We laughed in Breaffy last year when Declan Jennings retired. He was 37 years of age and had been playing football at adult grade since 1988 but we doubted the authenticity of the retirement.
Sure, he might have thought he was retiring but you don’t play for the club’s first team for 23 years and just walk away. I called him ‘our David Brady’ at the time in this column because of the frequency of his retirements. That even got him a mention on Murph’s Country Pages on Newstalk.
I knew Declan would be, in his head, retired for the first few weeks following his telling us after our last league game in 2010. But most of us in Breaffy knew that come January and February, when we were back training, Declan would be going out of his mind at the prospect of missing out. He wouldn’t be able to resist.
And so it was to widespread laughter that he walked into our dressing-room in Ballyheane in February for his first session back. The 2011 season is over now and, not surprisingly, Dec’ retired again. This time though I’m not as certain he’ll be back. He’s based in Dublin now and while his fitness hasn’t dipped, to make that commute every weekend in your 39th year, you’d need your head examined.
But then that has been said of him before. We might tempt him out for a bit of Junior football.
Sadly, though, we won’t see Johnny Lyons again around Breaffy. A fine Breaffy man passed away last week and so many of us who played underage football in the 80s and 90s in Breaffy can’t but remember Johnny and his late brother Tommy.
Many is the Under 10 game I went to and played in up and down the county where Lyons Transport brought us to the game. It wasn’t in a bus or even a people-carrier (not sure they even existed). No, often what felt like our entire squad would cram into Johnny and Tommy’s two Ford Fiestas and head off on our merry way.
It was the days before overcrowding in a car was seen as a problem and days when paying money for buses would probably mean that some kids wouldn’t be able to travel to the games. The commitment to the local club by Johnny and Tommy Lyons was, on reflection, huge. We didn’t appreciate it at the time - you never do as a youngster.
But my work here in The Mayo News meant I saw a lot of old archives where the Lyons’ names were perpetually mentioned in connection with Breaffy GAA Club, long before I was born. Johnny was Club President when he died suddenly last week. He and his brother are owed a debt of gratitude by current members of the vibrant club that exists today. They left a fine legacy.