babemobile but I think that’s wishful thinking. Baberepellent more like.

And who were the first people we met up town? The Ballintubber Boyos – with all their Mother’s Day shopping done already and them heading for a skinny latté in the 1951 Café. Diarmuid had soaps and something called pot pourri – I think it’s a kind of pasta. Cillian had a scented candle and a Capodimonte porcelain flower. I hate the way the O’Connors are so organised and perfect and always have everything right. Swots. We started talking about our Mammies. Cillian started reminiscing about the time his mother gave him a thick ear and sent him to his room for throwing a tantrum. Diarmuid said ‘that was only last Monday’. Cillian shot the brother a filthy look and then went as red as his scented candle. We all sniggered and they sloped off for coffee.

Shamie said let’s go into Donie’s shop and see if he has some nice shoes. Conor said ‘I just got some nice pumps last week – I’m grand.’ ‘It’s for Mammy ya feckin eejit’ Shamie snapped. He gets very thick with the kid sometimes – I just laugh. Donie was a bit surprised to see us and nearly fell out of the high heels he had on. He said he was only checking to see if the heels were strong enough. Whatever. Shamie asked him had he anything decent for Mammy at the right price.

Next thing he arrives over with a pair of the quarest things you ever saw. The colours were strange to say the least and the pattern was just stone mad. Crocodile skin he said. Next thing Conor was chasing Shamie around the shop pretending to bite him like a crocodile. Shamie fell over a foot measure and nearly knocked over a very old lady. She was not impressed. ‘Gobshites’ she roared, ‘if ye were half as lively in Croke Park I might see Sam again before I die.’ Donie kicked us out but not before I asked him to order a pair of men’s crocodile shoes in for me. ‘Don’t bring that pair back in with you when you’re collecting them’ he said.

It was getting dark and we still had nothing got for Mammy. Conor suggested a baby pig like the eir ad. Things were getting desperate. Then I had a brainwave. A framed picture of the three of us. The lads thought it was great and Shamie said we could get a frame made up with ‘Who’s Your Mammy’ underneath. We went into Mickey McHale’s. He is the town photographer and he happened to have a great picture of me in the window. It was the game against Fermanagh and shows me tumbling to the ground following a horrific assault. We got a penalty for it and I can still feel the impact.

He showed us a few posing possibilities and said we’d be great posers. We were chuffed. We picked the white shirts on the white sofa with the cuddly toys. Then his daughter asked us did we want make-up. Meself and Shamie looked at each other and were about to tell her what to do with her blusher when Conor was in the chair in a flash asking for some foundation. He worries us sometimes. We decided to go for a black and white shot as Conor still has a few zits and my nose was flaring up with a light head cold. It took about an hour to get it right but the finished picture was pretty awesome even if I say so myself. Mick’s daughter said she hadn’t seen a better family shot since the Munsters. I don’t know who they are but we were well pleased. Shamie picked a big silver frame with hearts on it and we got ‘Who’s Your Mammy’ engraved on it in pink – Conor’s insistence. It looked really good.

We put a big red bow on it and some green wrapping paper and headed home happy out. Mammy was at bingo when we got there and Daddy asked to see what we got. Shamie carefully undid the wrapping and showed him the picture. Will she like it? he asked Daddy. ‘Oh she will alright. She will, she will. Well Holy God but that’s my life’s work just there – in black and white – an eternal reminder.’ With that he started welling up, I could see the tears. I didn’t know he could be so emotional. ‘Where should we hang it?’ I asked him. He thought for a minute and then said it slowly, twice, ‘Facing the wall bucks, facing the wall.’


#3

Being rested (May 2017)

I’m ripping. It’s been a dreadful week or so with Mayo losing our grip on running the country and then the unbelievable news that Stephen didn’t name me in the starting fifteen against Sligo. I told him that he could pick the team for this one with Cillian seeing as I was busy with the basketball. But I couldn’t believe it - especially as he picked our Shamie and Conor but not me. The slagging in the house last week was fierce and Conor even told Mammy he wanted to get a bigger dinner than me now. I was welling up and fair play to Mammy she could see it. “You’ll get what you’re given gasún,” she said. “And if you end up in half as many photos as my Aidan you’ll be doing well.” Then she dumped a big lump of hairy fat from the bacon on his plate. She’s great.

Daddy said not to worry I was still the third best footballer. I was happy with that and asked him was it only my mate Dermo and Leeroy that were ahead of me. The third best footballer in the house he said. Shamie laughed and jeered and started singing ‘Aido the turd’ so I went up to his room and tore down all his Spice Girls posters. Mammy let a roar at us and said the wooden spoon was coming out so we cleared out sharpish. Conor had a football so he said to Shamie let’s get a bit of practice in. Then he said I should practice too – by sitting on the bench in the garden. They just don’t understand the whole concept of ‘resting’ players. It was a tough few days.

I rang Donie as well seeing as he had been dropped too - I mean rested. He was very angry about it as he had only given Stephen a pair of shoes for half price the previous week. ‘This is definitely our year and we can’t even get a start’ he moaned. ‘It’s only Sligo. Sure we’ll hammer them. Didn’t you even score 3-4 against them a while back - they’re brutal.’

We were just saying too that he wouldn’t drop … I mean rest the Chuckle Brothers either. The Ballintubber altar boys never get picked on. Although I remember the time a team was named with Cillian on the subs and he went mental. He was on the floor of the dressing room, banging his fists on the ground so they put him in the team. Hmm … maybe that’s why he never gets dropped.

As if the week wasn’t bad enough some guy called Flynn ridickled me in the media. I never heard of him but someone said he used to play for Meath – I didn’t even know Meath had a football team. The guy obviously has no clue about how hard it is to be a celebrity in Ireland. To wake up every morning with everybody wanting a piece of you, to try to ‘connect with’ (great phrase Kevin Mc gave me) your Twitter followers and to help realise the dreams of every child in Mayo by letting them take a selfie with you. It’s tough … I know I’m a huge man but there is only so much of me to go around.

James Horan – the best Mayo man ever to nearly win Sam – put him in his place. He called him a tit (Conor laughed so much until Mammy gave him the look) and an eejit. Mammy actually said that I should never worry about what men with fake tans say because it’s all fake as well – sure look at Donald Trump she said. I nodded – though I didn’t have a clue who this Trump is. I’d say he’s probably from Dublin if he is a spoofer. Anyway hope she never meets the Flynn fella or he will get a thick ear. Daddy said he didn’t think what happened after the game mattered at all but it’s a pity I didn’t show as much enthusiasm for the match as I did for the photos. He is right fair play to him – it’s much harder to look good in photos during the games so I must look at how to improve that. To be honest there have been a couple of action shots from games where my hair was frankly embarrassing.

The match day itself was lacking any atmosphere and I could feel the let down in McHale when I wasn’t announced as a late change. I was going to go doing a few selfies when the lads were warming up but then I thought ‘I won’t please that Flynn fella.’ There was a lovely moment when Mammy came into the stand and some younger Mayo lads started singing ‘There’s only one Mrs O’Shea, one Mrs O’Shea …’ I think she was going red though she said later she went a bit heavy on the blusher earlier. Easily done I said to her.

The game started and to be honest we struggled without me. As usual we relied on the Cillian fella kicking frees from in front of the posts. Then Diarmuid scored a goal after taking 18 steps. Jaysus them lads really get away with everything. I finally got on in the second half as a blood sub for Diarmuid. I have to say his haircut is atrocious though – he looks like a young lad who was scalped with a bowl before his communion. The pair have no style.

But the whole game lifted when I arrived. The crowd woke up, the tempo quickened and we were now playing unbelievable stuff. But after a few minutes Altar Boy II came back. ‘Go get some more splinters in your arse’ he laughed as he passed me – he said later it was only a joke but I don’t know really. I think my celebrity gets to some lads. They look at me and they think why can I not have what he has. Hardly my fault.

Anyways, I was stretching and fixing me hair and things when Cillian gave the merchandising manager the nod. So Stephen told me to warm up and I had to bite me lip to stop saying I was already boiling. When they saw me the crowd went mad. It reminded me of the racket when I went to the airport to see Jedward coming back after X Factor. The whooping and hollering was Mayo fans at their finest. Dublin can have their songs and chants but Mayo are kings at whooping and hollering. It’s the plain speak of rural Ireland - our very own dialect.

Surprisingly the Sligo lad marking me was very gracious. Here comes the man that makes Mayo thick he said. His team mates laughed but I thought it was a nice touch. Obviously the whole course of the game changed then. We had been rudderless and I came on like the captain of a ship to steer us home. The captain of the Titanic Daddy said – fair play to him. I coasted through the game providing the oil for the Mayo machine that was now purring. Near the end Cillian got another goal even though he was in the square but yet again them lads get away with it. That’s why we call them the Altar Boys! We warmed down and I got right in the middle of the huddle as if to say ‘Feck you Flynn’. A couple of kids asked for autographs and selfies but I said no because that would be the wrong attitude. Mammy noticed and I got the mother of all dressing downs followed by the dressing gown and an early night. I’m so confused now.

And the Altar Boys were insufferable in the dressing room too.

‘Hey Diarmuid, what did you score?’.

‘A goal Cillian, how about you?’

‘I got 1-6 – so that’s 2-6 between us’.

‘Hey that’s more than Sligo, Cillian - so we beat them on our own.’

‘Did any of the three O’Shea’s score, Diarmuid?’

‘No, I don’t think so. But God love them, they tried hard.’

I need to take back control or it’s going to be a really long season by being a very short season …

The worst of times (June 2017)

Mammy said Jesus wasn’t really appreciated at the time and it took a couple of thousand years before they hung his picture in houses with lights and candles in front. JFK’s appreciation was a far shorter span mind you. I feel somewhere between the two to be honest. I am a saviour in my own land and yet feel like I am being cut down in my prime. I think it’s in the Bible that a profit is not recognised or something. Daddy said some day I’ll come into the town in triumph … I was chuffed but Shamie said he meant a type of car.

But it has been the worst of times. I hear people going on about terrorism and hunger and war and all and how they have it so bad. But they have no idea – none – about what it is to lose your place on the Mayo team and then lose a Connacht semi to Galway. Some people genuinely have no perspective at all.

Bring dropped for Sligo was okay because they aren’t a real football team. I let Cillian and Stephen pick the team again for Galway and was waiting for the captaincy and even had my speech ready for the dressing room. All about Dunkirk and Churchill and fighting them on the beaches and all, because it was Salthill. Then they said I was on the bench – again. I admit I threw a wobbler there and then. ‘Who the f*** is gonna take selfies with the fans in the warm down’ I said. ‘This is not good enough. Just because Stephen has negotiated student rates for all of us for Tayto Park does not make him a real selector. He is just the kit man and now there is only one O’Shea but two Ballintubber altar boys. Even Conor as a token gesture is gone. I am not going to take this sitting down. Well I am but I am not at the same time if ye see what I mean.’

Donal said to calm down but it is ok for him and he after getting his place back. Amazing what a free pair of brogues and a pair of Converse canvas can do for a career. Cillian put his hand on my shoulder to comfort me but I just grabbed him and pushed it away. Next thing he was rolling on the dressing room floor again, clutching his face and crying like a banshee. Stephen said well done Cillian, that’s a minimum yellow. I stormed out and slammed the door behind me shouting that they hadn’t heard the last of this. Then I realised I left my comb behind me so it was a bit embarrassing to have to knock, say sorry and then grab the comb and duck back out. But it beats going out with your hair not at its very best. Needs must.

I went home totally dejected and Mammy knew by the way I roared into the drive throwing up the gravel that I was very upset. She said nothing but no sooner had she tidied up my gear and cleaned my boots than she arrived in the TV room with hot chocolate teeming over with marshmallows. She’s great. I watched my compilation of Dermo’s finest moments – which runs to six hours and went to bed. If I’m tired I watch Cillian’s finest moments as they only go on for three minutes. On the way to bed Daddy called me in and said I should consider a career in the legal profession as I spend so much time on the bench so that was nice.

Galway is never kind to a Mayo man and this semi final day was no different. In typical Holmes and Connelly style the bus got delayed for 8 seconds in Ballinrobe but the real issue was Headford for Mass. There was a foreign missionary celebrating it and it was just chaos. We couldn’t make out what he was saying. We stood when we should have knelt, knelt when we should have sat – just disaster. When someone offers you the sign of peace from a kneeling position you know it is chaos. The whole experience shook us.

As usual the weather in Salthill was shocking. Whoever thought of building a holiday town here needs their head examined. The fact that it only survives because it is so popular with Nordies tells its own tale. Bundoran, Salthill and Limerick are the Irish Bermuda triangle … except more bodies have gone missing in the Irish version.

The minor game was cat. Slaughtered again by the Galwegians was a foretaste of what was to come. I got a sense of deja vu about the whole thing before the throw in. Like it was all happening again - for some reason. Galway tore into us and we looked a little off the pace. Same as for the last 66 years. Then Keith committed the unmentionable. Kneeing a guy in the privates. Mammy used to go mad when I did that to Shamie. ‘His voice is high-pitched enough’ she’d say. We were down to 14 and I figured I was bound to be sprung from the bench now as I am worth two players and would even things up. But no. Despite me hounding Stephen he kept saying it was up to Cillian. But he was too busy reffing the match and diving. In fairness he jumped into one of their lads and got him black carded. People think this is random with Cillian but he puts in huge effort and time in training in perfecting this and credit should be given for that.

I kept asking him at half time. ‘Can I go on?’ I did it like in the car when we are going for a spin on Sundays and I ask ‘Are we there yet?’ I must have asked about twenty times. Even Kevin Mc said ‘Jaysus Aidan will you stop – you can have my fecking place if you stop.’ Then I started adding in ‘please’ and the please was getting longer every time. Like pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease. I was enjoying it now and had forgotten what I was asking for after a while and then the second half was starting and I remembered. I was just about to go doing a few selfies with the crowd when Stephen said ‘take your top off’. ‘Great’ I said, ‘Am I coming on?’ ‘No’ he said, ‘I’m just a bit cold’. Just then Cillian roared over ‘Plan Z’. Stephen roared back ‘Last resort?’ and he said yes. Then my number went up.

The hairs stood on the back of my neck as I waited to go on. I had forgotten to brush them at half time. The crowd were going mad and I heard Mammy shouting ‘Ya big thick fecker!’ which shocked me. Then I realised I was replacing Shamie so she was obviously not pleased with Stephen and it was aimed at him. She hates when we’re on the bench and hates it even more when we’re taken off so she was going right off on one. She’s great.

When I came on we suddenly had everything we were lacking – power, pace, stamina and sheer good looks. I did some pretty amazing things but while I may be a bit stubborn I am not a pack mule who can carry thirteen men on his back. Once again Cillian couldn’t find the target with a gale force wind behind him and Evan Regan had a couple of Aido-type efforts that would only trouble a barn door. Before I knew it the final whistle blew and there we were – gone.

I warmed down right where Flynn could see me and then stormed into the dressing room. Then I picked up the gear bag and stormed back out again. I am getting really good at this storming lark. And I didn’t forget the comb this time either. Mammy was waiting in the car park – I think she was gunning for Cillian and Stephen because she had the Club Mayo umbrella swinging. I told her to leave it so. She huffed a bit and then said she’d take us to our favourite ice cream parlour in Salthill where we always used to go as kids. It was great and totally made up for being knocked out of the Connacht championship. Conor, Shamie and myself were pouring over the menu when the man asked Daddy what he was having. ‘A shit Sunday’ he said but your man said he only had fudge or caramel sundaes. We all laughed our heads off – even Mammy. ‘Three tubs for three tubs’ said Daddy. ‘Do you want nuts in them?’ ‘Will ya stop’ said Daddy ‘I’ve enough nuts to last me a lifetime.’

Sure life isn’t all bad. Roll on the qualifiers … again.

Christmas in Breaffy (December 2018)

‘C’mon lads we’ll be late – hurry up. Conor give Aidan some of that Brylcreem – look at the fecking state of his head.’

‘Leave me alone - It’s the fashion Ma – mullets are go!’

Jesus I hate Christmas! Now it’s all kicking off with Shamie and Ma.

“I’m thirty feckin two - why do I have to go to midnight mass?”

“As long as you’re in this house, eating my turkey and using my curling tongs you’ll go to mass. If them O’Connors can still be serving on the altar then you can be going and saying a few prayers. Anyways ye all look great in the new Arran jumpers and I want to show off my boys.” Mammy. She’s great.

“Prayers?” said the oul lad, waking up and not long back from going out for the papers at four. “Prayers? Well by the good sweet Lord and baby Jesus but even having Knock in the county hasn’t made a blind bit of difference to Mayo so I can’t see what a few prayers will do. We could be in feckin’ Lourdes and we’d still not even win the FBD.”

Mammy shot him a withering look. The look that says ‘If you don’t button it and get off your hole you’ll be having the Christmas dinner through a straw.’ He jumped up – smacking Conor in the back which caused him to rub Brylcreem in his eyes. It was hilarious. He was jumping around saying ‘My eyes, my eyes – they’re on fire.’ I said ‘You should rub some on your feet then before you play a match!’ Shamie laughed heartily – Mammy even grinned but pretended not to.

I hate Christmas Eve. Ever since my 21st when Shamie told me there was no Santa I have never enjoyed it. Once the Toy Show is over that’s Christmas done for me. And Ryan Tubridy is a gobshite too. Never ever replied to my letters to go on the show. As Daddy often says, they have all manner of nobodies on that show yet they won’t have the biggest and best one of all.

At least it was a short year and a fairly successful one too as we didn’t get beaten by the Dubs. I was in a club in Crossmolina in August and this arsehole starting abusing me. So I said to him ‘look at all the money I saved you this year you feckin’ eejit – not having to go to Croker at all’. He soon changed his tune and poured the drink into me for the night. Jesus we were well tanked. I tried to shift his girlfriend but he was having none of it. Turned out it was his sister.

I told Mammy I was thinking of going to Dublin to study or work in the New Year. She nearly had a heart attack. We had the doctor up and he did all kinds of tests and he told us she had a variation of aids but not as serious – it was called Aidos. She didn’t want to let me go. She’s great. Daddy was more supportive. He said it would be good for me to open my mind and that there was a first time for everything - so that was good. Conor already baggseyed the top bunk over Shamie.

I had rang my good mate Dermo to see if I could play with him if I went to Dublin. I heard his club has lots of country lads and if Varley can get a game, then … I still wear Dermo’s shirt every night instead of pyjamas. Mammy goes mad because my legs do be cold and it’s very tight on my chest - and it hasn’t ever been washed. I can actually smell Dermo off it. Gas - and lovely too.

Dermo didn’t call back but anyway he texted me a number to ring. So I got onto this lad from Finian’s in Newcastle who got promoted this year and he said they were looking for a few subs so that could be good. He said if I transferred to them I would be at my level and that they would also wear red and green. That was very sound of him.

I was actually in Dublin during the Summer picking up the Mayo Nurses in Dublin Hairstyle of the Year Award and I bumped into Dean Rock. He was very nice and even gave me a GPS so I wouldn’t get lost. I said I’d send it back to him but he said not to bother as he got it off a Mayo lad anyway.

But it all got me thinking that if I was playing club football in Dublin I might as well go the whole hog and play intercounty for them. Imagine what I would bring to the table. They could become the best team in Ireland with me. I have always thought their midfield was light. They had a young lad called Fenton who I think is a flash in the pan. It’s not easy to become an intercounty superstar - I know. And this kid has suffered. Just last week he was playing in a team that lost to Meath – ha. Meath. He clearly will not make it – so I’m thinking of letting them have me.

The biggest problem is Mammy. She always says that we bleed green and red. One time Shamie said that must be a nose bleed and she went ballistic. But she’s great. I don’t know if I could play for Jim Gavin though. He seems like the kind of guy who is in charge of everything and knows what he’s doing. I doubt I’d be able to tell Jim how to run things like training and team selection. Now that would be strange.

Cluxton worries me too. Could I play with a robot? We had great craic with our goalies and our own Stephen. The night before any All Ireland semi or final we would all put a post-it on our heads with a keeper’s name and whichever keeper got the most got to play. It was great because it meant an All Star for the other one.

Anyway it’s all ahead of me and I can think of it over Christmas … but for now, I have to finish this letter.

Dear Santa

I don’t really believe in you but just in case. Danny Healy Rae says there are fairies and who knows but there is one thing I would really like if you are listening to me. I don’t even want my present until another nine months. Anyhow, back in 1951 this priest said …

Nollaig Shona Daoibh go léir …

A New Dawn (January 2019)

Jesus I am really looking forward to this new season more than ever before. The new manager is great. His attention to detail is amazing. He was taking a sip from his coffee yesterday and immediately copped that there was only two sugars in it instead of three. Very impressive. He sacked the tea lady immediately – or coffee lady I should say – which showed everyone that there will be no messing this year. All the catering staff have had their warning.

He seems so familiar too. Like I met him before somewhere but it just won’t come to me. The lads were cracking on that we were getting the old bosses back. The two lads that wouldn’t let us pick the team? Ha! No chance!

It was great craic ringing around the lads to tell them they were still on the panel. We had some gas in the house when we put them on the speaker phone. Shamie would say ‘Hey Boyler, how are things?’, ‘Grand, Shamie, raring to go’. ‘Well Boyler, you see me and the brother and the altar boys were talking there and to be honest now, you’re getting quare old, so this year we’re going with the younger lads.’ ‘Ah, fuckit, Shamie – you’re not serious. I’ve pissed blood for Mayo, Please. One more go.’ Well we fell around the place. ‘Beg’ says Conor. ‘Pleeeeeeeease, pretty please. Pretty, pretty please’ cries Boyler. He heard us laughing then and Jesus the language that came down the phone. ‘Ye hooors, ye f**kin’ hoors ye’. Mammy walked in the room then and was not impressed. ‘Boyle ’ she says – ‘young Colm Boyle – is that you filling my house full of the Lord’s worst words? The perpetual light under the sacred heart picture here is after blowing.’ Well he was mortified. ‘Sorry, Mrs O’ he says, ‘I’ll be around with a bulb in the morning’ – and fair play, he was.

Chris and Andy want to go again too. Daddy says it’s getting like Dad’s Army. ‘These lads weren’t good enough in their prime’ he said. ‘Ye might as well get Mortimer, McHale and McDonald back. I didn’t see McEnroe winning many Wimbledons in his 50s but at least he won them in his 20s.’ Mammy told him that the only thing Daddy won in his 20s was her. She is great.

Actually Andy invited us to use his gym and offered to do a weights programme. He is giving us a 20% discount rising to 30% for anyone who passes to him. Leeroy said he’d pass on the weights as he has been carrying dead weights for years. Fair play – I never knew he did that. No wonder he’s so strong.

Cillian is still recovering from injury. His surgery went well because it can be a sore operation but hopefully the elbow sharpening will pay dividends later in the year.

We had our awards night over the New Year and it felt a bit strange to be honest. Normally we get all the All Stars but this year we got none. Not even our goalkeeper! I suppose that’s because we were out of the hunt for Sam in June and even broke a very long Mayo tradition by not getting to lose in Croke Park in 2018. The fans won’t forgive us too easily for that. Instead we played in some club grounds in Kildare or somewhere. I thought it was a friendly because it seemed to be a Tesco car park. Anyways apparently it was a Championship game and next thing there we were – gone.

But the Awards themselves were great. Keith got best newcomer even though he is in the team 12 years. Kev Mc got best excuse for missing training with his ‘sprained thumb playing Fortnite’ and myself, Shamie, Diarmuid and Cillian shared the Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year again. The ladies awards ended up a bit of a fiasco when 15 of the panel walked out on health and safety grounds. The last remaining two lads from the 1951 team were invited on the night to receive their Novichok Awards but didn’t bother turning up for some reason.

I have to say I was raging to see Denis Bastick appearing on Dancing With the Stars – he’s not even a star. Sure what has he ever won? I asked Des Cahill to put a word in for me but there’s the Dublin mafia for you again and their D4 bias. The same people that made a show out of our own hard working Pee Flynn.

I wouldn’t mind but Conor also wrote to Ireland’s Fittest Family five times to see if we could get on the celebrity version. You’d think they would be honoured to have Mayo’s royal family but no we were snubbed again. Daddy said we’d have got on no bother if it was Ireland’s Fattest Family – well if you saw the look mammy gave him.

Training is going well anyway and we have the Sheepstealers, as Daddy calls them, in our first League game this week. I want to take the League seriously but I find it hard to get motivated when we still haven’t had the Super Bowl. Speaking of sheep and the Super Bowl, it is great to see the Rams in the Final. The only team that could be better supported in Mayo would be the Los Angeles Ewes but there’s no such team.

But at least we have Donie back in midfield at the weekend. Shamie asked him a month ago ‘what can you bring to the party this year?’ Donie replied ‘A pair of Clarke’s and a pair of Reebok trainers for each member of the squad.’ Now that’s dedication - and it’s why lads like Donie remain an integral part of the squad.

The new manager wants us to lay down in the League. What’s new?! Actually no – now that I think of it he said he wants us to lay down a marker in the league. But with an average age of 46 in the panel and the fact that the league clashes with the St Paddy’s Day and Easter drinking sessions I’m not sure about this. There is an old saying ‘win the League in haste and repent in the Championship at leisure.’ And as I pointed out to the lads, Kerry won the League in 2017 but didn’t win Sam. Then Evan started saying that Dublin did both in 2013, 2105, 2016 and 2018 - which was actually totally irrelevant to what I was saying. That’s why we don’t like new lads – they’re too bloody cheeky.

I’m named in my favourite position – centre half forward, where I can be the playmaker and pull the strings. I remind myself of Modric, though I’m obviously better looking. The boss pulled me aside after training the last night and asked me to set myself a target of two scores. I nearly died. ‘Two scores in the one game?’ I asked him. ‘No,no, Aido’ he says, ‘two scores for the year.’ I think I can do that. Especially if we play Sligo or Leitrim or a few Division 4 teams in the back door.

Anyway I’m raring to go. Just the other night I said to Daddy that I feel like a coiled spring and he said that’s funny because you look like one too. As Mammy says ‘go out there and do your best and if it’s not good enough it’s because the rest of the team are useless.’ She’s great.


#4

Why the new thread Dubby?


#5

Just to put them all together in one place. I think there were a couple more on the old site before @tayto destroyed it when the cops called looking for the other stuff but I don’t have them. If anyone happens to have saved them that’d be great.


#6

There has to be a backup… Like when Kev Mac runs at the Kerry defence


#7

Alas not.


#8

Hey I only took over running the site after the data loss!


#9

Thank God for that… A safe pair of hands. The clucko of web administration and moderation.


#10

@DUB09 Brilliant stuff a Chara .

Lads, I think @DUB09 is actually living in Brazil and writes all the other shite to throw us off the scent…