The 22-year old Raheny man was immediately surrounded by his family after helping Dublin beat Kerry last weekend, just two years after the passing of his mother, Marian.
The late Billings, a former Dublin selector who mentored Fenton at UCD and died last April, was also recalled at Croke Park with a picture of the St Vincent’s man hanging in the victorious Sky Blues dressing-room.
“My mother passed away just a little bit over two years ago,” Fenton said. “She remains quite the motivation for me. It was an emotional time at the final whistle. I met Dad and my family at the final whistle, thinking of Mam, thinking of Mam always.”
Fenton admitted that his mother was keen for him to pursue swimming having excelled in the pool as a teenager.
“We have a huge swimming history,” explained Fenton. “My uncle, David Cummins, went to the Olympics, I’m not sure which Olympics he went to, and that sort of stuff. I have three older sisters and I was just carted along with them to swimming. I swam up until about U-16 and was winning titles in Ireland but when push came to shove and I had to make a decision, it was football from there on.”
Fenton’s father, Brian senior, is a Kerry man and the family spent a lot of time in the Kingdom over the years. The rising Dublin star revealed that his father, from the Spa club outside Killarney, was always keen for him to play Gaelic football.
“The Kerry blood definitely helps,” smiled Fenton. “Since I was very young, the football was the be all and end all. It came from my Dad and my family were big into swimming, as I said, and my mother wanted me to swim and Dad definitely got a hold of me and, being the Kerry man, that he was, football was going to be the destination.
“It’s definitely something that was built into me. I am lucky in a way, I was lucky to have him and I’m still lucky to have him. He is always there for me, he’s been brilliant, my main support, my main man.”
Fenton, who played Sigerson Cup football for UCD earlier this year before graduating with a degree in physiotherapy, credited legendary Dublin figure Billings with also playing a huge role in his rapid development.
“We had his picture up on the wall in the dressing-room and I just went over and gave it a little touch (before the game),” said Fenton.
“He was definitely looking down on me, himself and Andy Kettle, two Dublin legends. They were in the dressing-room with us I suppose.
“Dave was a huge, huge inspiration to me. He definitely looked after me in UCD. I wasn’t on any sports scholarship or anything like that but he’d always have that little bit of advice for you to add to you game. He was a true inspiration along with Brian Mullins in UCD as well.”
Fenton said he’s well aware that he has achieved an All-Ireland win in his very first year, something that Ciaran Whelan, his club colleague at Raheny, never managed despite playing for Dublin for nearly 15 years.
“It was unfortunate that he never played in an All-Ireland final and obviously never won an All-Ireland, for the player that he was,”
Fenton said. “So for me to come in, in my first year, play in an All-Ireland final and win, it probably doesn’t do justice to Ciaran. But what can I do?
“There’s a lot of lads I would have played with who were and are unbelievable footballers but things didn’t go their way, like Ciaran I suppose. He played for so long and was one of the best ever in the game and for him not to win an All-Ireland, or even get to that final, it’s just tragic.”
Fenton, like midfield colleague Denis Bastick, said that he was aware of constant criticism of Dublin’s midfield throughout this year’s Championship.
“We were never going to lie down to any team,” said Fenton. “The likes of the O’Sheas in Mayo, Tom Parsons, then the Kerry midfield, there was a lot of great challenges for us but it was something I embraced. Thankfully we didn’t let ourselves down.”