Larger than life

I don’t know about you, but David Brady’s Laochra Gael was the only thing that got me through yet another working week of what we now consider normal – operating from the kitchen table and practically seeing nobody except your housemate and the shopkeeper, if you’re lucky. 

Every couple of months, on a hungover day or a programme binge to fill my boredom, I’ll scour the internet and the TG4 player in the hope that WJ Padden’s or Liam McHale’s Laochra Gael will have been published online. They never are. 


Brady, the former Mayo midfield maestro and Ballina baller, has always held a close spot near my Mayo GAA heart. While working for the Western People, he was one of the first ‘major’ interviews I conducted. We met in a hotel bar in Dublin in December 2016 and he gave me – a small time, young reporter – all the time in the world I needed. 

He probably won’t remember that but I’ll never forget him for it. 

I was nervous. This was a man I looked up to as a child and genuinely adored but also feared. I was glad he was on our side, he stood tall and broad and there was an animal sort of look in his eyes that made you confident that if there was a ball to be fielded, stolen or broken, he was going to be in the middle of it. 

I put the recorder in the middle of the table and from the second minute of the interview, I knew there was going to be no problems. My short questions were met with long answers, an interviewer’s dream. 

And one thing I noticed at the time and that was evident in Thursday night’s programme, is that DB, a man with the same initials as myself, bleeds the Green and Red. 

Photo: TG4

He told me how he immediately caught the bug at a young age, travelling to Mayo matches all around the country with the Teddy Bear hanging out the window for the duration and his poor little hands frozen with the cold. 

Someone tweeted the other night: “A drinking game – take a shot anytime DB says the phrase ‘as the man says’.” A conversation with him would make you question all right “well how many things does ‘the man’ actually say?”. 

And it’s a fitting catchphrase for DB to have. He is a controversial pundit with a lot of things to say himself – some comments of great insight but some downright outlandish. 

But he has no filter and that’s why I love him outside of his playing career. In a media world where most things are scripted and carefully constructed so that you don’t say the wrong thing, he doesn’t put a front on for anyone, not even a junior sports reporter. That’s probably the reason why he uttered this gem of a revelation to me during our interview over three years ago. 

I’m getting itchy feet, I will manage Mayo someday, no doubt about it, and I don’t mean in a little capacity. I’m talking winning an All-Ireland with the seniors.

When? God knows, it needs 100% commitment. I’d need to find the right balance between work, football, life and the wife, but it will happen.

And whether we have won an All-Ireland before that, I won’t be leaving until I win one too.

I immediately bought into it. If he had been announced the following morning, I would have been the first one going around preaching the good word about our new Messiah. How would you not? He speaks with such certainty and passion about Mayo GAA that you’d immediately row in behind him and be of a mindset that this man would die for his county colours and we should do the same. 

Growing up he reminded me of that Roy Keane type character. His midfield presence was strong, owning that patch of grass, hunting opposition down, taking brutal hits and creating chances at one end and destroying them at the other. 

Photo: RTÉ/Inpho

Those type of leaders are lacking in today’s game. Even the famous Hillgate that he orchestrated despite not starting was a genius psychological edge that had not been thought of before. And the Dubs’ response was headed by Ciaran Whelan, another scary beast of a man. 

The 82,000 people would have probably paid full admission to see the two of them go at it for 70 minutes but it would have been only been a close second on that day to the magnificent game of football played. Looking back, you’d have to wonder if Mayo had another one or two Brady-type leaders at that time, would we have crossed that line. 

I think another reason people resonate with him so much is because he has probably suffered the most out of all Green and Red men to ever take to the field. 

In that famous TG4 interview after Ballina’s All-Ireland win in 2005, he famously said: “I’ve been a loser all my life…”

But that’s not how he painted his life picture to me. He told me: “In life, I’ve won more than I’ve lost. Made great friends and had great journeys on the way. I never reflected on the losses too much, I always try to move on as quickly as possible because what’s done is done and you can’t change that.”

Photo: Mayo News

And I feel he would have still held that outlook on his career even if his club, had fallen short 15 years ago … thankfully they didn’t because if any man deserved an All-Ireland medal, of some description, it is David Brady.

I’ve been a loser all my life but today, Hogan Stand boy, pick up the cup.

Actually, to say that waiting for last Thursday night’s programme got me through the week is a lie. It got me through probably the last three weeks of being stuck in isolation in my Dublin house.

Without my housemate, I honestly think I’d have cracked up by now. He’s originally from London but, with a father being a loyal follower from Westport, he was never going to avoid the addiction which has only got worse since two Mayo men moved into the Southside house he’d lived in for years before we came along. 

Luckily, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to open GAA goalposts around here. My housemate grew up a rugby head and had very successful stints at Connacht but was always fascinated with GAA and the skills of a game, despite very rarely kicking the round ball. 

Over the last month, we’ve headed down to the quiet pitch for a run and a kick about after we finish work each evening. He’s become obsessed with sweetly striking the O’Neills over the black spot or going as far to the sideline as he can and channelling his inner McDonald – sometimes he’s successful, sometimes he’s not, just as I am. 

And at least it’s given us something to look forward to for the summer evenings for the time being, while we wait for the next announcement, the latest update, some clearance as to where we’re at and where we go next. 

I envisaged starting off an April/May article along the lines of talking about Liverpool’s 30-year wait for a league title finally coming to an end and seeing, on a scale, how it might compare to Mayo’s drought ending. 

I’m a Manchester United fan but I wouldn’t have envied Liverpool picking up the cup this year. Great teams deserve to win big trophies and football fans knew that it would have taken something colossal to stop this Scouse team this year, but nobody would have guessed it would have come in the form of a killer virus. 

Some teams just have no luck … but ‘as the man says’, that’s sport. 

10 thoughts on “Larger than life

  1. Nice piece Darragh- yes, the TG4 programme was excellent viewing in these torrid times. It made me proud to be a Mayoman and a Ballinaman.
    David Brady is, ‘as the fella says’, “some man for one man” !

  2. That’s another great article from you there Darragh.

    That TG4 programme was great to watch, there were hairs standing up a few times. I suppose more so because we’ve been without any Mayo action for a while now, and unfortunately there’s a long wait still to come.
    I sometimes have my head in my hands when David Brady speaks in the media, but there’s no doubting his pure passion for Mayo football.

    I’m relying on GAAGO for my fix of GAA action, their catch-up and archive section has some great old games. Well worth trawling through if anyone has a subscription.
    If only there was an All-Ireland win for us in there to watch back…

  3. Nice piece, Darragh. Brady may say some silly things from time to time but there’s no doubting that he bleeds green and red. Personally think he never let Mayo down and was very unlucky with some very questionable managerial decisions over the years.

    @Dan: Here’s something to get the juices flowing.

    There’s probably a few minor and U-21 All Ireland wins to keep you going as well.

    Up Mayo!

  4. Good man ‘It Means…’, thanks for that.

    That 2013 minor final was so bittersweet. Celebrated like a loon in the Cusack Stand at the final whistle and was fully expecting the seniors to do the job then.
    Unfortunately their loss seemed to take away from people’s memories of that day and the great achievement of the minors.

  5. To “It Means Nothing to Me”- Thanks for those links above. I watched league final 2019 last night and it brought back nice memories and cheered me up which I needed. Some moments in the game-
    Mayo had a superb 2nd half after conceding those 2 first half goals. That was some effort to come back in waves and overwhelm a Kerry team in a Croke Park final.
    Aidan and Matties dominance at midfield.
    Diarmuid’s 2 points in 2nd half were top shelf and unlucky for a third. Boland great effort from distance came off the post.
    James Carr should have had a clear penalty on 55 mins when he was taken down from behind, inside the square by Crowley. Play waved on. Can you imagine this happening if say Paul Mannion was taken down in front of Hill 16. Crowley got a yellow soon after for a similar foul.
    And the Clifford attempt at the end. Stephen O’Brien came in from the right and had the ball in his right hand. His pass to Clifford was with the right. This to me was a clear throw. There was no use of the left hand. O’Brien fouled the ball.
    Colm Boyle. The cheer when he came on. His contribution at the end.
    Andy’s pass to Treacy and Ciaran’s score. That moment. Mayo need more of these moments.
    Best wishes to all at this sad and unusual time.

  6. Saw Brady on tg4 . Well able to talk . Was other players of that vintage that would make great viewing. I remember James Nallen coming into the dressing room after Crossmolina beat us and he spoke so well . We were gutted and out of the championship but remember going training the next day on the back of what he said . And that was after a heap of pints!!

  7. Good article Darragh. Not many comments about the David Brady tg4 show? I personally think he’s good value for money as a pundit, not afraid to say what he feels, doesn’t suck up to the dubs or Kerry as all on the Sunday game seem to do. Really enjoyed the programme. A great servant to mayo football and would have done more for us but for bad management decisions….keep up the great work willie joe!

  8. @MyBall: I’m almost sure that TG4 already did an episode on James Nallen, or perhaps he was featured in the “na coimhlintí” episode of Laochra Gael featuring the Mayo- Galway rivalry. Anyway, I remember John Maughan saying that he put Nallen on Val Daly as Nallen had pace to burn and Daly was coming to the end of his career at the time. Cue the first Mayo victory in Tuam in 46 years…

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