End of an era for one of Wexford’s most decorated footballers
BRIAN MALONE, one of Wexford’s most decorated footballers, has called time on his inter-county career.
The 35-year-old Shelmaliers clubman brought down the curtain on his 16-year career when he made his announcement on Friday night.
“After sixteen years playing with Wexford I feel now is the right time to step away from inter-county football,” he said.
“I feel very honoured to have been given the opportunity to represent my county and even more privileged to have played alongside and enjoyed some successes with some of the most talented footballers Wexford has ever produced.”
Malone will always be associated with a special era for Wexford football, given that he was the last remaining member of the 2008 team that reached the All-Ireland semi-final, losing out to eventual champions Tyrone.
“It has been an absolute privilege to represent my county and fulfil my childhood dream. I feel so proud that my playing days lasted so long, and brought so much joy, while there were also times of disappointment.
“I am grateful for the work of Wexford GAA Board who were supportive of football during my time, and also the county managers, selectors, coaches, doctors, various backroom personnel, and playing colleagues, who have been of such help over the years.
“Also my wife Beth, who took on the task of looking after the three children, Caolán (4), Rían (2), Laoise (3 months).
“Thanks also to my mother Agnes, and father Der, two great supporters, my mother in particular, who travelled all over the country to support myself and the team, and all who supported me. She will now continue that support as my younger brother, Glen, is a member of the team.
“This has been an incredible journey, and it all moved so quickly – the friendships made over so many years, and to have played with and against so many players.
“I’m sorry to have come to an end, but it has to arrive some day, and now that I have made the decision, I will look forward to more family time and time with the club.”
Brian ended his career as captain of the team, having made his debut against Monaghan in the 2006 All-Ireland qualifiers.
“I will always remember that day. It was something I always dreamed of, playing Senior football with Wexford. To make it an even more memorable day, my mother and family had made the journey to give their support. They were so proud on the day, it will always live with me,” he said.
When Wexford lost their Leinster quarter-final to Dublin last July in Chadwicks Wexford Park, Malone had contemplated his retirement but took time out before announcing any decision.
“I had it in my head last year. I had a feeling this would be my last game, but then I went back to the club. We had a marvellous run, winning the county championship, and then going on to reach the Leinster semi-final.
“I felt great in that game and still enjoying it. That was a great club day in Croke Park, we came so close to reaching the final. But I decided it was the right time to go.
“I was still enjoying it, but felt now is the time to make the decision while still on a high. I have no
regrets and will look forward to more club involvement.
“My club has been incredible with their support. I started back at a young age, having been introduced to the club in football and hurling by the late Peter Walsh.
“It’s Peter who was responsible for introducing me to the games, picking me up and bringing me training. He was the major influence on my career. I will never forget Peter for all he did for me.
“The club has been so accommodating. They understood the demands, and always looked after you on returning from inter-county activity. They were so understanding and gave such great support.
“It has been an honour to represent my club on the inter-county stage. So many have helped me, it has been a privilege to play with them and to continue to do so.
“I have been so lucky to have such a proud club, while I have also been so lucky with injuries. I have never picked up a serious injury.
“I always tried to keep myself fit, and be ready for every game, as game time in inter-county can be so short each year, so you always want to play every game.
“Thanks to the backroom team, and the club physio Donal ‘Gammy’ O’Connor who always worked so hard to have me ready for every game. It has been a privilege to work with all of them,” Brian added.
While he always appreciated the loyal band of supporters at each and every Wexford game, one particular moment of backing stood out for him.
“It was in Aughrim last year. Ann Fenlon from Clonard, one of our great supporters home and away, had just buried her husband, having lost her father a few years earlier, all great supporters, and she made the journey to Aughrim for our championship game with Wicklow.
“To have come in support at such a difficult time for her was amazing. It was one of the reasons we beat Wicklow that day. It was that type of support which kept us buzzing for Wexford football,” Brian said.
Looking back on memorable moments, he recalls two occasions that will live long in the memory.
“I will always remember the Meath championship game in Carlow. Down ten points in the second-half, recovering and winning. That was dramatic, I will never forget the excitement following the game.
“Then on to the 2008 All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone. That was an incredible journey,” he added.
Having taught at Blackrock College, Brian is currently a teacher in his alma mater, St. Peter’s College. While football is his first love, he won Leinster and All-Ireland Intermediate hurling medals with Wexford in 2007, while he has also collected two Senior hurling and football championship medals apiece with his club.
Brian will not be lost to Wexford football as he will now take up the role of supporter, while still continuing his playing career with the Shels.
“I won’t be allowed to step completely away. My eldest son, Caolán, loves football and thinks of nothing else.
“Caolán turned into one of my main supporters. He loved the games, got to know the players, always visiting the dressing-room and talking with the players, taking the conversations home.
“He will ensure I will be at every game. The family, my wife Beth, and everyone, have been a huge support.”
It’s the end of an era but Brian can hold his head high as he walks away from inter-county football after a record-breaking 174 appearances. He was a great leader, who played with his heart on his sleeve, always proud to pull on the purple and gold.