I don’t know about you, but David Brady’s Laochra Gael was the only thing that got me through yet another working week of what we now consider normal – operating from the kitchen table and practically seeing nobody except your housemate and the shopkeeper, if you’re lucky.
Every couple of months, on a hungover day or a programme binge to fill my boredom, I’ll scour the internet and the TG4 player in the hope that WJ Padden’s or Liam McHale’s Laochra Gael will have been published online. They never are.
Brady, the former Mayo midfield maestro and Ballina baller, has always held a close spot near my Mayo GAA heart. While working for the Western People, he was one of the first ‘major’ interviews I conducted. We met in a hotel bar in Dublin in December 2016 and he gave me – a small time, young reporter – all the time in the world I needed.
He probably won’t remember that but I’ll never forget him for it.
I was nervous. This was a man I looked up to as a child and genuinely adored but also feared. I was glad he was on our side, he stood tall and broad and there was an animal sort of look in his eyes that made you confident that if there was a ball to be fielded, stolen or broken, he was going to be in the middle of it.
I put the recorder in the middle of the table and from the second minute of the interview, I knew there was going to be no problems. My short questions were met with long answers, an interviewer’s dream.
And one thing I noticed at the time and that was evident in Thursday night’s programme, is that DB, a man with the same initials as myself, bleeds the Green and Red.
He told me how he immediately caught the bug at a young age, travelling to Mayo matches all around the country with the Teddy Bear hanging out the window for the duration and his poor little hands frozen with the cold.
Someone tweeted the other night: “A drinking game – take a shot anytime DB says the phrase ‘as the man says’.” A conversation with him would make you question all right “well how many things does ‘the man’ actually say?”.
And it’s a fitting catchphrase for DB to have. He is a controversial pundit with a lot of things to say himself – some comments of great insight but some downright outlandish.
But he has no filter and that’s why I love him outside of his playing career. In a media world where most things are scripted and carefully constructed so that you don’t say the wrong thing, he doesn’t put a front on for anyone, not even a junior sports reporter. That’s probably the reason why he uttered this gem of a revelation to me during our interview over three years ago.
I’m getting itchy feet, I will manage Mayo someday, no doubt about it, and I don’t mean in a little capacity. I’m talking winning an All-Ireland with the seniors.
When? God knows, it needs 100% commitment. I’d need to find the right balance between work, football, life and the wife, but it will happen.
And whether we have won an All-Ireland before that, I won’t be leaving until I win one too.
I immediately bought into it. If he had been announced the following morning, I would have been the first one going around preaching the good word about our new Messiah. How would you not? He speaks with such certainty and passion about Mayo GAA that you’d immediately row in behind him and be of a mindset that this man would die for his county colours and we should do the same.
Growing up he reminded me of that Roy Keane type character. His midfield presence was strong, owning that patch of grass, hunting opposition down, taking brutal hits and creating chances at one end and destroying them at the other.
Those type of leaders are lacking in today’s game. Even the famous Hillgate that he orchestrated despite not starting was a genius psychological edge that had not been thought of before. And the Dubs’ response was headed by Ciaran Whelan, another scary beast of a man.
The 82,000 people would have probably paid full admission to see the two of them go at it for 70 minutes but it would have been only been a close second on that day to the magnificent game of football played. Looking back, you’d have to wonder if Mayo had another one or two Brady-type leaders at that time, would we have crossed that line.
I think another reason people resonate with him so much is because he has probably suffered the most out of all Green and Red men to ever take to the field.
In that famous TG4 interview after Ballina’s All-Ireland win in 2005, he famously said: “I’ve been a loser all my life…”
But that’s not how he painted his life picture to me. He told me: “In life, I’ve won more than I’ve lost. Made great friends and had great journeys on the way. I never reflected on the losses too much, I always try to move on as quickly as possible because what’s done is done and you can’t change that.”
And I feel he would have still held that outlook on his career even if his club, had fallen short 15 years ago … thankfully they didn’t because if any man deserved an All-Ireland medal, of some description, it is David Brady.
I’ve been a loser all my life but today, Hogan Stand boy, pick up the cup.
Actually, to say that waiting for last Thursday night’s programme got me through the week is a lie. It got me through probably the last three weeks of being stuck in isolation in my Dublin house.
Without my housemate, I honestly think I’d have cracked up by now. He’s originally from London but, with a father being a loyal follower from Westport, he was never going to avoid the addiction which has only got worse since two Mayo men moved into the Southside house he’d lived in for years before we came along.
Luckily, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to open GAA goalposts around here. My housemate grew up a rugby head and had very successful stints at Connacht but was always fascinated with GAA and the skills of a game, despite very rarely kicking the round ball.
Over the last month, we’ve headed down to the quiet pitch for a run and a kick about after we finish work each evening. He’s become obsessed with sweetly striking the O’Neills over the black spot or going as far to the sideline as he can and channelling his inner McDonald – sometimes he’s successful, sometimes he’s not, just as I am.
And at least it’s given us something to look forward to for the summer evenings for the time being, while we wait for the next announcement, the latest update, some clearance as to where we’re at and where we go next.
I envisaged starting off an April/May article along the lines of talking about Liverpool’s 30-year wait for a league title finally coming to an end and seeing, on a scale, how it might compare to Mayo’s drought ending.
I’m a Manchester United fan but I wouldn’t have envied Liverpool picking up the cup this year. Great teams deserve to win big trophies and football fans knew that it would have taken something colossal to stop this Scouse team this year, but nobody would have guessed it would have come in the form of a killer virus.
Some teams just have no luck … but ‘as the man says’, that’s sport.