Little House on the Prairie is not an obvious starting point for a Super 8s allegory, but of all the virtues required by those who read and write about Mayo football, tolerance of the absurd is paramount, so I urge you to endure.
Season one, episode 6 sees Miss Amy – an elderly grandmother whose family have long taken her for granted -convince the otherwise incorruptible Michael Landon to help her fake her own death in order to lure her grandchildren to her funeral, so she can surprise them and teach them (for there is always a lesson) that it’s better for them to visit her while she’s alive than miss her when she’s gone.
A rather ludicrous premise, which descends further into farce as Miss Amy is faced with the ordeal of attending her own wake, incognito, and hearing just what all her friends and family actually think of her, for good and bad.
A sobering ordeal for anybody, no matter how self-aware. Where Miss Amy and Mayo football collide, is that the westerners have had to sit and watch their remains been very publicly waked and buried, not just once, but perhaps three times a season, before embarrassing the preemptive mourners and revealing themselves to be alive and well, just like Miss Amy.
Unlike Miss Amy however, Mayo don’t have the luxury of the Little House of the Prairie writers’ room to tie up loose ends and serve up a delightful teaching moment.
Mayo may still have a pulse, but you’d urge the undertaker not to throw out the sandwiches just yet.
Imagine now, you are a third level student and have an autumn repeat coming up and you need the Cliff Notes on what has gone on in Mayo football the last year, well, here’s a quick summary: 12 months ago, many commentators — with some justification — pronounced Mayo dead after they fell in Newbridge, as much for the manner of the defeat — all guts and glory — as for those who conquered them, a Kildare side that no All-Ireland contender should ever be losing to.
The grave was all but filled in following the bungled departure of Stephan Rochford, the episode pointing to complications that always lurked beneath the skin, many of them a legacy of the September revolution of 2015.
There was some hope that the reappointment of James Horan would bring a neat “finish to what he started” narrative to the story, but hope don’t buy the groceries, and after dismal losses to Dublin and Galway in this year’s league, the Doc once again pronounced this version of Mayo to be, well, not quite worth saving.
Two months later, as Diarmuid O’Connor bounced up the steps of the Hogan Stand to accept the National League trophy, Mayo were declared healthier than a butcher’s dog, and nominated by many as one of only a couple of teams who could topple Dublin this summer.
Copy so far?
Energised by their latest brush with mortality, Mayo went to New York and threw themselves a party that would have made Jay Gatsby blush, as if celebrating not a rebirth, but prolonged life, as veterans Andy Moran, David Clarke and Colm Boyle had rediscovered reasons to keep living their sporting lives.
Fast forward a few weeks, and yes, you’ve guessed it, the parish priest was sent for as Mayo bottomed out against a good, but not great Roscommon.
The journey it seemed was over, again, and the pearly gates beckoned. Before the postmortem could be carried out, there were some routine tests against Down and Armagh, which Mayo passed, but not with enough conviction to suggest there was anything worth saving.
South to the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick they went, with everyone expecting them to come back in a box, instead emerging as an unstoppable Rasputin. It was back on! Whatever it was.
To Killarney, and the strangest of situations that, while a victory was of course the desired outcome, the right kind of defeat would not be fatal.
It was as if somebody superimposed that aging Face App technology over the entire team. Mayo did not deliberately play possum, but their performance would make you hope they at least have updated their last will recently.
The schizophrenic confusion continues. Victory tomorrow against Meath – far from a done deal – would propel them into the type of Hunger Games scenario with Donegal they love so much.
A loss will see them right back with little old Miss Amy, sitting in the front pew, wearing a fake moustache to conceal their identity, scrolling the obits on their phones and wincing at the eulogies.
All of which they’ve heard before.