Former Mayo manager John Maughan is excited for this weekend’s All-Ireland final, despite the lack of the usual ‘craziness’ surrounding the match.
Dublin will look to go six in a row on Saturday, as they will go head-to-head with Mayo for the Sam Maguire in Croke Park.
Despite the huge occasion, 2020 has not allowed for the usual build-up towards an All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final, as not only is it taking place at Christmas, but COVID restrictions mean that there is much less room for celebrations and idle football chatter.
Speaking on Friday’s OTB AM, the Offaly manager suggested that this year’s final will not be the same as previous years.
“We miss the craziness of it all,” Maughan said. “Everything is virtual, you are afraid to step outside the door in case you bump into anybody.
“Everything is by Skype or WhatsApp groups, and that is where we are reading all the messages.
“We miss the fun, the craic! This time of year, ordinarily, you’d functions, and gigs, and pubs, raffle tickets, fellas travelling from Belmullett to Ballaghaderreen if they heard there was a raffle or a ticket going on.
“[There would usually be] little fundraisers going on for the Mayo team. I recall the local national school here parading around the mall at Castlebar.
“We miss all that; it is not the same. There is going to be an asterisk after this year’s championship unfortunately.”
While he acknowledged that he was one of the people that did not feel the championship should go ahead, Maughan has been encouraged by what he has seen up until this point.
“Nonetheless, the weekend action has been brilliant,” Maughan said. “I didn’t think it would happen, I wasn’t in favour of it.
“I thought there would be a danger of players and management being exposed when we were congregating to train.
“Thankfully we got the games going every single weekend. We have been blessed to have the weekend TV action.”
Although they are not able to come to Dublin for the final this year, Maughan mentioned that the support and excitement in Mayo is always amplified during the All-Ireland Final week.
“Everybody recognises that there is something weird and wonderful about Mayo supporters and I am privileged to have witnessed it myself,” Maughan said.
“They are fantastic. They [under normal circumstances] come out of Croke Park on Sundays having suffered another defeat in a final or a semi-final, and you hear ‘never, ever again’.
“But they are the first to look at and chase down a ticket; that is the way it will always be, because there is something special about our Mayo support.
“We are missing that bit of craic, but nonetheless we are privileged to have [the final on Saturday].”
Can it be a Mayo miracle?
As the day is getting closer, Maughan admitted to becoming more and more excited, even going as far as to call up his friends and colleagues to see if they think that Mayo could actually do it.
“It would just be wonderful,” Maughan said. “I would love the likes of the Lee Keegans, the Colm Boyles, the Tom Parsons the way he was carried off the pitch two years ago [to see Mayo win].
“I would be honoured and delighted as a Mayo person, and [I think] the whole country would rejoice.
“You see the way Chicago is lit up in the green and red, all around Europe and New York. There is big support there for Mayo.
“I am getting a little bit desperate here. I am running around to my friends and trying to organise a cup of coffee to see have things changed [in the team].
“We do that quite regularly with a bunch of guys, Willie Joe Padden, Martin Kearney, Tom O’Reilly and Henry Gavin, guys that would have played the game. We have bisected and dissected this thing.”
Although Dublin remain the favourites heading into the game, Maughan thinks that this year could yet be a good one for Mayo.
“The collective cohesion and the drive and the passion that Mayo bring to Dublin, I am just hoping that will bubble to the surface when they see that sky blue jersey,” Maughan said.
“It is a time of the year for miracles, so who knows?”