On the same day that he was named as an All-Star nominee for the fifth time, Chris Barrett today announced his retirement as an inter-county player. He’s the fifth Mayo player to do so since the start of the year and the official announcement from Mayo GAA is here.
Chris Barrett was another one of the famed Class of 2006, a team that swept to All-Ireland U21 success that year. The bulk of that side then went on to backbone the county’s Senior team over the course of the last decade and more.
Although he’s only 33, Chrissy’s time on the Senior panel stretched to thirteen years. He made 85 appearances in all at Senior level, 47 of them in the Championship and he was in the heart of the action – where he always wanted to be – in the full-back line in the All-Ireland final against Dublin just before Christmas. It was a fitting final stand for a great warrior.
The National League game under the lights against Derry at Celtic Park back in February 2008 was when the Belmullet man made his competitive debut for the county. That was quite the evening for first appearances, in fact, with manager John O’Mahony pitching Seamus O’Shea and Tom Parsons into the fray for their first taste of League action then as well.
Chris was plagued with injuries throughout his time as a Senior player and this factor certainly delayed him in making his Championship debut. When he finally did, it was on that fateful day that the county fell to a calamitous first round qualifier defeat to Longford in June 2010. Well, the only way after that was up.
And up we went, with Chris so often to the fore in pushing us ever upwards. He enjoyed some great days in the jersey on big days at Croke Park, defending like a terrier and then bursting forward to augment the attack. No wonder the quiet-spoken Erris man was such a fans’ favourite, which is why too that today’s news will sting supporters so badly.
Two cameos stand out from Chrissy’s time at the top. The first comes from 2013 when, after a barnstorming run to the All-Ireland semi-final, we found ourselves in a bit of a funk late in the first half against Tyrone. Four down and in need of a score, Chris charged forward and let fly from distance, pointing into the Davin end to get us motoring once again. He bagged a second just before the break to leave us well poised to finish the job in the second half.
The second memory will, for me, stay with me as long as I live. That was, of course, the All-Ireland final of 2017 against Dublin when he executed turnover after turnover in a display of ridiculously disciplined tackling. That performance alone made him a deserved shoo-in for an All-Star, which he duly collected later that year.
The fact that Chris kept plugging away for the cause year after year was all the more impressive in light of the fact that he was one of the Dublin-based contingent. An eye-opening interview in 2019 with Colm Parkinson for the GAA Hour – which you can listen to here – and an equally candid piece around the same time that Michael McAleer did with him for the Irish Times (here) cast light on the enormity of the commitment that Chris and other inter-county players living away from home had to make to continue following their dreams. As these interviews made clear, it was a commitment that couldn’t continue forever.
Of course it couldn’t but Mayo supporters everywhere will be greatly saddened by today’s news. Chris leaves the scene holding seven Connacht SFC medals as well as a National League medal from 2019, the U21 Celtic cross from 2006 and three U21 Connacht medals.
As he departs the scene, Chris deserves the thanks of all Mayo supporters for the long and sustained commitment he gave to the team and the great days of which he was such an important part. Thanks for all of that, Chris, and the very best wishes to you and your family for the future.