No Gaelic Athletic Association football county has endured more anguish and disappointment in the quest for the Sam Maguire Cup than Mayo. Over half a century has passed since Mayo were the All-Ireland football champions. That year, 1951, has become a bright and poignant touchstone and, while the county has produced glittering football players and achieved many days of glory since, the grand prize has eluded them ever since. From the bleak '70s, when Mayo failed to win even a provincial championship to the soul-wrenching defeat against Meath in 1996, added to the numbing September losses to Kerry in recent years, Mayo supporters might be forgiven for thinking the gods enjoy toying with them. Five All-Ireland final losses sum up a modern period of near-glory and ultimate despair. But for all that, there is an abiding magnificence to Mayo football. They keep pressing and have never compromised the open, often flamboyant style of play for which the county has been celebrated. And the Mayo public, always among the most passionate crowds in Ireland, keep the faith that 2007 will be the year. During a season when cult hero John O'Mahony finally returned to manage his native county, awa
Keith Duggan has been a sportswriter with the Irish TImes for eight years. He won the McNamee Prize for Best Feature in a National Newspaper in 2003 and was named Irish Sports Journalist of the Year at the 2004 National Media Awards. He is also the author of The Lifelong Season.