THE EYES HAVE IT Mayo’s Chris Barrett shadows Kerry’s David Clifford during the 2019 All-Ireland SFC ‘Super 8s’ match in Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney. Pic: Sportsfile
DEDICATED, determined and driven. Tough, tenacious and tight-marking.
Chris Barrett was all of those things as a Mayo footballer and so much more besides.
He was also resilient, talented, and totally committed to being the best he could be.
The fact that he leaves the inter-county stage after 13 action-packed seasons with seven Connacht senior championship titles, a National League medal, and an All Star award is ample evidence of a long and fruitful career.
Not to mention an All-Ireland Under-21 medal from 2006 when he was just out of minor and the honour of representing Ireland against Australia in the International Rules series eleven years later. Plus, he started five All-Ireland senior finals, including the 2016 replay.
As you may have gathered, Barrett went as hard as he could for as long as he could.
We were there when he first played senior championship football for Mayo in late June of 2010 at Pearse Park. On that infamous evening when Longford stunned their high-profile visitors and dumped them out of the All-Ireland series.
And we were there a month ago when he lined out for Mayo for the 85th (and last) time in the All-Ireland Final defeat to Dublin. We didn’t know it at the time, but the 33 year-old was about to bow out after another fine big-game performance — having consolidated his reputation as a first-class man-marker and a man that Mayo could always depend on.
In between we watched him grow from a fresh-faced rampaging half-back from Carramore in Belmullet into one of the country’s most recognised, respected and best man-markers.
An abrasive and uncompromising defender at the best of times, Barrett loved the thrill of the one-on-one contest with a high-profile opposition forward, especially at Croke Park.
There were few more exhilarating sights than him going toe-to-toe with Bernard Brogan, James O’Donoghue or Eoghan O’Gara during his halcyon days.
He said as much himself in a rare and insightful interview with Billy Joe Padden in these pages almost three years ago to the day.
“To be honest, I didn’t like it at the start, but as the years went on, I’ve just been like: ‘You know what, I’m pretty good at it!’” he explained.
“It fills a need, and now I kind of like the responsibility that is put on your shoulders, that you are the last line of defence, and that you are matched up against the best forwards in the country.
“It’s not a glamorous thing but it’s as good to me getting a dispossession as getting a point, so it’s part of the game that I like, and you like stuff you’re good at too.”
Chris Barrett’s media engagements were few and far between over the years, but when he did talk he was a pleasure to listen to, with an engaging and refreshingly honest outlook.
His concise and considered retirement statement on Friday told you all you needed to know about his pride in being a Belmullet man and a Mayo man, and the passion he felt when wearing their jerseys and representing their people over the years.
“I feel incredibly privileged to have played alongside some of the most talented and honourable men to ever pull on a Mayo jersey,” he began. “Not to mention the management teams, the support staff, and our loyal supporters that have been central to everything good that Mayo GAA has achieved over the last number of years.
“Thank you to each and every one of you for a memorable journey.
“A special word of thanks to Beal an Mhuirthead for playing a huge part in my development as a player. To my work colleagues in LEPD, for their understanding and help over the last number of years. To my parents, brother and sister, for being every step of the way.
“Finally to Dearbhaile and Isla. Thank you for your unwavering support and sacrifices, without which I could not have achieved what I did.”
For 13 years Chris Barrett was named in Mayo squads, travelling from either Galway or Dublin to be part of a group of footballers that enjoyed unprecedented levels of success.
Last Friday lunch-time came the official announcement that he was leaving it all behind; just a few hours after he was nominated for another All Star award.
Not a bad way to go, all things considered.