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Pat Gilroy: Brian Mullins was a footballer way ahead of his time

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Pat Gilroy will always remember Brian Mullins as a St Vincent's institution. Photo: Sportsfile

Pat Gilroy will always remember Brian Mullins as a St Vincent's institution. Photo: Sportsfile

Pat Gilroy will always remember Brian Mullins as a St Vincent's institution. Photo: Sportsfile

PAT Gilroy summed it up. As the news hit the city. And the country.

It’s a very sad day for everyone in St Vincent’s. And in Dublin,” reflected Pat.

Pat is steeped in the St Vincent’s tradition. Following the road of his father, Jack, one of the great figures of the club.

Pat grew up hearing all about the legend of Brian Mullins. He got to meet him. And to know him. Grateful that he crossed his path.

“He was a very special person. He helped so many people. And nobody would know about it.

“It didn’t matter what needed to be done. Brian would be first through the gate. Picking up stones. Cleaning the place. It didn’t matter what it was. You could always be sure he’d be there.

“The medals never came into it. You never heard him talk about his own career. So down to earth. We’ll miss him badly.”

Pat (left) is an All-Ireland winning footballer and manager. He played in midfield. Like the maestro.

“I was very young at the time when Brian was playing with Dublin but I watched all the videos. I felt he was ahead of his time. He was a modern-day footballer.

“The way he covered the ground. His fielding, his precision passing. “The ball he played into the forwards was always the perfect pass. For a big man, he had great skill.”

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Long after his Dublin days were over, Brian was still turning out for Vincent’s.

Like in 1991. The Dublin Intermediate Championship final against St Brigid’s. Back in a favourite garden, Parnell Park.

Brian didn’t do many interviews. Tommy McQuaid was granted one many years ago. For the Dublin Yearbook.

Tommy admitted he “felt a little apprehensive, having heard of Brian’s reputation for abruptness with pressmen. But I needn’t have worried.”

They talked about many things that day. Brian’s early days – going to school in Marlboro Street and onto Coláiste Mhuire.

Playing with Clontarf until he joined St Vincent’s when he was 15. In 1971, he played right half-back for the Dublin minors. He played full-forward for the Dublin senior team until Kevin Heffernan switched him to midfield.

As Tommy quipped: “Trust the ESB man to see the light!”

Brian chatted about things that annoyed him during matches. Among them “jersey pulling, the elbow in the gut trick, and when your opponent stands on your feet to prevent you from jumping for the ball.”

He told Tommy about the days leading up to an All-Ireland final. “It’s a trying period. At the best of times I’m not a patient man. But when you get characters coming up to you in the street and asking: ‘How ya Brian, are we going to win on Sunday.’ You try to be diplomatic. You reply with something like I hope so. But then they’d come back and say: ‘Ah, now stop messin’, Brian, are we really going to win on Sunday.’”

He mentioned players he admired. Like Joe Cassells of Meath. “A gentleman. He tried to play football at all times. And he’s never interested in stopping his opponents doing the same.”

Brian also was a fan of the man that collected Sam in 1974, Sean Docherty.

“Sean did as much, if not more, than any other Dublin player in bringing success to the team. But, for the most part, he didn’t get the credit in the media that he really deserved.”

One of Brian’s favourite games was the 1979 Leinster final. “When we came back from the dead against Offaly.”

He also recalled Dublin's victory in the 1976 National League final. “That was a game I really enjoyed, but I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say it was a game that Derry deserved to win.”

Being less than honest – that was definitely one ball that was out of reach of the big man.

A Heffo Hero who has left this world too young. Forever young, with his long blonde hair and his shirt of blue.


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