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Mayo ties big part of Enda's story

Former Dub Sheehy has unique insight into Blues' bitter rivals


Enda Sheehy lines out for Dublin back in 2001

Enda Sheehy lines out for Dublin back in 2001

Enda Sheehy lines out for Dublin back in 2001

Enda Sheehy would have run a marathon if demanded by any of his former Dublin managers. Tomorrow he will do just that, no longer pursuing the holy grail of an All-Ireland medal but promoting a charity close to his heart, the Irish Cancer Society.

Sheehy will start out bright and early, at 7.30am, in Monread Park, Naas, where he now resides.

He posted news of his marathon venture on the Dublin '95 WhatsApp group. Mingled among the many messages of encouragement was an enquiry as to whether they could expect to see him on the Tuesday.

The former All-Ireland winner, now 45, has a slightly more ambitious target: "I'm hoping twelve o'clock on Saturday, if it was half-twelve I'd be happy - but definitely not Tuesday!"

Sheehy knows, all too acutely, the significance of precious time pilfered by cancer. As a ten-year-old he lost his mother Maura after a long battle with the illness when she was only 40, around the time Dublin were gearing up to face her native Mayo in the 1985 All-Ireland semi-final replay.

His father Bill was 69 when he passed away, just two months after being diagnosed, in December 2012. Páidí Ó Sé, Kerry manager in opposition to Sheehy for that two-game Thurles epic in 2001, died the very same day.

As Sheehy's GoFundMe page outlines: "The Irish Cancer Society needs much-needed funds due to the cancellation of Daffodil Day and other fundraising activities due to Covid-19. I have lost both my parents to cancer - my Mam aged 40 and my Dad aged 69, both well before their time.

"I have seen the devastating effects that cancer can have on a family and I see the great work that the Irish Cancer Society is continuously engaged in and this has prompted me to get involved in this fundraising venture. This run is also dedicated to the remarkable bravery in recovery from illness of my sister-in-law, Michelle Haughton, and my great friend, Deirdre Quigley."

Sheehy had planned to run the now-cancelled Dublin Marathon in October but, as a consequence of Covid, he has brought forward his fundraising drive.

However, virus permitting, October will usher in a return of inter-county football after an unprecedented seven-month shutdown. Dublin remain the unflappable team to beat, whereas Sheehy describes his own county career as "topsy-turvy".

Called up to the Dublin panel by Pat O'Neill as a teenager in October 1994, the St Jude's tyro was on the match-day 24 the following September when that battle-scarred team finally crossed the All-Ireland threshold.


Thereafter, instead of more silverware he had to settle for a succession of close shaves and suffering. Sheehy started both quarter-finals in 2001 against Kerry in Semple Stadium.

Harking back to Maurice Fitzgerald's iconic sideline-ball equaliser, he remarks: "If we had beaten Kerry, who knows what would have happened … the landscape could have changed, Tommy Carr could have held onto his position."

Instead, not long after, he was dropped by Tommy Lyons. At 27, he felt he had more to offer - the surprising twist is that his inter-county resurrection took him west.

His late mother was a Hanahoe from Crossmolina and he had spent many childhood summers in that part of Mayo. He joined the club in 2003, very quickly was called into the Mayo squad by John Maughan and, despite an injury setback, recovered to start against Fermanagh in the qualifiers.

It would prove his one and only competitive outing in the green-and-red and, after a painful county final loss with Crossmolina, he rejoined Jude's the following year.

As the only modern-day footballer to represent both arch-rivals, Sheehy is uniquely positioned to assess Dublin (under his former teammate Dessie Farrell) and Mayo (where James Horan's management team now includes the legendary Ciarán McDonald, a welcoming Crossmolina clubmate back in '03).

First up, Farrell: "Knowing Dessie he's meticulous in what he does. He knows most of the players inside out, taking them through minor and U21. And all those lads are driven and focused themselves. Obviously, Jack McCaffrey is a loss but I don't see too much disruption and, to be honest with you, straight knockout, I think a lot of those lads will thrive on that."

And McDonald: "He's very unassuming, a deep thinker about the game, a very humble guy. The minute Ciarán McDonald steps into the Crossmolina dressing-room - or the Mayo dressing-room as it is now - he has everyone's respect."

Sheehy describes Mayo as "still a danger" if they can hit upon the right blend of youth and experience. But he views Kerry as a more likely challenger to another season of blue rule.

"With a lot of the (Mayo) players on the wrong side of 30, a lot of miles in the legs, they haven't got the All-Ireland medals, it's going to be very, very difficult for them. I still can't see past the Dubs. I think the Dubs will go strong again this year," he concludes.

• You can support the Irish Cancer Society via Enda Sheehy's GoFundMe page.