Kingdom legend Breen finally meets his match

LAST week I headed for Strasbourg for the official opening of the new European Parliament. On the plane from Farranfore I met former Kerry footballer Enda Galvin from Finuge.

Enda was on a different mission to mine – he was heading to Rome for the wedding of another former Kerry great, Eamonn Breen also from Finuge.

Breen gave club and county great service and won an All-Ireland medal and All Star with Kerry in 1997.

At that stage he had given almost a decade to the Kerry jersey. Most people would say that to give the time and commitment, required nowadays to train and play at inter-county level, one has to have a ‘soft hands’ job like a teacher, student, doctor or a garda. Not so Breen who is a plasterer by trade. It made playing for the county a lot harder in terms of leaving building sites early and trying to make up for lost time the following morning.

Breen also played through some of the bad years for Kerry. But I never heard him complain. He gave his all, took and gave a few wallops and never gave up. He played with an undying spirit and commitment. He got red carded a few times but took it like a man. Together with his great friend Liam O’Flaherty, they were a consistent presence in the Kerry back-line all during the nineties.

The lean times came to an end when Páidi O Sé took over as manager. Breen and O’Flaherty were the kind of men that Páidi liked and so he built his team around them. They didn’t let him down and it was a great climax to their careers to eventually get the Celtic Crosses in 1997 but in one of the great mysteries of the All Star selections, a statuette didn’t follow that year; he was imperious at centre-back in the All-Ireland final.

After the final we went on the mandatory holiday that All-Ireland champions fully deserve. On a few nights I socialised with Breen and Flaherty. One night we were joined by Páidi, the late Bernie O’Callaghan and Tom Connor of Kenmare. The craic was mighty but on the following morning I vowed ‘never again’.

Last Tuesday was Bastille Day in France and in two different cities on the continent, Eamonn Breen and I were making vows of a different sort. I of the parliamentary kind, Breen of the matrimonial kind.

It was appropriate that Eamonn should be married on Bastille Day to Geraldine Carmody, sister of Kerry panellists Pat. Storming of the Bastille involved the releasing of prisoners. But Breen took no prisoners last Tuesday. He just took his matrimonial vows. Best wishes for a long and happy life to Eamonn and Geraldine.

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