“They are a lot better than what you see out there today” said two men sitting behind me in the terrace at McHale Park on Sunday.
I had to look around, I had to congratulate these two gents on their positivity, Leitrim were losing by over 3 goals at this stage. When I turned around, I could only laugh, the two men were in green and red jerseys and were speaking about Mayo’s “poor” performance.
There wasn’t much to laugh or smile about on Sunday - we all had a snigger at the Mayo man who left his car keys on top of the car roof in his rush to the big game but most of the fun was had before the ball was thrown in. Towards the end of the long and painful game some forced a laugh when Conor Mortimer was brought on for Mayo - but I don’t think it was heartfelt.
Leitrim fans didn’t travel to Castlebar on Sunday expecting a victory, nobody was looking towards a Connacht Final, but they were hopeful of a “tight game” of “keeping up with Mayo.”
I have witnessed Leitrim defeats before, there have been many, but never have I seen the sadness and distress that this massive pounding had on the hard core fans.
Could we have made a better effort if Wayne McKeon didn’t get injured, if Ciaran Egan was still on the panel, if we hadn’t lost all those players to emigration over the years? Those were the big questions that some were asking as they left the battle scene, but the majority of fans departed in silence, heads hung low and car keys in hands.
“There is always next year” a Mayo lad consoled a despaired Leitrim lass, “That’s grand, but about the game in three weeks time?” she queried.
A few compared Leitrim’s devastating defeat to the recent Spain V Ireland game in the Euro 2012 Soccer Championship. On hearing this comparison as we left McHale Park, (we being the few that clinged on for the final whistle) an elderly man from the Carrigallen area retorted “but at least Spain had the decency to just score goals.”
One determined Leitrim kid tried to make another similarity to the Spain V Ireland game, as the crowd filed out, he started singing “The Fields of Athenry” - but this wasn’t Poland, it was Castlebar and no one joined in at the chorus.