I went around Mayo in a Tyrone jersey asking locals to get a picture with a Red Hand flag 6 days ago

I went around Mayo in a Tyrone jersey asking locals to get a picture with a Red Hand flag

It went surprisingly well.

I have never felt more like a celebrity in my life, than last weekend when I was walking through Westport in County Mayo, with my Tyrone top on the same flag proudly flying behind me.

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Cars beeped as they drove by, people murmured as they walked past, heads turned with double glances as they inspected what they were seeing more thoroughly, and I even got a few "God, you're brave," quips thrown my way.

Best of all, it was the ultimate conversation starter in a town full of brilliant characters who would come up to me and ask what exactly all of this was about.

When I explained that I worked for JOE.ie, and wanted to meet the locals to find out what they thought about Tyrone (and even persuade them to wave the flag), it wasn't long before we made best friends with a group.

James Gillespie and Teresa Duffy were two of the first two Mayo-mad fans we bumped into, and not an hour after meeting them, we had all hopped into a taxi to head to Castlebar.

The plan was to hit Mick Byrne's bar, whose owner and namesake is potentially the biggest Mayo fan of all.

Pouring a pint with the legendary Mick Byrne
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After walking into the pub to be greeted with stoney faces of confusion, it didn't take long for the ice to break and everyone to get photos, and remind me about who is really going to win it on Saturday.

Mick himself even insisted that I go behind the bar to get a photo of me pouring a pint in my Tyrone jumper, claiming that I would be the first Tyrone fan to do so.

However, when I asked him to hold the Red Hand flag, his exact words were "over my dead body."

The free pint of Guinness softened the blow, and James and Teresa hurried us off to our next destination as there was someone we "just had to meet."

Next thing I knew, we were interrupting a lovely family dinner at a hotel, with two people that turned out to be none other than the parents of Kevin McLoughlin, the prolific Mayo forward.

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Kevin Senior and Margaret, the parents of Mayo forward Kevin McLoughlin

They happily held the Tyrone flag while passing me a Mayo one, that proudly presented a picture of their All-Star son on it, although they soon insisted that they did in fact have the biggest flag, with yet another 'Up Mayo' streamer that followed.

A few more interviews and then it was back to Danny's bar in Westport where the craic continued. I was even introduced to someone affectionately known as 'Scouse John' or 'Everton John,' a Liverpudlian who moved to Mayo over 20 years ago.

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Despite still having his strong Scouse accent, he was deeply immersed in the GAA, following Mayo and feeling all of the pain that the locals did in their recent All-Ireland final failures.

To summarise, I went down with every intention of getting grief and a fair bit of verbal abuse, but instead made genuine friends and had great craic.

The stories of heartbreak and woe from previous finals and the repeated mantra of "if we don't do it now, we never will," sometimes pulled me out of my stern 'Tyrone fan' mind frame, and caused me to empathise with the Mayo fanatics.

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Honestly, the deep rooted passion, enthusiasm and heart-on-the-sleeve attitude of these fans would nearly convert the most diehard Tyrone lover.

"Nearly" being the key word there.

At the end of it all, a game of football will be played, there will be a winning team and a losing one, but the passion and core values of both of these great counties will always remain.

True Gaels through thick and thin.