46-year-old keeper relishing 'madness' of late late call-up

Picture: Inpho/Lorraine O’Sullivan

Inter-county football has been a welcome distraction for Waterford’s 46-year-old goalkeeper Darren Mulhearne who took redundancy from his job at Virgin Media a week before being called into the Déise set-up.

Mulhearne made his championship debut on Saturday evening, keeping a clean sheet during Waterford’s narrow defeat to Clare in their Munster SFC quarter-final meeting at Cusack Park, Ennis.

The Kilrossanty goalkeeper, who is not even three weeks with the Déise panel, is enjoying his late, late call-up to the inter-county scene and joked that he does not want a new job until Waterford’s championship campaign is at an end.

“I was in a job for 19 years with Virgin Media up until a few days before I got the call from Waterford manager Benji Whelan and the madness started,” Mulhearne revealed.

“I got redundancy. So this is a good distraction. I might become a professional footballer. I don’t want a job until the football’s over.”

To make his debut at the ripe old age of 46 was, Mulhearne admitted, a dream come true.

“I’m only a young fella,” he quipped. “It was brilliant. Look, it was heartbreaking for the lads that they got so close to Clare. 

The effort was amazing there, especially in the second-half. It was just heartbreaking for them to come up a point short against a second division team in their home ground.

 

"But I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It was brilliant. A dream come true.”

Having been briefly involved with the Waterford panel in 1989, the father of three wasn’t expecting a second bite of the cherry some 30 years later.

“I would have given up on it years ago. I started in goal and then I went outfield for the club for a long time. I went back in goal about 10 years ago. 

"But you wouldn’t be expecting at that stage — in your mid-30s — to be called on to a county team because, obviously, everyone tries for the youth and that.

“They’ve always had good goalkeepers in Waterford so definitely, at 46, I never thought it was going to come. 

"It was brilliant when I got the call-up and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it — every training session, the whole buzz. It’s been brilliant. 

"I only came for the last while, I can’t be doing that winter training. That’s for mugs.”

Saturday evening in Ennis, leaving aside Waterford’s failed comeback and the 0-9 to 0-8 final scoreline, was a rather special occasion for the Mulhearne clan, particularly for his son and two daughters.

“The girls like football. Now, my son, he’s not big into the GAA or any kind of a sport. Even him, he’s delighted for me. 

"It was a great buzz for them. They travelled up. My sisters travelled.

“It was great. Hopefully I’ll stay on [for the remainder of the championship]. The thing is now to keep improving, get a good draw in the qualifiers, get a home draw, and, hopefully, we’ll get a run at that.”

An injury to first-choice net-minder Aaron Beresford, while on club duty last month, prompted manager Benji Whelan to reach out to Mulhearne.

“Well, we were probably down to our fourth or fifth choice of back-up keeper at that stage. We were delighted that Darren came in at this late stage,” said Whelan.

“David Whitty is waiting there in the wings, as well. Without the likes of these guys coming in at this stage, we wouldn’t be able to compete the way we are.

“Darren played in the Waterford county final last year with his club. He has got that experience under his belt and that’s why he got the gig against Clare.

“He hasn’t done anything to knock himself out of the equation. 

"He’s going to be there for the foreseeable until perhaps this championship is over. I hope that’s the case anyway.”

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