WEARING IT WELL The Mayo jersey was worn by David Clarke and Donie Vaughan for 20 seasons and 12 seasons respectively. Pic: Sportsfile
THAT line about players only ‘minding the jersey’ for somebody else came to mind when news of the retirements of Donie Vaughan and David Clarke began to circulate over the last few days.
Both of them have given so much time, effort and commitment to Mayo football for so many years that, like so many other things in life, we probably started to take them for granted.
But then they announce that they are ‘hanging up their boots’ or ‘stepping away’ and we are reminded that nothing lasts forever.
Like so many before them, they are gone from ‘Mayo footballers’ to ‘former Mayo footballers’ quicker than it takes some of us to write a text message. Just like that.
The two lads have been central figures in the most successful Mayo senior football squad since Seán Flanagan and company last brought home the Sam Maguire.
As David Clarke put it so simply and brilliantly in his statement this week he ‘lived the dream’. And he did it for the best part of 20 years, experiencing some of the highest highs and lowest lows along the way. He leaves a tremendous legacy as the best and most consistent goalkeeper that Mayo has ever produced, with two All Stars to prove it.
He also walks away with his reputation enhanced after another fine All-Ireland Final display last month. There is no doubt that Mayo’s loss will be Ballina Stephenites’ gain in the years ahead. Clarke’s bank of experience and expertise will be invaluable to the young goalkeepers who are dreaming of making saves and beating the Dublin ‘press’ at Croker.
Donie Vaughan can also reflect on a Mayo career where no corner was cut, effort spared or time lost in trying to be the absolute best he could be.
I remember him as a wide-eyed young teenager who was determined to do whatever it took to go as far as he could as a Gaelic footballer. That drive and dedication saw him play 117 senior games for Mayo, win eight Connacht medals, and play in five All-Ireland Finals.
A fierce competitor, he would think nothing of setting his alarm to get up in the middle of the night to drink pints of water to make sure his body was hydrated for the next training session or game. He was also a fine footballer in his own right, who worked hard to master the finer points of the inter-county game and could kick points and play passes off both sides with the best of them in his pomp.
As Billy Joe Padden remarks elsewhere on these pages, the mindset and culture that the likes of Clarke and Vaughan and so many others brought to the Mayo senior set-up over the last ten or 15 years will stand to the next crop coming behind them.
Because now it’s somebody else’s turn to ‘mind the jersey’ for a while.