|A dejected Colm Boyle of Mayo after another losing the All-Ireland final on Sunday at Croke Park. Source: rte.ie|
The demons appeared again, right on schedule, during the second half of the All-Ireland football final in Croke Park in Dublin on Sunday afternoon.
It appeared for a time that Mayo, the Chicago Cubs of Irish sport, lovable losers of seven All-Ireland final appearances since their last victory in 1951, would finally remove the curse and defeat Dublin.
At the Irish American Center in Mineola, Long Island where over 500 had gathered, mostly Mayo fans, you could almost feel the Red and Green supporters relax a little as the team started well and were ahead by a point at halftime.
Several times, including last year, Mayo had been blown out of the game by the first 10 minutes. Last year Donegal had the All-Ireland final won before people were warm in their seats with two early goals.
I had witnessed the same scene a few years back in person when Kerry was the opposition and Mayo folded like a cheap card table after just a few minutes.
Sunday felt different though, and the crowd at the Irish Center, like hundreds of thousands of Mayo folk across the world, felt their confidence rise as the team eked out an early lead and looked at least 50-50 for victory as the second half began.
Then came the demons.
Suddenly passes that had been accurate in the first half went astray, tackles were missed, scores conceded.
But then Mayo, with a fine goal of their own, set the game on fire, and suddenly it was game on with only minutes remaining.
But try as they might the nervous legacy of failed final titles came back to haunt Mayo, and Dublin spurted ahead again with a clinching goal.
Mayo kept it close, losing in the end by a single point, but in truth Dublin, who looked even more nervous at the start, were full value for their victory.
Fro the Mayo fans in Croke Park, in Long Island, all over America, Canada, Britain and Australia, it was the familiar heartache, left standing at the altar without the bride one more time.
The long trek homeward after the final without the Sam Maguire Cup must have been a heartbreaking one, as it was for their many fans all over the world.
Even the familiar phrase of “wait ‘till next year” rings that bit more hollow when seven “next years” have gone by without a single trophy.
Few counties have felt the chill of forced emigration like Mayo has, and few counties have endured such heartbreak on the playing fields.
But they are an indomitable lot, surely ready to start the trek all over again next year when they will start as near favorites again to win the All-Ireland.
On Sunday it is fair to say 31 counties of the 32 were cheering for them, but despite that Mayo fell short.
There is talk of a curse, but that seems like a latter day invention and Mayo people will have none of it.
Hope springs eternal. The mother beside me at the Irish Center with her young child in her lap and her red and green necklace and jersey remained upbeat.
“We’ll be back,” she said confidently, giving her child a hug. “He’ll grow up knowing Mayo have won an All-Ireland.”
I hope he doesn’t have to wait too long like the rest of us.