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Ballintubber star hangs up boots

Sport

THE BOY FROM THE TUBBER Damien Coleman celebrates with team-mates after the 2010 Mayo SFC Final win over Castlebar Mitchels. Pic: Sportsfile

Two-time Mayo SFC winning captain Damien Coleman has retired from club football

Interview
Mike Finnerty

FACTFILE
Name: Damien Coleman
Club: Ballintubber
Age: 36
Occupation: Production Manager, Baxter  
Honours: 5 Mayo SFCs, 1 Mayo IFC, 1 Mayo Senior League, 1 Mayo Minor ‘A’ championship.  
Did you know? Damien is married to Aoife and they have two daughters, Holly (2), Emily (8 months).


HE will forever be known as the man who captained Ballintubber to win two Mayo senior club football championships, but Damien Coleman was always happiest being a team player.
His life revolved around playing football for the Abbeysiders for the best part of 28 years, and his senior career coincided with the most successful period in Ballintubber’s long and illustrious history.
His CV highlights include five county senior titles, including the club’s first ever Moclair Cup win in 2010; a famous Intermediate championship victory that saw ‘The Tubber’ break the glass ceiling in 2007; and a County Senior League in 2014 to complete the set.
And while he may not have enjoyed the high profile of Alan Dillon or the O’Connors, or make as many headlines as the likes of Jason Gibbons, but the Clogher native was at the heart of most of Ballintubber’s best days. A smart and stylish footballer and a natural leader.
Who always relished and delivered on the big occasions.
Damien Coleman retired at the end of last season, quietly and without fuss.
The pain in his knees after training sessions and matches just got too much to bear.
And while it broke his heart in many ways to walk away from wearing the Ballintubber jersey, he knew that time had come.
“My knees have been at me as long as I can remember, since I was 18 really when I did my cruciate,” the 36 year-old told The Mayo News last week.
“And my left knee gradually got worse.
“The last few years I’d take painkillers to get through games and was training once a week.
“I just knew that I couldn’t get to the level I wanted to. I’m one of those lads who’s daft enough to set standards for myself and I just couldn’t hit them anymore.
“My knees had been swelling up for the last seven or eight years but I could manage it.
“Between a few visits to Billy Fitzpatrick’s ice-baths in Claremorris, and rest, and trying to get through it, I just got used to the pain. But sometimes you just have to call it a day.
“The pain just became too much, and I had two small kids at home, and I wanted to be pain-free for them. We had a baby daughter that came early, just before last Christmas, and that took up the first six months of this year. It’s still taking up lots of time,” he laughed.
“But that made my decision for me really, it’s easier to be looking after two small kids and doing jobs around the house when you’re pain-free. Plus, I felt I was holding back other lads from making the team, the likes of Jack Walsh and Hugh Geraghty deserved their chance.”
You wonder what he misses most about togging out and lining out with lads he knows only as ‘Mylo’, ‘Jayo’, ‘Bales’ and ‘DOC’ and the rest.
Friends and neighbours he played and worked hard with, and partied hard with too in local pubs like Corley’s after big wins and hard defeats.
“Just being involved, being out there with the lads three nights a week,” he answers.
“I’ve played with Ballintubber since I was eight years of age so I miss the camaraderie and I really miss match-day. Jesus, I really miss match-days.
“It’s been really special playing for Ballintubber for the last 10 or 12 years. We had so many great days and to win five senior titles in 10 years with that group of lads was something very special. I loved doing it, and even though I was in pain a lot of the time in recent years, I wouldn’t change a thing.
“The Intermediate title win in the beginning was one none of us who were involved will ever forget,” he added. “That started everything and to win the first senior in 2010, with Mylo [Kelly] going up and singing when we got the cup. . . There are so many great memories.
“To lift the Moclair Cup as captain in 2018 and 2019 was very special too, a great honour for me.”
Ironically, given that he lives only 60 seconds from Ray Prendergast Memorial Park in Clogher, Damien hasn’t gone too far.
He also accepted an invitation to get involved in Enda Gilvarry’s management team earlier this summer so has returned to the fold, only now in a coach/selector role.
“Ger Brady [selector] has been trying to get me back playing for the last five weeks, but I arrive for training 10 minutes late on purpose, and without boots, a lot of evenings!” he laughed.
“No, I only said it to the lads only last week, ‘Every day you play championship football for Ballintubber is a special day and you have to embrace it and make the most of it’.
“We got to the quarter-finals the last two years and got knocked out. So we’ve got to better that. To win a county title is everyone’s goal and we’re no different.
“It’s anyone’s championship.”

 

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