One of the longest serving GAA players in the country has ditched his retirement plans after tasting what life might be like without football during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Sligo’s Mark Breheny initially enjoyed the free time away from football earlier this year but several weeks of lockdown has convinced him to give it another go.
The 39-year-old retired from inter-county football in 2018 after 17 seasons of service to Sligo and played his last game of club football last October when St Mary’s were defeated in the county semi-final.
And, after initially having huge doubts about whether he’d play again at all, the former Connacht champion is itching to get back to playing.
“After I retired from inter-county I had said to the club manager that I’d give it a full blast from December 2018 through 2019 with St Mary’s. We got to the county semi-final, but didn’t get over the line,” said Breheny.
“I came to a stage where I could take it or leave it. I just felt I didn’t have that appetite. This year is the very first year between inter-county and club I said I wouldn’t start off the year and I also said I wasn’t sure what the plan was, that I may just leave it altogether.
“I wanted just to get back to a bit of normality. I decided to go by my own schedule after all the years of having to be at a certain place at a certain time. It was really refreshing: December, January, February, and March, just having that extra time in the house was brilliant.
“I had done nothing before the lockdown. Now I’d love to get out. It’s funny how so much time inside gives you the itch to go and do something. We’ll see how it goes, if things resume I’d love to get out and get a run, go training again.
“I still feel I’m in good shape, and if there is football later on in the year I would consider looking to get back, even playing a bit of junior and linking up then with the seniors — if I was moving well.”
The retirement of Corofin and Galway legend Kieran Fitzgerald at the weekend caught Breheny’s eye and brought back memories they had in opposite corners for almost two decades.
Despite Fitzgerald calling time on his career, Breheny thinks it would be hard to call a permanent end to club action.
“It’s hard to know if you can ever officially retire from your club. I didn’t want to put a concrete decision on it, because you probably will end up having to help them out at some stage.
“Myself and Kieran have crossed paths many times over many years. I remember him marking me in the Webb Cup at U-16 level back in 1997. Then I ended up meeting him playing for Summerhill against St Jarlath’s.
“He was on the other side again at county minor and U21 with Sligo, and in 2015 we won the county title and he was there playing for Corofin when they beat us well at Markievicz Park.
“He was some player for club and county — he has a way bigger medal haul than myself though.”