AMID THE FLURRY of WhatsApp and Twitter messages Brian Fenton received on Saturday night, one stood out from the rest.
It arrived from Kerry legend Jack O’Shea, whose astonishing list of achievements in the game are being hunted down by the 27-year-old Dublin star.
O’Shea won Texaco Footballer of the Year four times, six All-Stars and seven All-Irelands. Fenton now has two GAA/GPA player of the year gongs, five All-Stars and six All-Irelands in his collection.
O’Shea has long been regarded as the greatest midfielder to ever play the game, though Fenton is already firmly in that discussion.
“He got my number off someone I knew,” explains the Raheny man. “I came across his and that was a lovely moment and I text him back.
“I was sort of in shock,” he adds.
“I obviously never saw him play but he’s always regarded as the gold standard, and something that you’re always trying to achieve. So that was a lovely, lovely moment last night.”
Fenton’s father, also called Brian, hails from Spa in Kerry and always held O’Shea in high esteem.
“I just showed him and he was amazed. He was trying to get the connection. I sent him a screenshot of it so we both have it.
“I remember I was at a Kerry game when I was 12 or 13 and we were sitting a couple of rows back in the Hogan Stand. Jacko, I didn’t know him I was a child, and he was walking up the sideline to do some punditry.
“There was a bit of cheering from the crowd and my dad stood up and roared, ‘Go on Jacko.’ He wouldn’t [usually] be massively cheering or anything like that but with that reaction I was like, ‘Jesus, this fella must have been good.’ So it obviously meant a lot to the family.
“For people like that to reach out to you it’s very kind. I said to my sister sitting beside me, remind me to do that in 30 or 40 years’ time to text that player. It’s a lovely touch, a really nice touch.”
Brian Fenton of Dublin with his PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Year award for 2020.
Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Fenton says he understands the decisions of Jack McCaffrey and, more recently, Paul Mannion to step away from Dublin duty given the commitment levels involved.
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“It consumes your life,” he admits. “Paul Mannion has achieved everything and has just said, ‘Look I want to go and pursue other things in my life’ and that’s important.
“Jack obviously has his career and stuff and similarly with Paul but hopefully he’ll be rejoining us.
“From my perspective, I think there is loads of time after when I’m 32 or 33 or 39, whatever Cluxo [Stephen Cluxton] is, to do other things in my life. I just love playing Gaelic football and that’s where I get my kicks.”
All indications are that Cluxton will be returning to the Dublin fold in 2021. Fenton remarked that his failure to win an All-Star last season wouldn’t matter much to the Parnells goalkeeper.
“Every year you’d be in the dressing room after an All Ireland final and we’d all start chanting ‘One more year, Cluxo, one more year!’ He’s a freak, he’s in the best shape. He’d be sending me 10 minute YouTube videos of abs sessions he’s doing and I’d be thinking ‘How are you doing this?’ He’s a freak, in the best possible way.
“He doesn’t care too much for All-Stars I’d say. Everyone knows Stephen Cluxton is the greatest and it doesn’t take an All-Star in 2020 to remind us of that, he will always go down as the best ever.
“I’m just so lucky to know him personally. Just as I look over my laptop screen here, I see a picture from Philly McMahon’s wedding and it’s me and Stephen Cluxton in one of those photo booths.
“I have pictures of Stephen Cluxton all around my house, it’s a bit weird! He’s just a legend.”
– First published 12.46, 22 Feb