| 11.6°C Dublin

comment Last weekend at Croke Park we saw the wild, off-the-charts emotion that only the GAA can inspire

Close

Golfer and Offaly supporter Shane Lowry, centre, celebrates after Offaly lift the U20 All-Ireland football title

Golfer and Offaly supporter Shane Lowry, centre, celebrates after Offaly lift the U20 All-Ireland football title

Golfer and Offaly supporter Shane Lowry, centre, celebrates after Offaly lift the U20 All-Ireland football title

THE essence of a GAA summer perfumed the quavering Saturday night air as Mayo’s delirious tribe gorged on what Hunter S Thompson – a writer with a famously insatiable craving for stimulation – called the meal of life.

Less than 24 hours later, the same heady, intoxicating aroma returned when Offaly, after a long hunger, rose up to seize the top table at Croke Park’s banqueting hall.

These long days are rendered immortal because of the connective tissue they reveal between land and its people.

A sense of place, a celebration of identity, a unity of euphoria.

Family, friends, old ghosts, parish, county.

Home.

Saturday’s taking down of Dublin twisted every Mayo man or woman alive inside out: To reveal a heart pumping green and red lifeblood out to every palpitating cell of their being.

The wild, off-the-charts emotion – an avalanche of rapture, a river of tears, a sonic boom of celebration - was a third rail electrifying Croke Park and James Horan’s team.

Even for those of us made in Dublin, elements of the evening were truly, madly, deeply beautiful.

Erik Erikson, a German-American psychologist and psychoanalyst, is renowned for his theory on the psychological development of human beings.

Close

Mayo players Aidan O'Shea and Ryan O'Donoghue celebrate after their All-Ireland semi-final victory over Dublin

Mayo players Aidan O'Shea and Ryan O'Donoghue celebrate after their All-Ireland semi-final victory over Dublin

Mayo players Aidan O'Shea and Ryan O'Donoghue celebrate after their All-Ireland semi-final victory over Dublin

If his world view can be distilled down to a one-line essence, this might be it: “In the social jungle of human existence, there is no feeling of being alive without a sense of identity.”

Twenty weekend hours in Croke Park delivered powerful, uplifting confirmation of his thesis.

A reminder that Erikson's sense of identity is the magical ingredient, the secret sauce, carrying the GAA championships to a different plain of emotion.

Look at those vivid pictures of Shane Lowry, a global superstar, a major winner, a very wealthy man, lost in the primal rapture of Offaly U20s abducting an All-Ireland Sunday for the first time in almost a quarter of a century.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

The county shirt is tattooed to his frame as a badge of empathy; every pixel of the frame is illuminated by the brightest sunburst of uncontainable happiness.

At that very moment nothing else in the entire universe is of remote significance.

As he embraces his father, Brendan, Shane is the same portrait of absolute joy as he was on that life-changing walk up Portrush’s 18th fairway 25 months earlier, the Open Championship’s Claret Jug awaiting him at the green.

Memories are the architecture from which our identities are constructed.

All those indelible events on the walk through life: Births, marriages, deaths.

For many sons and daughters of Mayo and Offaly, the weekend will enter the elemental pages of their life’s catalogue, a day that touched them at the marrow.

Anybody who has experienced that profound sense of bliss when the county flag is planted on Everest’s roof will have understood the thrill that washed over Croke Park in visceral waves last weekend.

Clare got there after 81 years in 1995. Wexford followed them to Nirvana just a year later. The past 30 years took Donegal, Derry, Armagh and Tyrone on a maiden voyage into All-Ireland orbit.

When Leitrim, with a population that would barely fill Hill 16, surged to a Connacht title in 1994, their world suddenly made absolute sense.

And, in the giddiness of achievement, no sense at all.

The pursuit of that same state of grace will bring Cork’s crimson pilgrims to Dublin in their tens of thousands on this All-Ireland hurling weekend.

Limerick, the game’s mighty standard bearer, are favourites. But the Rebels are fuelled by a 16 year ache as potent as any narcotic.

They are the latest county searching for the elusive alchemy of one of those championship Sundays that renders the recipient as magically alive as on any day they walk the earth.

The populations of Offaly and Mayo – even if the latter are not yet at summer’s summit – were lifted from slumps and slouches last weekend and propelled to that paradise.

On the journey, they were reminded of a timeless truth.

The one announcing that any day the GAA’s magic ticket falls into a county’s grasp is one when even gravity is rendered impotent.

And an entire tribe floats beyond the clouds to some palace in the sky, where sparkle and glitter sequin the soul.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Top Videos





Privacy