De Paper reports this morning that Mayo stalwarts David Brady and Kevin O’Neill have both decided to retire from the inter-county scene. (They’re quoting “Mayo manager” John Maughan as the source for this story but I suppose it’s kosher). Assuming the story is correct, it’s no great surprise, as both have become more peripheral figures within the panel over the last twelve months. While they were both firmly in Johnno’s starting fifteen at the start of the league last year, both suffered injuries early in that campaign and never really featured all that much thereafter.
DB has been one of our most iconic players over the past decade and more and he is the embodiment of the kind of player that does not deserve to retire without an All-Ireland medal in his back pocket. (At least he has a club one for his efforts). He has, of course, been coming and going for a number of years, having first announced his departure following the All-Ireland final defeat in 2004 and then having repeated his vow to quit after the 2006 loss. Coaxed back by Johnno last year, he ended up in a Groundhog Day situation in Salthill, once more being thrown into the fray when the match was already lost. He’s given everything to the cause over the years but my favourite David Brady moment was when he came on in the 2006 semi, promptly landed Ciaran Whelan on his arse and then bawled out the ref for taking exception to what he’d just done. Pure class, that moment was.
Kevin O’Neill was for several years the forgotten man in Mayo footballing circles. An All-Star while still a teenager back in 1993 (the only bright point from a championship campaign which ended with our utter destruction at the hands of Cork in the semi-final), he flitted in and out of the county panel for well over a decade. Most people would have imagined that his chance had come and gone when Mickey Moran brought him back into the fold in 2006. He rewarded Moran’s faith in him by putting in a number of fine performances that year, notably in the Connacht final win over Galway, the Day of Days win over the Dubs in the semi and even in the disastrous final itself, where he bagged two goals from play. He was a bit unlucky not to get his second All-Star that year.
We all know that the county team is in transition at the moment, with many of the successful U21s from 2006 coming through and, as they do, it’s only natural to see some of the old guard stepping down. Both guys deserve huge praise for the unstinting service they’ve given to the cause over the years and few can quibble with their decision now to bring down the curtain on their long and illustrious inter-county careers. Thanks for the memories, guys.