By Cian O’Connell for gaa.ie
Kevin McLoughlin is long enough on the inter-county beat with Mayo to know that anybody with green and red blood won’t rest easily until Sam Maguire is hoisted.
That is simply the way it is. McLoughlin has been involved in epics and near misses, but the adventure continues.
A bond exists between the Mayo team and a loyal, unstinting army of supporters, who are relishing the latest journey.
“The Mayo fans are fantastic, they travel, they are loud, they do everything to support the team, they do as much as a supporter can, it is great, we are very proud of them,” McLoughlin admits.
“Mayo people are crazy, football mad, they just love football.” Throughout the county flags are flying, Mayo are back in late August action.
A seventh All Ireland SFC Semi-Final in a row is imminent, but the manner of Mayo’s Quarter-Final replay triumph over Roscommon bodes well according to McLoughlin.
“Before the last game we probably hadn’t put in a big team performance, fairly scraping over the line, but the most important thing for us is getting through the qualifiers,” McLoughlin says. “Even if it is by the skin of our teeth, it is good to get those games.
“We always have that belief because we know if we do our stuff right we can perform. It is good to have got that performance, but for Kerry the next day we are going to have to do it more.
“They are going to pose a different type of opposition to us. Unfortunately you cannot be hoping that you just do the same as you did the last day.”
During much of the past decade McLoughlin has operated in a plethora of different roles for Mayo. The Knockmore clubman isn’t bothered what role he fulfils. “Look, as long as I’m on the pitch I’m pretty happy,” McLoughlin, a maths and science teacher in Rice College, Westport, remarks.
“I know it might sound like a cliche to a certain extent, but most guys will play anywhere you ask them to. My background was as a back originally, but I kind of graduated to the forwards.
“Playing in the backs to a certain extent last year, I didn’t mind because I played there before and as I said long as I’m on the pitch I’m a happy guy.
“Pretty much until 2011 I was in the backs. Even in the first half of 2011 I was an out and out wing back, it was probably towards the Championship of ’11 that I got put into the forwards.”
McLoughlin was involved in the two gripping 2014 encounters against Kerry, but he is adamant that those matches don’t carry any relevance ahead of the next instalment.
“No, I’d put it this way, all of our analysis and stuff we won’t be looking back on that game,” McLoughlin replies.
“We have played them a good few times since then, in the League even this year, down in Kerry. So they are the types of games we will be judging this on, we are taking this as its own game, it is no reflection of 2014.”
Resilient and resourceful, Mayo’s story lingers on. When asked whether all the harrowing defeats have made Mayo stronger and more determined to scale the summit in September, McLoughlin offers an interesting response.
“I don’t know can you measure that, but one thing is for sure, we are all striving for the same goal,” he says.
That will always be the case in the west where Mayo’s passion for the game and glory endures.