Sunday 25 February 2018

Daughter's death puts football in perspective for Browne

Mayo manager Frank Browne Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Mayo manager Frank Browne Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Jackie Cahill

You want some real perspective on how football, when all's said and done, is just that - football?

Have a chat with Frank Browne, manager of the Mayo ladies team preparing for this evening's TG4 All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin.

On a Saturday morning in January 2003, at 10.20 to be precise, Browne walked into a room in Mayo's General Hospital in Castlebar, where his daughter, Emma, aged just six months and two days, had died from pneumonia.

"I knew when I went into the room, I knew her soul was gone," says Wexford native Browne (right).

"Some people call it a soul, a spirit. That was devastation."

And so, win, lose or draw at Kingspan Breffni Park, he'll hug his wife Deirdre and 15-year-old daughter Holly, kiss them both and leave the venue with the same strong belief that some day, he'll see Emma again in heaven.

Football? That's there to be enjoyed.

"We call it an All-Ireland semi-final but it's a chance to make some memories," Browne smiles. "I often hear people talking about a lad missing a penalty in a big game and they call it a tragedy, devastating.

"I held our daughter when she died and you know what that gives you? It gives you a sense of perspective on what this is, a game of football.

"I handed Emma to my wife Deirdre at six months old and she was gone.

"Look, I want to win more than any man but if we don't, we don't either.

"I was born and reared near Curracloe beach in Wexford and I'll walk that beach with Emma some day. I'll see Emma in heaven and, when my time is up, Emma will be there. That gives me faith and hope and strength.

"I try to bring that to football all of the time."

For the first few months after Emma's death, Browne attempted to find solace in whiskey but, and he quotes the famous Shawshank Redemption line here, there's another way.

"You get busy living or you get busy dying. Holly was three, going on four, and she wanted to go to the playground. Life goes on. That's why I can't wait for this match.

"What doesn't kill you will make you stronger, and you know what? If I close my eyes, I can still smell her.

"That's why I enjoy football. I've had dark days. People get nervous about the game but why would you be nervous? It's brilliant, it's great.

"That's what drives me. Within the Mayo set-up, there's a real, special bond between us.

"You hear that about teams all the time but it's unique.

"You want to be around them, you want to be in their company, you want to do well, do your best for them."

Irish Independent

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