Into The Archives – Mayo v Sligo

Posted: July 13, 2012 in GAA
Tags: , ,

CONNAUGHT finals have traditionally been the concern of Mayo and Galway. With 43 Nestor cups to their name, Mayo will hope to draw level with Galway on 44 titles with a win against Sligo on Sunday.

Those pesky sheep stealers – aka Roscommon, and no stealers isn’t a misprint – have been known to spoil the Mayo/ Galway monopoly on quite a number of occasions with a respectful 20 titles to their name.

As for Sligo, their record is not so impressive. To quote their Nobel Prize winner W.B Yeats, their record “is a load of sh**e,” with just three wins to date, just one more than Leitrim.

Having said that Sligo have had the better of Mayo in recent years and history has proven they always put up it up to Mayo on the big day. I’ve been trawling through the archives and my own hazy memory, to try and unearth some of the more controversial and entertaining of these encounters.

 

Sligo 0-1 Mayo 1-1 – Connaught SFC Round 1 Replay, Showgrounds, 19th June 1927 (Match Abandoned after 12 minutes, Mayo awarded match)

If you believe Pat Spillane’s endless eulogies about the good old days when football was pure, referees were good and everyone shook hands at the final whistle, then the Connaught Semi Final replay of 1927 is proof that things weren’t always so wholesome back in the good old days.

When Sligo won the original encounter in Castlerea by two points, you would’ve presumed that was it, case closed. Not so. In those days simply winning on the field was not enough. The Connaught Council in their infinite wisdom decided the game had to be replayed because the senior and junior games had not started on time. A big price to pay for the tardy Sligo men.

Given the backdrop, the replay was never going to be the most harmonious affair and it took all of 12 minutes of the replay for things to take a turn for the worse. Mayo scored a goal that was initially disallowed by the officials, only for the decision to be overturned seconds later and the goal awarded by referee, Tom “Indecisive” Shevlin.

What happened next would even make Louth fans blush with shame. After two of the Sligo team walked off the field in disgust, the referee was surrounded and according to The Connaught Telegrapgh, “there was jostling from one end of the field to another amid shouts of ‘Up Sligo’, ‘Give us back our money’, others shouted ‘Give it to him.’”

The Western People reported that there were enough Gardai present “to prevent him from getting a bad mauling,” before he was escorted to the local station. The joys of being a referee.

The gentile Mayo team, who offered to forgo the disputed goal, were awarded the match but went on to lose the final to Galway. As for Sligo, they managed to get a full complement of players back on the field the following year to win their first ever Connaught title.

 

Sligo 2-10 Mayo 0-15 – Connaught SFC Final Replay, McHale Park, 20th July 1975

The final of 1975 is one for all you GAA romantics out there as Sligo claimed their first title since 1928. It was a win long overdue especially for the likes of Sligo legends, Barnes Murphy and the immortal Mickey Kearns. The Dromard man, Sligo’s first All – Star, scored 1-4 that day and finally claimed a Connaught medal, 14 years after he made his debut.

The sides had finished level the first day in Markevich Park with Mayo coming from behind to level it late on. So it was off to McHale Park for the replay, with a fresh-faced John O’Mahony lining out at corner back for the home side.

Sligo held on for the narrowest of wins in the end triggering a huge outpouring of joy among the Yeats men; Tom Courell of the Western People, described the scene:

“The drudgery of countless seasons in the doldrums; the disasters, the frustrations and the agony of failure were swept away in the enthusiasm which ignited in McHale Park...The chant which rose from all corners of the ground – packed to capacity – must have echoed around Benbulben.”

It must still have been echoing a few weeks later when they met the irresistible force of Kerry in the semi – final. Not the first Connaught side to get a pasting from kerry, nothing could take away from Sligo’s sweetest victory.

 

Mayo 0-11 Sligo 1-7 – Connaught SFC Final, Hyde Park, 3rd August 1997

Selected highlights of the year 1997 include; a cloned sheep, the release of Harry Potter and ehh Titanic. Lowlights also include the release of Titanic, the election of Bertie and Evander Holyfield’s ear. If forced to categorise it, the Connaught Final of 1997 would definitely be in the same category as the unfortunate Mr. Holyfield’s mangled ear.

It was a dour game that Mayo scraped by a point thanks in the main to some steady free taking from Maurice Sheridan and some not so steady free taking from Sligo. Significantly, this was the last time the counties met in a Connaught Final and like next Sunday, Mayo went into the game as hot favourites. Take note James Horan.

There was some controversy however, and low and behold it again involved a referee. This time it was Mick Curley prematurely blowing for full time with at least two minutes of injury time still to be played.

It was a nice change from the usual play for the draw, get another day out, GAA attitude but Sligo were denied a chance to secure the draw they probably deserved. In the wake of the game, John Melvin of The Connaught Telegraph, had a novel idea for getting rid of the draw altogether in case of future incidents.

“The decision will be based on such important matters as colour of the team strip, the team with the best march behind the band prior to the throw in, best groomed full forward, and, most importantly, the manager with the most hair on his legs.”

Having lost their best groomed forward this week, Mayo should be glad this proposal never reached congress.

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