Tom takes his leave

Photo: Irish Mirror (Inpho/Tommy Dickson)

It’s said that bad news comes in threes. If so there was some inevitability to the announcement today that Tom Parsons has become the third Mayo player in as many days to announce his retirement from the inter-county game.

Tom’s decision to call time on his days as a Mayo player isn’t enormously surprising, even if his most recent appearance in the county jersey came just a month ago as a substitute in the All-Ireland semi-final. It was always a big ask for the Charlestown clubman to come back after he suffered that gut-wrenching knee injury in 2018 and he did enormously well to recover sufficiently to play at the highest level once more. Having done that, it makes eminent sense for him to bring the curtain down on an illustrious inter-county career.

It’s an innings that started with a bang as Tom enjoyed a stellar breakthrough year for us in 2008. He was only twenty at the time – he played for us at U21 level in 2007, 2008 and 2009 (when he captained the team) – and made his National League debut off the bench against Derry up in Celtic Park at the start of February that year.

A big Mayo crowd was looking on, though, in Newbridge the day he started his first match for the county at Senior level. That was at the end of March 2008 and he smacked home a cracking goal for us that day. Scoring from midfield, usually after a powering upfield burst that he somehow managed to disguise by his languid running style, became a regular occurrence for the Sarsfields man.

Tom made his Championship debut against Sligo at MacHale Park on 22nd June 2008. He enjoyed a productive summer for us, alongside Ronan McGarrity in the engine room that year, and his appearance on the scene was a bright spot on what was otherwise an underwhelming Championship campaign for us.

By the back-end of that year, Tom was in Australia as part of Seán Boylan’s International Rules squad and there were fears that he might end up following Pearse Hanley into the AFL. That didn’t happen, though, and the following spring he was back playing with Mayo.

It’s fair to say that Tom’s inter-county career veered off piste after that positive opening salvo. After featuring in the League and Championship in 2010 and again in the League in 2011, James Horan cut him from the panel – along with others, including Barry Moran and Aidan Kilcoyne – for the 2011 Championship.

Based in Cardiff for a few years after that, it looked as if Tom’s brief period in the limelight at inter-county level was over. But it wasn’t and he returned to the panel at the start of 2014.

A freak injury in the first round of the League proved a setback and he only featured intermittently in the final year of James Horan first tenure. Over the next three seasons, however, he became an increasingly influential figure for us and his performances then earned him All-Star nominations in 2015 and again in 2017. The decision to overlook him for an All-Star in 2017 was an egregious error.

Photo: Sports Joe (Sportsfile/Ramsey Cardy)

He was going great guns again in 2018 until that fateful day when he crumpled to the MacHale Park turf, his knee wrenched horribly. The injury was so bad that the medics’ first objective was to save his leg but it wasn’t long before Tom was vowing he’d be back on the field of play again. It took him 15 months to do this but do it he did.

Photo: Mayo News

Like many Mayo supporters I’ll never forget the rousing ovation Tom was given as he made his entrance at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick on crutches. Mortified by the attention, he hobbled to his seat but the reception was a truly heartfelt one, for a highly respected hero.

He got the same treatment the following weekend down in Semple Stadium. By now clearly embarrassed by all the attention, Tom spoke with Rob and me for the podcast after that game and a pure gent he was. If you want to listen back to that episode you’ll find it here.

Tom completed his comeback by joining the fray from the bench in the All-Ireland semi-final of 2019. Dublin were well out the gate by the time Tom came on for Seamus O’Shea that day and there seemed to be a valedictory element to his appearance then.

Despite this, however, he was back again for 2020 and although James used him only sporadically, his final outing came off the bench at Croke Park in the All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary.

In total, Tom featured 84 times for the county, including 36 Championship matches. He holds three Connacht SFC medals as well as a National League one.

Tom’s contribution to the cause will live long in the memory, not just for the almost effortless way he glided around the pitch, seemingly always in the right place and ready to make a telling intervention, but also for his fortitude in the face of the adversity he was forced to confront.

Photo: Sports Joe

One of life’s good guys, he embodies the best of what the county strives to represent and, as his involvement with the GPA demonstrates, he’s a man we’ll be hearing plenty more from over the coming years.

As he takes his leave from the field of play, Tom deserves all of the thanks we can muster for all he has given us. Thanks for everything, Tom, and best wishes to you and your family for the future.

42 thoughts on “Tom takes his leave

  1. A lovely read WJ and every word correct. Tom is a class act both on and off the pitch. Happy retirement Tom all the best to you and your family for the future!

  2. Best of luck Tom and thank you for your efforts. To come back and play after that knee injury took some serious dedication, no bother to you though.

  3. Lovely tribute to a fine player and wonderful servant to Mayo football.

    I’ll never forget the reception he received in Limerick that day. And the welcome back he got in Croker, even with the game going away from us.

    I have no doubt the likes of Tom and Andy can contribute in other ways to the county’s fortunes now they’ve retired.

  4. It’s a challenging time in Mayo and the country right now. Three fantastic servants to the game have left us. They owe us nothing and have given us some fantastic days out. Its still hard to take when they are so close together. I am delighted for Clarke that is at least got the All Stars he deserved. Its unfortunate none of them got the elusive medal but the young guys would have learned a lot just been in the same space this year. I see Reape being called up now. Best of luck to them all now n retirement. Just no more now for this week please.

  5. Another Mayo legend, Tom Parsons calls it a day.. Worked in Wales for a time, and managed to get himself back into the Mayo panel and indeed the starting team after a few years absence… For a few years was Mayos best Midfielder and indeed one of Ireland’s finest. The horrific injury in 2018 was terrible to witness but Tom did recover to play for Mayo again..I just have a feeling that the Mayo exudus hasn’t finished just yet.. Best wishes to Tom for the future, and thanks for his immense contribution to Mayo.

  6. Very well written WJ, a touching tribute to another great guy. Three mighty men have called it a day over the last few days. They gave their all for their county and we were privileged to be on the sidelines watching them. Thanks again guys. You did us proud.

  7. The adjective “stylish” is the one that springs to mind for Tom. So comfortable on the ball. So athletic in fielding it. So deceptively fast in soloing. I always had a comfortable feeling when Tom was on the ball. Never made an unforced error.
    Consistency personified.
    … And my wife and daughters think he is the bee’s knees. Nothing to do with football.

  8. @Claremorris 51,.. Don’t be too jealous…Tom actually was a ‘Male Model’ at one stage… Forget exactly what year it was, possibly about 8-9 years ago, the County final between near neighbours Charlestown and Ballaghdreen , Pearce Hanley was home from Australia and given permission to play in the County final, in the match program I remember the occupation of Pearce, as ‘Professional AFL player’, and Tom as a ‘Male Model’… as Ripley might say ‘Believe it or not’ .. Some guys seem to have all the luck,… Good question for a table quiz, whenever such an ordinary pleasure as a quiz might be allowed again!

  9. Just to say thanks to Tom, Dave and Donie, who gave such wonderful, long and loyal service to Mayo football and wore the green and red jersey with such pride – thanks for the entertainment and memories.

  10. These retirements are really starting to hit me now, it’s very emotional seeing these great players from the past decade or so starting to walk away, they gave it their all and owe us nothing. When we win the All Ireland, it’s players like Tom, David and Donal that we’ll remember as driving home the love of football in the county and inspiring the next generation to greater heights. Tom was a very stylish player, very comfortable on the ball, he’ll be a huge loss for Mayo. He hit his peak in 2016/17, sadly the injury he got in 2018 probably put an end to that great run of form he had in the previous two seasons. To come back and play at the highest level after that injury is a credit to his mindset and determination, it was truly moving and inspirational to see him run onto the Croke Park pitch again in August 2019. Thank you Tom, enjoy your retirement.

  11. Tom Parsons had such amazing focus and determination to come back after being dropped and also after his horrific injury in 2018.I firmly believe our trajectory in 2018 was going towards another final until DOC sending off and Tom’s injury that day changed everything result was SOS injury in Semple and then Newbridge…….
    In any case TP is one of the finest to have played for Mayo.

  12. All quiet here today. Please let it stay that way!!!! After Tom’s emotional announcement yesterday I’m not fit for more. All I will say to Donnie, David and Tom, is thank you for a decade of truly great times.

  13. Oh no! I spoke too soon. I was full sure with Aidan saying yesterday that news comes in 3’s that it was finished for now.

  14. Thanks, Rober – I’ve just seen the announcement, which isn’t really unexpected. It’s still only Wednesday, though – who’ll be following on Thursday and Friday? Today’s statement is here, I’ll have a post up tonight as well.

  15. Have to say.. even as a Galway man with strong Mayo blood, it’s sad to theese legends all stepping down…

  16. Agree WJ . Not surprising Seamie stepping away . He emptied the tank every time he played for Mayo . These retirements will open the door for new additions to the panel and make next thr league very interesting. Thanks to all the retirees.. Warriors .

  17. It is, Moose, it’s draining too, especially for supporters. But it looks like a scheduled set of announcements and, as I’ve said, we’re only at Wednesday yet.

  18. Sad day again. Seamie gave it 100% always and a huge commitment over the years travelling up and down to Dublin. I’m miserable with all these legends stepping away. Its been a tough week and its terrible that these fine men are retiring without An Ireland medal.

  19. Look on the positives – these lads had at least 10 great years playing for Mayo and gave us all 10 great years following them. Drama, excitement great days and some disappointment as well. They trained and gave everything to be the best they could be and that they were.
    These lads will be remembered in 20-30 years time when lads with all Ireland medals will be forgotten about.
    They can all retire and say – I gave it everything while I was there and couldn’t have done any more – we cant ask for any more than that.
    They have raised the bar for the players that are following them

  20. These lads retiring at the same time shows the longevity they had in county football which is a credit especially at such a high level but also shows how we hadn’t refreshed the squad since 2017 and we were still relying on the likes of Seamie and Donie up until this year. Clarke I felt had another year but I guess given his age and his performance in the final, there was no better time to call it a day. I expect 2 more in Higgins and Boyler to announce it in the coming days. I always knew this day would come but thought it would have been spread out over the last 3 years or so.

  21. If these lads weren’t playing they weren’t in horan plans for 2021 and nobody wants to warm the bench when you’re going to be used on the pitch. I think horan has made a big mistake, early in the championship when he should have used them to close out games and went all the way to the final when it was screaming out for experienced players in that second half. Dublin were probably better on the night but we had players that could have made it really interesting, unfortunately those players were watching it at home. They may have been older but they were training and had 20-30 minutes of hard running in them if asked.
    Anyways, it’s over and done with now and I am very sorry that these lads didn’t get at least one AllIreland for their efforts. In any other decade, or at least before Bertie pumped the millions into Dublin, these Mayo lads would have clattered Dublin and won a couple of titles.
    Best of luck to Seamie, one of my favourites.
    Money definitely talks despite what any media outlet or analyst tells you.

  22. No point blaming Horan for the retirement of these legends. He is in the process of trying to rebuild a team and didn’t do a bad job in 2020. I am hugely disappointed at the retirements especially when they didn’t win the A I But life goes on. The fact that so many are going at the same time is typical They hung in together for over 10 years giving it their all each and every time. But Fr Time catches up with everyone. Well done Seamus and thanks for the memories, my favorite being a crucial late point v Dublin in 2012 Semi Final. The Dubs had put in a storming come back and were all over us but Seamus stopped the rot with a crucial late point and. We went on to win something we haven’t achieved against the Dubs since.

  23. It might not be a case of Horan doing a cull. Those lads aren’t fools. How much football did Vaughan, Parsons and Seamus play in 2020 ?
    They weren’t going to sign up for more of the same in 2021.
    I’d like to think that all four lads made their own decision to retire, as opposed to being part of some cull.
    When you study the following template for a team sheet, it shows you the legends that have succumbed to Father Time over the past 12 months.

    1- David Clark
    2-
    3-Ger Cafferky
    4-
    5-
    6-
    7- Donal Vaughan
    8- Seamus O’Shea
    9- Tom Parsons
    10-
    11
    12
    13
    14
    15- Andy Moran

  24. All these retirements are not unexpected but it is still a shock to the system when they become a reality. We are so familiar with these lads it almost feels like they are part of your family. We have followed them up and down the country and through them Croke Park has become a second home. We can only marvel at their enormous dedication to the cause and the personal battles they have fought to get their bodies right after serious injuries and setbacks. I know they don’t do it for plaudits or personal gain but I hope they understand how much they mean to all of us supporters. The joy they have given us will long outlive the disappointments along the way so I would like to wish Donie, David, Tom and Seamie every best wish for their retirement. Thanks for the memories.

  25. Best wishes to Tom, Donie, David, and Seamus on their retirement I except Keith and Boyler and Chrissy Barrett to follow suit in the coming days and maybe even Rob Hennelly all brillant men and great footballballers who gave absolutely everything to Mayo football and provided us with unprecedented enjoyment and Great days in Croke Park. They will be missed and will be hard to replace. James Horan has a huge rebuilding job on his hands now but as we seen in the all ireland final we have some good men coming through. Enjoy the retirement lads and hold yer heads up high.

  26. Jr – that’s a grossly disrespectful way to frame the departure of these stalwarts, so disrespectful I’ve deleted the comment. A bit more thought before you hit ‘send’ on a comment wouldn’t go amiss.

  27. Tough to see another faithful servant departing, but these lads put in a Herculean effort just to get to training and back. As we get into our 30s, priorities in life change, many get married and have a family, and it’s just not sustainable to maintain that level of commitment on top of a full-time job and home life.

    Thanks to all the lads for their service to the green and red over the years, they leave having imparted many happy memories to us all.

  28. It’s the end of the best ever Mayo era, another powerful player has retired.
    Management are obviously going to shake up things by bringing alot of new guys on board.
    I certainly had great days out since 2011, the best days, and all those that have just retired were central to this.

  29. There is a time for everything but it’s not easy to see my heroes stepping off the stage and out of the picture. I feel sad and grateful. I’m also full of optimism for the future. Mayo players just have the X factor and I’m so proud of who they are, what they do, how they do it…and they represent me and my county. Words will never tell you how much you mean to us. Maigheo go deo.

  30. I suppose as a fanatical Galway fan I should be celebrating Mayo losing all these players but its sort of sad though as all things must pass as old players like Clarke, Parsons et al fade into history. Its a pity they didnt get just one All Ireland like we managed in 2017 in the hurling but that came too late for the likes of Ollie Canning who gave as much to Galway as those lads did for Mayo. There must be no regrets though as them lads gave their all but Dublin are easily the best team to play in the modern era. Hopefully the Super8 format will allow 2 connaught teams into knockout when this damn covid is over. I expect Colm Boyle and Keith Higgins to go too. When Higgins was in his pomp I often wished he was a Galwayman. Good luck to the retirees they owe ye nothing.

  31. As a Laois man I really enjoyed following that Mayo team and I never missed a Mayo game in Croke Park since 2011 .Fantastic ambassadors of the game and don’t deserve some of the criticism thrown at them. It’s unfortunate that the retirees didn’t get their All Ireland medal and that injury curtailed their efforts in their final year. Mayo’s day will come .Best of luck to the retirees and to Mayo in the future.

  32. My abiding memory of Tom is the 2017 AI final when he chased James McCarthy the length of the pitch and completed the turnover in front of the hill. A warrior if ever there was one.

    Best wishes to all those retiring.
    They owe us nothing.

  33. Chesneychet, Thank you.
    That says it all when you recognize other county players. Here’s looking forward to meeting ye later this year

  34. Every effort should be made to keep these guys involved in mayo GAA. They all have still have a huge amount to offer. Unfortunately it will be very difficult for the Dublin based lads and I would expect to see some of them transferred to Dublin clubs before too long. It sad to so many great players of the past involved in other counties. I always feel more could be done to keep them within the county set up.

  35. Thanks to Tom and Seamie for all the battles they fought for us over the years. I wish yea good health and long life and Mayo football is in a great place due to the likes of Tom and Seamus.

    We should be celebrating all these great careers even though I know some people are sad to see all these guys leaving the fray. Absolute professionals in their approach for an amateur reward, although, I’m sure the adulation from us fans was worth more than any bag of gold.

    Amateurs straining every sinew in search of perfection. We only have the right to discuss the happening of how a game goes but we never ever have the right to give out about any of our players. They do the business and we reap the rewards. If Mayo had a mount Rushmore I can picture the faces that would be chiseled in to it.

    Legends of our time.

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