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‘Kevin was a giant in every way’: Taoiseach leads tributes to Heffernan

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and GAA President Liam O’Neill are among those paying tribute to the Dublin legend, who died today aged 83.

Heffernan, pictured in 1989.
Heffernan, pictured in 1989.
Image: © INPHO / Billy Stickland

Updated at 19.35

AN TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny has led the tributes to Dublin GAA great Kevin Heffernan who died earlier today. He was 83.

The managerial mastermind who led Dublin to three All-Ireland football titles in the 1970s and 80s, Heffernan also had a glittering career as a player. He captained Dublin to an All-Ireland football title in 1958 and won 21 county championships across both codes with his club St Vincent’s.

He was, Kenny said, “one of the real legends of the GAA.”

Under his management, Dublin revolutionised the way teams trained and the way the game was played. His All Ireland successes brought him into the hearts and homes of Dublin and GAA fans all over the country. Heffo’s teams rejuvenated GAA in the city and his legacy is there for all to see.

“Kevin was a giant in every way and to his wife Mary and daughter Orla, I extend my deepest sympathy.”

President Michael D Higgins also paid tribute to Heffernan, describing him as “one of the most influential sports people of all time”.

In addition, speaking on Off the Ball this evening, Paddy Cullen, who played under Heffernan, said:

“It’s a day we’ve been expecting because he was ill for some months. But it was still a shock when it came. He certainly was a legend in his own lifetime.

“When somebody has something that you can’t put your finger on, Kevin had that. He was a mentor, a coach, a strategist, a psychologist – he was everything you could put into a man.

“You were in awe of this man. Everything to Kevin was always a challenge – every day was new, but when it was gone, it was gone.

“He instilled this belief of everything into you and how proud you should be.”

The Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore credited Heffernan with bringing about a new era in gaelic football.

“Kevin Heffernan, or Heffo as he was affectionately known by generations of supporters, was a proud Dub and a proud St Vincent’s man.

He had a profound influence on the game of Gaelic football, and the professional approach that he took as manager of the Dublin team in the 1970s, ushered in a new era for the sport.

Gilmore added: “He was also a fine public servant, first as personnel manager in the ESB and later as Chairman of the Labour Court.”

GAA President Liam O’Neill also paid his tribute to a man who remained “immensely modest” despite his massive contribution to Irish sport.

“Kevin Heffernan had an incalculable impact not only on Gaelic Games in the capital but nationally helping as he did to forge one of the defining rivalries of the Association while at the same time assisting in the reinvigoration of the GAA scene in Dublin.

“The ‘Dubs’ as we know them came into being during his era as he restored success to his native county and a pride in the team that was built on the back of the selection of Dublin born players.

He was one of the most charismatic and popular figures the Association has ever produced and was at the same time an immensely modest man.

I would count myself – like countless others – extremely fortunate to have met him on occasions down through the years.

Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin TD added:

“It is with great sadness that I learned of the untimely death of Kevin Heffernan, who was an iconic figure in GAA circles. Kevin will be remembered for his inspirational leadership of the great Dublin team of the 1970s and commitment to his club St Vincent’s.

“He raised the bar in GAA, introduced a new level of professionalism and whenever Gaelic football is played, his name will be remembered with great affection and respect.

“Only recently, I enjoyed reading about his role as manager of the International Rules team during the 1980s in Teddy McCarthy’s book where Heffo’s character and professionalism shines through.”

Dublin county board chairman John Costello said GAA in the capital will be “forever indebted” to one of its favourite sons.

“So too is Irish society for lifting the awareness of Gaelic games, putting it on a revered pedestal, particularly at a juncture in time when participation in Gaelic games in the capital was waning.

Kevin was a very modest and unassuming man and never dwelt on his past achievements. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

He was “Hill 16′s greatest hero,” current Dublin star Bernard Brogan said, crediting Heffernan’s great teams as his inspiration.

“I grew up on stories of #HeffosArmy,” Brogan tweeted. “The reason I wanted to be a Dub!”

“The Godfather of Dublin & St. Vincent’s football passed away today,” Mossy Quinn added. “RIP Kevin Heffernan. An incredible man.”

Another Dublin player, Barry Cahill, tweeted:

“Extremely sad news today to hear that Dublin GAA legend Kevin Heffernan has passed away. #dublingaa #heffosarmy

Additional reporting by Paul Fennessy

Dublin legend Kevin Heffernan passes away

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