All-Ireland final day is underway, and the story of an ancient hex still looms. Through discovering the history of curses in Irish culture and alike, the truth about the Mayo curse has at last been revealed.
In Ireland’s national sport of Gaelic football, a 70-year-old curse has allegedly prevented Mayo’s senior team from winning the all-Ireland final year after year.
The curse is widely discussed even today after Mayo has fallen short in ten All-Ireland finals since their last win in 1951. The team has also had several near misses in semi-finals over the years.
Since beating Dublin in this year’s semi-final and ending their reign of six All-Ireland titles in a row, Mayo has given their fans hope. But could this finally be their year?
We’ve decided to re-examine the legitimacy of the curse. Thus, deciding whether it will have any effect on the results of this year’s All-Ireland final between Mayo and Tyrone.
After talking to both a former sports commentator and a folklore expert about the subject, we reveal the truth about the Mayo curse.
An expert on curses – giving us the lowdown
To learn more about curses, we talked to Lillis Ó Laoire, the Irish professor at NUI Galway who specialises in folklore, literature, and culture.
“Cursing is a hallowed tradition in many cultures, Ireland being only one,” Ó Laoire says.
“A curse occurs when an individual or a group incur the wrath of another by transgressing a social taboo, such as inflicting harm on a defenceless person or failing to pay sufficient respect.”
By this definition, Ireland has seen many curses concerning sport. A woman by the name of Biddy Early is said to have cursed the men of Clare.
And, according to rumour, Galway’s hurling team was cursed by a priest in 1923. But what exactly is the Mayo curse?
The truth about the Mayo curse – 70 years of defeat
This story takes place after Mayo defeated Meath in the All-Ireland final 70 years ago.
It is said that the victorious Mayo team failed to pay their respects to a passing funeral while on their way home from Dublin after winning the match.
Seeing this, a passing priest cursed them. He stated that the Mayo senior team would not win an All-Ireland final until all the 1951 team members died.
The curse rings true today, as Mayo has not won the Sam McGuire cup since then. Now, only one member of that team, Paddy Prendergast, still lives today.
Should we believe in this hex, then? – it all adds up
We spoke to Seán Ó Gráinne, a proud Mayo man and former sports commentator for TG4, to discover his thoughts.
“No,” says Seán. “I think that the whole notion of the curse is merely a myth born out of a rumour.”
Meanwhile, Ó Laoire suggests that a curse like this one is only powerful because of what it does to our minds and bodies.
“In the past, poets would make biting satires about chieftains or kings who failed in their duty to be generous to their people.
“It is recorded in the Annals of Ireland that the poets satirised an Englishman and he died because of it. The poems could cause boils to erupt on the face of the person attacked.
“The face was a symbol of one’s honour. If blemishes appeared on the face of a high-ranking nobleman (and it was usually men who were satirised), that was a sign that they were guilty of the wrong they had been accused of.”
This links back to Mayo as the psychological effect of that curse could be physically exhausting for the team.
“The psychology of cursing probes weaknesses and uncertainties in the human character,” Ó Laoire says. “The pressure on an individual or team in a high-stakes competition is immense, and that pressure can sometimes feel like a curse.”
How can a curse like this be broken? – the question on Mayo’s lips
Clearly, the Mayo team must rely on hard work and confidence. Perhaps they will finally reveal the truth about the Mayo curse at this year’s final.
Will it be Mayo or Tyrone who takes the crown?
According to Ó Gráinne, a sneaking gut feeling tells him that this could finally be Mayo’s turn. However, he will not be surprised if Tyrone wins as they’re a very talented team. Ó Laoire thinks the same.
“As an Ulsterman, I would usually have a strong wish for Tyrone to win,” he says. “But I must say that I am leaning heavily toward Mayo this year.”
You can catch Mayo and Tyrone in this year’s All-Ireland senior football final on 11 September at 5 pm on RTE and Sky Sports. Alternatively, you can watch online with GAAGO.
It seems the truth about the Mayo curse might finally be revealed!