The death has occurred of Dublin and St Vincent’s Gaelic football great Brian Mullins at the age of 68 following a recent illness.
Mullins will be remembered as one of the finest midfielders to have played the game. He claimed four All-Ireland SFC medals with Dublin (1974, ‘76, ‘77 and ‘83) as well as nine Leinsters, two National Leagues and two All-Stars (1976, ‘77).
Known for his strength, aerial ability and driving runs, Mullins was the dashing exuberance in Kevin Heffernan’s 1970s side. At just 19, he was a leading light when the Blues ended a nine-year wait for the Sam Maguire Cup in ‘74.
Kerry took Dublin’s crown the following year but Mullins was the dominant midfield figure in 1976 and ‘77 as the county claimed back-to-back All-Irelands, beating Kerry in the ‘76 final and again in the ‘77 semi-final in what is considered one of the finest games of Gaelic football ever.
Mullins won a remarkable nine Dublin SF championships with his beloved St Vincent’s. He was on the Marino’s victorious All-Ireland winning team of 1976 when they saw off Roscommon Gaels, one of three occasions when he reached the final. His entire senior club career spanned 20 seasons.
A motor accident in Portmarnock in 1980 threatened to finish Mullins’ career. He suffered a broken femur which forced him to use calipers and crutches for over a year. “I know it's pointless having regrets, especially having survived, but some times I feel that the accident robbed me of what I felt could have been two or three great years in my football career,” he later said.
“I was 25 then, approaching the stage when a sportsman is reckoned to be at his peak. Whatever about the theory, I really felt myself reaching a peak at that time. Dublin were in a process of change, but I thought the team had a good chance of at least going beyond the Leinster final stage.”
Mullins eventually came back in 1982 and was a totemic force as they claimed the 1983 All-Ireland title, although he was sent off in the 26th minute of the infamous final victory over Galway.
Mullins was a joint interim manager with Dublin in 1986 – he retired from the inter-county game after the 1985 All-Ireland final defeat to Kerry shortly before his 31st birthday. He later took charge of Derry for three seasons and brought them to an Ulster title in 1998, their last before the county lifted the Anglo-Celt Cup this past summer.
He was interviewed to replace Tommy Lyons as Dublin manager in 2004 but withdrew from the race citing differences with the county board executive. He also managed St Vincent’s senior team on a number of occasions and guided them to a county SFC crown in 2017.
A noted under-age interprovincial cricket and rugby player, Mullins had been UCD director of sport having been appointed to the role in 2000. He was a nephew of Kerry’s four-time All-Ireland winner Bill Casey. Mullins is survived by his wife Helen and four children.