BALLINA, Ireland (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden delighted thousands of locals from his Irish ancestral home of Ballina on Friday when he saved the final words of his Ireland tour to back their Gaelic football team to break a famous decades-long curse.
The proud Irish-American, wrapping up a nostalgic three-day visit to Ireland with a rally in the County Mayo town that his great-great-great-grandfather left for the United States in 1851, got the biggest cheer of the night with three parting words: "Mayo for Sam."
That was a reference to the Sam Maguire Cup that Mayo last won in 1951, when a local priest was said to have put a curse on the team for a lack of respect when their bus passed a funeral on their way home from the final in Dublin.
Ireland's hugely popular national sports of Gaelic football draws capacity crowds of up to 82,000 for the finals each year. Mayo have lost 11 of them since 1989 – and six in the last decade alone.
Mayo's 72-year wait is often compared to similar "curses" that Boston Red Sox fans believed was behind their 86-year wait for a baseball World Series and the 108 years it took the Chicago Cubs to win the same trophy before prevailing in 2016.
"Oh one more thing. Mayo for Sam! Mayo for Sam!" Biden told the Irish and American flag waving crowd, raising his fist in the air.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Editing by Sandra Maler)