Northern Ireland

Mayo hope to end 62-year-old curse at All-Ireland final

Sam Maguire cup
Image caption The last time Mayo won the Sam Maguire cup was in 1951

Some would say Mayo don't have a prayer on Sunday against Tyrone in the All-Ireland gaelic football semi-final.

It has nothing to do with the skills and abilities of the players but a belief in a 62-year-old curse.

Mayo, the three times All-Ireland champions have cruised into Sunday's semi-final, annihilating Galway, Roscommon, London and All-Ireland champions Donegal on their way.

It is in stark contrast to the typical Mayo story.

It has been a depressing six decades for the team's supporters, and it all stems back to their All-Ireland win in 1951.

So what is the supposed curse?

"When the 1951 team were returning to the county after their All-Ireland win, they apparently reached a funeral taking place in one of the towns approaching Castlebar," former Mayo All-Ireland finalist Liam McHale said.

"Apparently some of the lads, maybe enjoying the trip home, angered the local priest who cursed them saying they would never win another All-Ireland while any of the '51 team are alive."

Since Mayo lost another All-Ireland final in September 2012, two more of that famous '51 squad have passed away.

Image caption Former Kerry player and manager Paídí Ó Sé took the same train, at the same time, to Dublin on match day

John McAllister died in September 2012, Mick Mouldering in June.


Today, Paddy Prendergast, Fr Peter Quinn and Paradigm Carney are the only three still alive.

Before Mick Mouldering died, he refuted the curse in James Laffey's book The Road to '51.

"Don't let any anyone tell you, we didn't stop for a funeral," he said.

Whether it is an urban myth or has a little bit of truth, the "curse of 51" has a vibrant heartbeat in western Irish folklore, and with the current players too.

"I first heard of it around the mid-nineties when Mayo reached the All-Ireland final, it's something you hear about, but it's something you take with a pinch of salt," said Mayo player Keith Higgins.

Superstition is rife in sport, particularly the GAA.

Former Kerry player and manager Paídí Ó Sé lived his whole life believing in it.

He took the same train, at the same time, to Dublin on match day and visited the same church at the same time.

Image caption Michael Jordan wore his university shorts under his uniform to every game for almost two decades

"He would wear the same suit to every game, he would wear the same togs to every game he played in," said Paídí 's daughter Neasa.

Paídí wasn't the only one.

Michael Jordan, considered the greatest basketball player of all time, wore his University of North Carolina shorts under his uniform to every game for almost two decades.

Tennis player Björn Borg grew a beard before Wimbledon every year.


He won five straight titles at the All-England club between 1976 and 1980.

Serena Williams is another.

The three-times Wimbledon champion insists on bringing her shower sandals to the court, tying her shoelaces a specific way, bouncing the ball five times before her first serve and twice before her second.

Superstition - reverential to some, to others, it is nonsense.

"I don't believe in the curse," the Mayo manager James Horan said.

"There's always a lot of talk about it in Mayo and specifically the 1951 (squad) and much folklore surrounds that great team. As regards the curse, it's a good story but not one I believe in."

In reality, most supporters agree with Mr Horan. It is a good story, one perhaps not to be taken too seriously.

Image caption Mayo captain Andy Moran said the reason the team hadn't won the last three All-Ireland's was because they were not good enough

But with every passing year without All-Ireland success, urban myth can become ingrained in culture.


In 2011, Mayo playwright Mick Donnellan's first scene in Shortcut to Hallelujah was about a Mayo-Kerry All-Ireland final, where only one of the '51 team was alive.

It was a sell-out in Mayo.

The captain of the Mayo team, Andy Moran, laughed when I asked him if he believed in curses.

"I worked with kids visiting schools last year and they were telling me about the curse," he said.

It's all bit of fun. But the reason I've been in three All-Irelands and haven't won any of them is because we haven't been good enough. It's as simple as that."

Sixty-two years have passed since Mayo last won the All-Ireland.

They are now two steps away from capturing the Sam Maguire Cup for a fourth time in their history, and putting to bed the urban myth which continues to lurk in the background.

Tyrone will hope the myth continues, at least until after the match.