Wednesday, May 11, 2005

So. Farewell Then, David Brady

So David Brady is gone at last. After a long and fraught tug of war between the heart and the head, Brady has quit inter-county football at the age of thirty.

Brady was never loved in the county the way Willie Joe was loved, or Liam, or even the way McDanger is getting his due now, after all these years. Brady was never that kind of player, never that kind of fella. Mayo has always worshipped footballing Don Quixotes, anachronisms, romantics, tilters at wildmills, windswept heroes who fleetingly touched glory without having been apprenticed to greatness on the way.

That was never Brady. Brady never did salmon leaps in summer skies like Willie Joe used to, or went on jinking, shimmying runs like Joe Corcoran, or made the ball curl and flicker in the thinning air like McDanger. In style, temperament and approach, it was like Brady wasn't a Mayoman at all. If he had the misfortune to be born under the Primrose and Blue dawn, he would never have to buy his own porter again. Brady was and is hated in the Ross, because in Brady they saw one of their own - a big, strong and honest footballer, who worked and ran all day for the team, who handed out and took belts from all and sundry, and looked on both impostors the same.

Liam McHale inherited the title of God of Midfield from the Lord of the High Low County, Willie Joe himself, but looking back it's now clear that McHale was lacking until Brady stood beside him. Where was midfield when Leitrim staked Mayo out in the sun of the Hyde in '94, or when the hated Tuam hoodoo enjoyed its last hurrah against Mayo in '95? But in 1996 Brady stood by McHale's side, and the two dominated midfields in Connacht and beyond, for club and county, for as long as either could stand to be in the other's company.

Brady made the difference to the Stephenites and to Mayo in his time, dragging the Stephenites to the club final in 1999 when he and McHale were all they had. Midfield in any game belonged to the green and red when McHale and Brady were in harness, but Brady's contribution was only easy to see after he was gone, and there was a void left in his place.

At time of writing, it looks like the Mayo midfield will be McGarrity and Billy Joe Padden, a alliance between a basketballer and an artisan, just as McHale and Brady were allied in the generation before them. But Padden the younger is smaller than Brady, less physically imposing, and possibly lacks Brady's devil, the torment of losing, of not being the best. All Mayo wishes the two young men well, of course, but it is a pity that the Heather County has lost another hero, a hero, like his team-mate James Horan, the Flying Kiwi from Ballintubber, who was never fully appreciated in his time.