'I might become professional' - The story of the unemployed 46-year-old debutant Waterford goalkeeper
The 46-year old goalkeeper who made his senior championship debut for Waterford footballers at the weekend has revealed how he lost his job the week that he received his shock call-up to the squad.
Darren Mulhearne kept a clean sheet at Cusack Park in Ennis on Saturday evening but it wasn't enough to prevent a 0-9 to 0-8 loss to Clare in the Munster SFC quarter-final after a gutsy performance.
But behind the feelgood factor of a 46-year old making his championship debut is the reality that off the field Mulhearne is currently dealing with unemployment having been let go from his job of 19 years as a construction inspector.
"I'm actually unemployed at the minute. I got redundancy from my job. I was in a job for 19 years with Virgin Media up until a few days before the madness started," said Mulhearne, after they had almost shocked Clare.
Injury to regular goalkeeper Aaron Beresford meant manager Benji Whelan looked to Mulhearne to solve his problem a fortnight ago. The call came as a surprise to Mulhearne, but it was a timely boost for him, coming the week he got redundancy from his job of 19 years.
"It was about a week after the redundancy that I got the call, so this is a good distraction. Yeah, it's great, great news. I might become a professional footballer," he joked.
Mulhearne is not the oldest player ever to play inter-county GAA. Most recently, Leitrim hurling 'keeper Tommy McLoughlin played until he was 47 back in 2012, while former Cavan goalkeeper Enda Sheridan was 52 when he lined out in 1999, but Mulhearne is surely the oldest player to ever make his debut.
Twenty-nine years on from his first call-up to the Waterford panel as a 17-year-old, the 46-year-old Kilrossanty goalkeeper made his debut in the Déise's one-point defeat to Clare at the weekend.
Mulhearne said he was delighted with his performance in Ennis and despite keeping a clean sheet he was unable to help Waterford claim their first Munster Championship win since 2010.
His wife Camilla, 15-year-old son Cian and daughters Casey (13) and Caoimhe (9) were all there, which gave him an enormous sense of pride at full-time.
"I've enjoyed every minute of it, every single minute of it. It was brilliant. A dream come true," added Mulhearne. "Look, I've a couple of children. The girls like football; my son, he's not big into the GAA or any kind of a sport. Even him, he's delighted for me. It was a great buzz for them. They even travelled up. The whole lot, even my sisters travelled up today. It was great.
"I was only called up two weeks ago last Wednesday. I only came for the last while, I can't be doing that winter training. That's for mugs!
"The whole team welcomed me in straight away. It has been great, and the whole buzz around it, kind of generated a buzz for a few weeks as well. It was, it was brilliant. I've really enjoyed it."
Mulhearne is hungry for more action, but he will have to wait and see who Waterford are paired with in the first round of qualifiers before he can plan his second day out. "Hopefully we can drive on from here," he added.