There is a Tide

I was thinking about what I would say to The Mayo Team, if I had to say something to them, before they set foot on the hallowed turf of Croke Park for the 2017 GAA Football Final. 

What could I say to a team who have fought so hard and so well for months and for years to achieve their goal and who now, once more, stand on the threshold.

I would take a little Shakespeare, Julius Caesar in fact, and I would shamelessly iron it out a little to take the tang of ancient language from it. 

And I would say this:

Like that great ocean by which we choose to live our lives, 
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Take it at its flood and it will carry us on to great fortune.
Miss it and the voyage of our lives will be confined forever to shallow waters.
On such a full tide we are now afloat.
We will seize this current.
And on it, we shall win.

And what of the hoards of travelling fans? So many years they have trooped to Croke Park, hoping against hope, supporting with faith ,respect and boundless enthusiasm. Each time met with cruel failure at the final hurdle. What could I say to them?

Again, I would mangle up some lovely Shakespeare to suit my purpose. This time, it would be a famous speech by Prince Hal from Henry V. For the good Mayo Folk who will once more go to Croke to stand with their team, I would say this.

We come with high hopes.
We could not wish for more.
And anyone who has no stomach for this fight,
Let them leave now. We won’t stand in their way.
For we would not wish to fail in the company of anyone who fears to fail with us.

This day will be called ‘Mayo’s Day’.
He that survives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand up tall whenever that day is named,
And will rouse himself at the name of Mayo.

He that shall live through this day, and see old age,
will come to his neighbours every year on this Eve,
and say 'To-morrow is Mayo’s Day'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I got on Mayo’s Day.'

Old men forget much but they will well remember
The things they did on this day.
Then shall those names.
Familiar in their mouth as household words
O’Shea, Keegan and Moran,
Higgins and Dylan, O’Connor and Clarke,
Be in their flowing glass freshly remembered.

This story shall every good man teach his son;
And September shall never again go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered
We few, we happy few.
We Band of Brothers;

And gentlemen in Mayo now safe in their bed
Shall think their own selves cursed that they were not there.
And they will hold their manhoods cheap 
While any man speaks.
That stood with us.
Upon Mayo’s Day.

Maigh Eo Abú!


Jim Murdoch said...

You might as well be writing in a foreign language, Ken. I had to look up everything. Needless to say I’m not a big sports fan. Or a mid-sized sports fan. Or even an itsy bitsy teenie weenie sports fan. I just don’t get the attraction. I’ve never attended a football match in my life. I played rugby (union) at school but since I was the right winger the ball rarely reached me and when it did as the fastest boy in the school my remit was simple: run like the clappers and don’t drop the ruddy thing. Needless to say most of my games were spent jogging up and down a field doing sod all apart from getting some exercise and fresh air.

I’m not fond of crowds—they make me feel uncomfortable at best and it takes little for that discomfort to seep into abject terror—which is another big reason why I not only avoid sporting events but any form of concert where there aren’t comfy seats and a symphony orchestra or a bunch of actors strutting and fretting onstage. And even there I’m happiest in an aisle seat. I’m the same when I go to the pictures.

I don’t even watch sport on TV any more. The last thing I made a point of watching was the 2013 Wimbledon final (the one where Andy Murray finally won) and I can’t say I was terribly impressed. After witnessing the 1980 Wimbledon Championship where Björn Borg defeated John McEnroe after a twenty minute tiebreaker pretty much every tennis match fell short of my expectations after that. I had the same experience with snooker after watching Hurricane Higgins make his famous comeback in the 1983 UK Championship: at the start he trailed Steve Davis 0–7 but ended up winning 16-15.

My dad wasn’t a big sports fan either. The only thing he watched with any regularity wad the wrestling on a Saturday afternoon: he was a huge anti-fan of Mick "The Man You Love to Hate" McManus; loved to see him take a beating, not that he was often beaten. I do have memories of the two of us kicking a ball about on the green patch by the sports factory at the end of our street but that was it. My sister used to watch the cricket with Dad from time to time. Now that is a game I really don’t get. I mean, seriously, who wants to spend four or five days watching that? The only thing worse I can image would be being made to sit through the entire Ring Cycle. Actually just the first act of Das Rheingold would be worse.

Ken Armstrong said...

I'm not a huge sporting person myself, Jim, but we are in the eye of the storm here today with historical and even mythological matters at stake. It required a little Shakespeare. :)

You surprised me on the Ring Cycle. I would have had you down as an Inspector Morse type who would gladly spend a Saturday evening tuning in to the Met. :)