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'Big Jack being 6’6, with the peak cap and waving the flag. He felt he was part of Ballina'

Ex-Mayo player David Brady on his hometown Ballina’s connection with Jack Charlton.

JJack Charlton had a long connection with the town of Ballina in Mayo.
JJack Charlton had a long connection with the town of Ballina in Mayo.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Updated Jul 28th 2020, 9:33 PM

WHEN THE BALLINA footballers got across the finish line in first place in Croke Park in 2005, it marked a momentous breakthrough.

All-Ireland finals had provided relentless disappointment, between club and country, over the previous decade but that St Patrick’s Day delivered success as they prevailed by a pair of points against Portlaoise.

They savoured the victory and headed back home to their Mayo town for the celebrations. All the residents joined in, those permanently based there and those with seasonal links like the 1966 England World Cup winner and mastermind of Irish soccer’s greatest era.

Jack Charlton’s recent passing brought memories of that All-Ireland win 15 years ago flooding back for David Brady, a lynchpin of that Ballina Stephenites side.

“The memory that came to me straight away was he was outside Moy Heights. We were coming back from the All-Ireland club final and there was big Jack across from the railway station at the entrance to where he lived. With hundreds of other people, but big Jack being 6’6, with the peak cap and waving the flag. He felt he was part of Ballina. He was Ballina. This was the local GAA team coming home after winning the All-Ireland.

tommy-lyons-and-david-brady-celebrate-with-cup David Brady celebrates after Ballina's 2005 All-Ireland club final success Source: INPHO

“I do remember on the bus we were going, sweet mother of Christ. It was an epiphany to say there is Jack Charlton now waving at us with a big happy head on him. A beaming smile, waving a flag, we are the ones he is welcoming home after all the memories we had as young fellas.

“We wouldn’t be in Dublin but we saw it on television and the news for Italia 90 and Euro 88. It was lovely. Jack was Jack then. He’d be in the local pub having his pint. He’d be down where I lived going trout fishing. He would be fishing up town in the Ridge Pool. It was nice. I think Ballina did very well in recognising the part he played as Jack Charlton and as a member of the communities as well.

“We are very proud of the history we had and the relationship we had with Jack from a Ballina perspective. Once the rumour started that Jack Charlton was in town, I remember walking two miles from my house up the town to get a look at Jack after Euro 88 and Italia 90. 

jack-charlton Jack Charlton at the friendly between Ireland and England in 2015 Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It was lovely to see the way he embraced Ballina but the way Ballina embraced him. From meeting him first hand, I did race pigs with him down the Ballina Salmon Festival after a Connacht final, myself and Liam McHale. He was God in Ballina when he came first. He soon turned into Jack. He was accepted as one of us. “ 

Charlton’s ability to interact comfortably with people from all walks of life stood out to Brady. It’s a trait the former Mayo player tried to adopt during the Covid 19-enforced shutdown where he started and continued making phone calls to different elderly GAA supporters around the county.

“He always stopped and he always had a conversation. He also chatted. He didn’t shun you away or ignore you. For me making the phone calls and the positive conversations I had with people was about listening, respect and understanding people. I think for me it has been an absolutely massive lesson. It is not one I tend to let go of very soon either.

“We all feel we are important at times but if we listen, it makes the other person feel relevant. That is the great positive, I wouldn’t have learned that without Covid and I am thankful for it. GAA was the conduit but some of my conversations spread far wide beyond that. For me it didn’t get me through lockdown, it carried me through lockdown, it was a lovely three or four months.”

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A Jack Charlton mural was unveiled last week in Ballina and Brady would be happy to see the town continue to salute their famous soccer resident.

“It was massive, yeah. I don’t know really, who drew it or who initiated or who thought of it. Again, that’s not the important thing but we will mark it and again it’s good. It’s good for Ballina to be to be associated with Jack Charlton.

“You know, you’ve got to take the positives out of it from the community and yes, I think we should develop it and also capitalise on what Ballina meant for Jack Charlton because we can help that make it. You don’t have to be a World Cup winner to come fishing in Ballina.”

There has been a suggestion of a statue being erected in honour of Charlton.

“Well look, if the man lived there, he was part of our community. It’d be a lovely, lovely testament to the way he embraced Ballina and the way that Ballina embraced Jack Charlton.

You know what’s the sad thing, we always see statues of people when they pass. People should be recognised when they’re alive. There’s one of Sean Boylan out in Dunboyne Castle and I thought it was a lovely thing. I seen it years ago and I thought, there you are!

“There’s a community or people that are involved in Dunboyne and there’s a statue of a man that’s still alive.”

aib-the-toughest-summer-david-brady David Brady is appearing in AIB's 'The Toughest Summer' a documentary which tells the story of Summer 2020 which saw an unprecedented halt to Gaelic Games. Source: Seb Daly/SPORTSFILE

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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