It was announced a bit earlier on this morning that, at the age of 35, Alan Dillon has decided to retire as an inter-county player. The news was broken on the Mayo GAA website, with the announcement including statements from County Board Chairman Mike Connelly, manager Stephen Rochford and the man himself – it’s here.
As the announcement confirms, Alan has had a long and distinguished inter-county career. He made his senior championship debut as far back as 2003, when he was still an Under 21 player. His championship debut came in June that year, in the Connacht semi-final against Sligo at Markievicz Park, where he lined out at left half-forward, scoring a point.
Looking through the results archive for that year, I can see he got a few runs from the bench before this in both the FBD and the NFL, with his first starting fifteen appearance for the county coming in the League match against Kildare in Ballina in March that year.
Since then, Alan has put in a serious shift for the county. 66 championship appearances, 134 if you add in League matches, during which he bagged a total of 3-225. Along the way, he picked up eight Connacht SFC medals and All-Star awards in 2006 and 2012. He captained the county to Nestor Cup victory in 2011.
Inevitably, though, it’s all the defeats he had to endure as a Mayo player that will be recalled today. Alan, sadly, has had to handle more pain than most in this respect, as he was involved in every final the county played in since 2004, suffering the crushing blow of defeat no fewer than six times.
It’s sad too that he becomes the latest in a long and distinguished line of truly great Mayo players to retire without tasting ultimate success in the game. But if that’s a taste we’re destined to savour at some point over the coming years, then Alan will, for sure, be one of the those who will rightly be credited with laying the foundations for such glory, step by resolute step.
The Ballintubber man departs the stage having left so many memorable cameos to savour. One of my favourite ones comes from the start of his inter-county career, when, as a willow-like youngster, he ghosted by the Kerry defence in the opening minutes of the 2004 final and, calm as you like, slid the ball into the net at the Hill 16 end. Another would be his masterclass in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final when, as James Horan’s on-field lieutenant, he orchestrated that memorable take-down of the then reigning champions Dublin.
Time stands still for none of us, though, and, after fifteen years of inter-county service, Alan has now decided to bring down the curtain on a long and illustrious career as a Mayo player. Without doubt, he leaves the scene with the county’s standing at a far higher level than it was when he started. For sure, Alan himself played a major part in establishing the county as one of the leading powers in the game. For this, and for for so much more, he deserves our heartfelt thanks and appreciation.
Thanks for the memories, Dillo, and thanks too for all those years of sterling service to the cause.