‘The Brendan Hayden Story’ by Leo McgOUGH

 

This wonderful and fitting tribute to a Carlow GAA legend was penned by the unparalleled Leo McGough back in 2010.

 

 

THE BRENDAN HAYDEN STORY

Athy is alive with anticipation as a balding figure in red, yellow and green appears on the fringes of the playing pitch.

As Peenie Whelan, the Carlow captain, a proud Tinryland leads his team out for the date with destiny that is the 1944 Leinster final he takes time to have a brief chat with a neighbour in the crowd.

Watching in awe as Peenie and his father exchanged words was a small eight year old boy who could not believe one of the players would talk to his Da.

And there was big John Doyle, another Tinryland hero, trundling out on to the field, soon practicing a few frees off of the ground.

I always remember John Doyle wore new boots that day but took them off at half-time says Brendan Hayden, the eight year old in question.

I dont recall a whole lot about the actual game apart from Peenie talking to my father and John Doyles boots smiles Brendan who was carried the 16 miles from Tinryland to Athy on the bar of his fathers bicycle, part of the cavalcade of Carlow supporters whose homeward journey was one of celebration.

The talk among the elated scallion-aters was of Kelly and Morris, Jimma Rea and the aforementioned big John Doyle who scored 1-4 of Carlows 2-6, his deadly accurate free-taking crucial to his countys famous triumph.

Little did those same supporters realise that the little boy on Joe Haydens crossbar was to grow up to become one of the finest footballers the county has ever produced.

Styling his free-taking on Doyles technique and bringing his own blinding speed and accuracy with both feet to bear in general play Brendan Hayden, with a mammoth 33-266 from 113 appearances, is Carlows highest scoring footballer of all-time.

Born on May 9, 1936, the same year his father won a SFC medal with Tinryland, the young Hayden attended the local National School where the Master was Mr Pat Shine, father of the famous Fr Paddy of Knockbeg, Tinryland and Carlow fame.

There was no school leagues during Brendans time but he fondly recalls Sunday afternoons when after neighbours had gathered to listen to Michael OHehirs radio commentaries on the wireless he would take to the fields and imagine he was Jimmy Murray of Roscommon or Simon Duignan of Cavan.

Then one day when Brendan was about 12, Fr Donegan, the local priest, threw a brand new football into the playground. Reared on a diet of worn tennis balls, the new leather was a godsend to the enthusiastic pupils.

None was more enthusiastic than Brendan Hayden who was soon to be seen training on his own in McArdles field. I only had to hop over a ditch, it was the next field to our own house. It was there I developed my ability to kick with both feet, worked hard on improving my weaker left recalls Hayden whose toe to hand ability also benefitted from those solo sessions.

And, mindful of John Doyles advice that the secret to successful free-taking was constant practice, the youthful Hayden also honed that vital skill.

Football was in my blood. My father played full-back for Tinryland for years. My uncles Mick and Ned Price were handy footballers, Mick was on the Carlow team that won the Leinster Junior championship in 1933, Ned played with Graiguecullen, Laois and the Army reveals Brendan who was mad keen to begin his own football career.

His first match took place in Mahons field in Bennekerry in 1950 when at just 14 years of age he came as a sub for the Tinryland minors against the Shamrocks, a town team.

He played minor for five years, beaten by eventual champions Grange in the 1952 semi-final, a year he was also a sub on the Carlow minor team.

Brendan first donned the county jersey in 1953, a Leinster MFC match against Kildare in Athy and though well beaten he opened his inter-county tally when 0-3 was penned beside his name.

Same opposition, venue and result pertained to the MFC the following year, his last in U-18 ranks though a senior debut was not far away.

Haydens first steps in adult ranks came with the Tinryland juniors and the clubs second string, with 17 year-old Brendan a star, won the championship in 1953 beating Borris in the final.

Having watched the Tinryland three-in-a-row team of 1949-50-51, Brendan had many local heroes. Himself and his brother Pat would go to Mass every Sunday when the highlight would not so much be being in the presence of God as the possibility of meeting and greeting the great Andy Murphy!

By 1954 Hayden was sharing the same dressing room as his hero and at 18 years of age played his first County Senior football championship final.

We were beaten by the Blues, Eamonn Long got two clever goals early on and we never really recovered rues Hayden who, unbelievably, was to play the last of the five county finals he played in all of 21 years later.

In the years after 54 Tinryland made little progress, with Hayden summing the situation up as the championship was knock-out, there was a lot of strong teams and if you were beaten you were gone and there wouldnt be another ball kicked for a year.

His teenage club exploits of 54 brought Brendan Hayden to the attention of the county senior football selectors and he has a vivid memory of his first outing. It was against Cork in a challenge match in the Athletic Grounds, playing left full forward on Paddy ODriscoll.

You are very young boy, what age are you, whats your name? asks the Cork man. The first ball that came in, I picked it off the ground, Brendan, dont do that any more, I wont harm you. It was a sporting gesture, Anyway I scored 1-2 off of Paddy that day

That 1-2, as it was a challenge game, is not included in Haydens competitive figures, nor is the 1-2 he scored next time out against Galway but then that second 1-2 was never credited to him?! I thought I had played well enough against Cork to be picked for the next game which was the opening of Tuam Stadium but I wasnt on the starting fifteen. Micky Whelan wasnt able to travel, I was drafted in left half forward, scored that 1-2 but on the way home we listened to the sports results on the radio and Micky Whelan got the credit for my 1-2, same in the papers the next day.

However, those same newspapers, over the next 17 seasons were to record many a Brendan Hayden score. The Tinryland clubman made his championship debut on his last day as an 18 year-old when Carlow played Laois in the first round of the Leinster championship in Athy. Laois rocketed home three goals in the opening quarter but Carlow rallied to win, a Paddy Carpenter goal from a Hayden centre the decisive score.

The Dublin machine trampled Carlow in quarter-final, Hayden, who admits he didnt play well, replaced at half-time. It was never to happen again.

It was around this time that I fully realised that I had something but that total commitment, training and dedication were vital ingredients if I was to go places states Brendan who by following his own advise became a key figure on the Carlow team that between 1957 and 1963 were a match for the best in the country.

Take, Tralee. November 1957. Unsung Carlow not only unlock the keys of the Kingdom, they plunge a fistful of shots in the Kerry net as the Barrowsiders record a famous 5-5 to 3-10 NFL victory.

Take Tralee, October 1961. Carlow again bring home a brace of league points from the home of football, this time on a 2-8 to 0-10 scoreline.

Carlow at that time were regularly paired with Kerry and Cork in the league recorded the odd win, Brendan Hayden usually to the fore.

Read what Kerry legend Mick OConnell wrote about Hayden in his autobiography.

Left half forward is a position that has accommodated many good players. Brendan Hayden of Carlow you might not have heard of, but ask Sean Murphy or Mick ODwyer about him. I saw Hayden give both of those backs a roasting in turn and they were no fluky performances.

High praise indeed. And Hayden himself has high praise for his inter-county colleagues of that time. We had some great players the Buller Canavan was a tower of strength at full-back, Paks Connolly of Clonmore and Leinster was hard to beat, Pat Brophy of Tullow held his own with the best in the country. Eamonn Long at mid-field was great, thats the only way to describe him, a high fielder, tremendous confidence in himself.

Ned Doogue was a match for the best, would always get a goal or two, make a few scores as well. Cran Hogan, on his day, was unbeatable, Mick Donovan and Vincent Harvey were useful men to have on your side enthuses Hayden of men who in five of the six championship campaigns between 1957 and 1962 were beaten by the eventual Leinster champions.

In 57, Dermot OBriens Louth hammered Carlow in Croke Park, Hayden opening his SFC account, scoring all but a point of Carlows 0-4.

In 58 Carlow beat Wicklow and Wexford to reach the Leinster semi-final, a stage the county has failed to reach since.

Luck was not on Carlows side against Dublin in Portlaoise, three Johnny Joyce goals helping the citymen establish a healthy half-time lead.

Carlow, with the Buller brilliant in defence, battled back, sub Ned Doogue, who was mysteriously left off the starting fifteen, scoring two goals but Carlow were eventually beaten 3-9 to 2-7.

In 59 having beaten Wexford, Carlow again played Dublin in Portlaoise, Joe Nolan magnificent in goal while a move involving Long and Hayden ended with Doogue poaching goal. However a Paddy Farnan goal in a rare breakaway eased the Metropolitans to a 1-11 to 2-3 victory.

In 60 a sparkling first half performance allowed Carlow lead Offaly 2-7 to 1-3 at half-time in Newbridge before the Midlanders successful rally reached a fortunate climax.

I remember it well laments Hayden. Near the end of the match Offalys Charlie Wrenn got a ball around left half back and kicked it high into goal. There was a mix-up in our defence and the ball ended up in the net. We were beaten by two points (2-11 to 2-9)

Offaly ended Carlows hopes in 61 too, 0-17 to 2-6 victors in Newbridge though the Barrowsiders had got great satisfaction from a thrilling 3-11 to 3-9 first round triumph over Laois in Athy.

By the time Carlow lined out in the 1962 championship their profile had risen considerably. The aforementioned win over Kerry kick-started a NFL campaign that saw Carlow reach the semi-final courtesy of a play-off victory over Cork in Croke Park.

All-Ireland champions Down awaited Carlow in the Croke Park semi-final, a day Brendan Haydens brother-in-law Ned Doogue he had married Neds sister Breda the same year scored two goals off the great Leo Murphy.

Paks Connolly had to withdraw the morning of the match, Sean Nolan did well centre-back as his replacement but the team had been re-jigged a bit and while bringing Pat Brophy to corner-back strengthened the defence, it weakened the attack who could have badly done with his strength says Brendan of a day and a loss he regrets to this day.

The 62 championship saw Carlow pitted against Kilkenny in the first round, the same Kilkenny who had put them out of the OByrne Cup. They would have repeated the dose in Nowlan Park but for the fact that Brendan Hayden scored a massive 2-7 in Carlows 3-11 to 2-11 success.

I was credited with 3-7 by the national papers after that game and it was second in the record books for a long time but Tom Kehoe actually scored one of the goals giggles Brendan who might be thinking it made up for Micky Whelan getting credit for his goal in Tuam!

Offaly ended Carlows 62 championship aspirations in Portlaoise when the losers in the mist of a strong rally had a good goal disallowed and from the resultant free-out Offaly rose a green flag themselves, a six point turnaround.

It was to prove the final fling of that particular Carlow team and though Brendan Hayden continued playing championship football until 1971 and made a few league appearances after that, the red, yellow and green never again reached the heights of the late 50s, early 60s.

By then, though, Brendan Hayden had long since established himself as a true Carlow GAA legend and the little boy who looked on in awe in Athy in 44 was to join Peenie Whelan as automatic selections on the Carlow football team of the century.

CLUB FOOTBALL: For a quarter of a century Brendan Hayden played adult club football. Twenty-five years, all bar one of which was sailed in senior waters. Twenty-five years, all bar one in the famed blue and white hoops of his beloved Tinryland.

Twenty-five years, every one of which was festooned by Hayden goals and Hayden points as his lethal cocktail of strength, speed, skill and scoring flair proved an explosive mixture.

You are not long in Brendans company before his deep love for everything Tinryland becomes clearly evident. He is acutely aware and immensely proud of the parishs football tradition and he speaks with reverence of his early influences, men like Fr Donegan, who cleverly dropped a new leather football into the schoolyard and 44 hero John Doyle, who was a constant source of encouragement and advise.

We learned last week of how Haydens first SFC campaign culminated in a county final appearance and of how subsequent years saw Tinryland make early exits.

Then, in early 1960 a difference of opinion prompted Brendan Hayden to sign on the dotted line of a transfer form that turned him into a member of Eire Og, a fledgling town club with big ambitions.

The arrival of Railway Cup raider Hayden fast-tracked those ambitions. Not only did Eire Og reach their first SFC final, they won it, Hayden central to their 0-16 to 1-3 victory over fancied Tullow with his half-dozen points part of a record county final white flag tally that stands to this day.

That was a well-drilled Eire Og team, well organized on and off the field states Hayden.

Shortly before Christmas 1960 the SFL final saw Eire Og compete the double, the fact that the final was against his native Tinryland adding greater intensity to the occasion. It was a tough, tough game, a lot of hard belts reveals Hayden of a Christmas cracker won by Eire Og.

John Doyle asked him to go back to Tinryland and as home is where the heart he returned to the Tinryland colours in 1961. Fate ordained the league final was another Eire Og/Tinryland affair, Hayden this time in the blue and white hoops where his stunning 3-3 inspired the country team to a 4-4 to 2-6 success.

Tinryland beat Eire Og again in 1968 SFL final, Hayden putting 1-2 beside his name. That was an Eire Og team that was in the middle of a three-in-a-row championship run while we were making little or no progress in the championship.

However in 67 and 69 Tinryland won a couple of U-21 championships, trained by Joe Gorman and Brendan Hayden and many of those 21s graduated to help the old stages win a coveted SFC medal in 1971.

That 1971 county final win must rank as his greatest sporting memory?

It certainly was. We were playing a star-studded Kildavin team, Georgie Coleman, Christy Neill, Brendan Doyle, Joe Kirwan, Peter Roberts, great players. I was playing upon Jim Treacy, a tight maker but I managed to finish up with 0-3 and we won a hard battle by 1-9 to 0-7.

We had beaten Palatine, our parish neighbours, in semi-final, a good game, very close, the decisive score came after a rebound of a penalty. Tommy ONeill took it, it hit the butt of the post, flew across the goal to where I was in a position I wouldnt normally take up, dont know how I turned out to be there. Anyway I gathered the ball, lost my man and stuck a shot in the onion sack. Scored a point from the corner flag shortly after, dont know how I did it reminisced the Tinryland sharpshooter, virtually giving is a visual reconstruction as he described the scores.

Ah those were great wins in 71, great days, the celebrations went on for a long time. It meant a lot to the people of Tinryland, it was 21 years since wed won it. Paddy Darcy and Liam Delaney had been classmates of mine in National School, it was a dream come true to win a SFC medal with the people you grew up with and for the people you looked up to declared Hayden with passion also taking time to recall the various Tinryland fields that had hosted the footballers down the years.

We won it again in 1972, putting titles back-to-back marks out a team as a bit above the ordinary and beating Eire Og in the final added to the enjoyment recounts Hayden.

That was the year Mick The Yank Farrell scored a famous goal, it was the clincher, himself and Andy Ellis were pictured on the ground. That goal was set up by Hayden and Ned Townsend, one of several scores orchestrated by Hayden who, in a rarity for him, failed to raise a flag.

He only raised one flag in the 1975 final but, crucially, it was the winning goal. Tinryland were locked in a dour battle with Myshalls Naomh Eoin when Hayden, now 39 years of age, saw the individual training in McArdles field in the lonely long ago pay senior dividends one last time. I hit it with my less preferred left foot and it shot to the roof of the net, I got great satisfaction out of that green flag.

Brendan finished up playing senior in 1977 and reflecting on his 24 years in top flight football picks out a few men for special mention. Joe Gorman, my life long friend, his well directed balls would create a lot of scoring chances for me, Enda Smith was a great inspiration as a mid-field colleague with club and county while Paddy Sullivan, Mickey Whelan, Jackie Doyle, Andy Murphy, Tommy ONeill and Davy Power among many, many others were great Tinryland colleagues while Liam Delaney and myself were known as the Terrible Twins, a bit like Galways Stockwell and Purcell. We knocked around together since our schooldays, still have the odd pint together concludes Hayden who is an ever-present at Tinryland fixtures from U8 Go Games to major senior football championship fixtures.

RAILWAY CUP FOOTBALLER: Brendan, by virtue of his outstanding consistency in the scoring stakes, was naturally and deservedly elevated to the rank of Railway Cup footballer, honoured by the Leinster selectors on a number of occasions.

He was following in the proud footsteps of his Tinryland heroes Peenie Whelan, Andy Murphy and Micky Whelan who had all donned Leinster green.

I was a sub for the semi-final and final in 1959, Leinster won and I got a medal, then in 1961 I was picked at left half forward for the semi-final against Ulster in Casement Park reveals Hayden who was the designated free-taker for that match.Leinster who lined-out in Offalys green, white and gold tricolour – a pleasant and welcome sight on the Falls Road given its similarity to the National flag! won by a point and though absent for the final which Leinster won the Carlow man collected his second Railway Cup medal.

His province called on him again in 1966, Ulster once more the opposition, this time in Croke Park where the drawing power of the Railway Cup can be gleaned by the fact that there were 13,640 in attendance. Though the Northerners won, Hayden 0-2 off of Tom McCreesh of Armagh were Leinsters only points from play.

REFEREEING: The 11th Commandment Common Sense!

Just as he was with his football free-taking big John Doyle was to influence Brendan Haydens style of refereeing too.

I had been doing a few old game for Willie OConnor (Co Secretary) and then in 1969 I was appointed to do a MFC match in Dr Cullen Park, a curtain-raiser to a senior match.

I was a Leinster Council delegate at that time and the week of the match I was at a meeting with Luke Hickey when Martin ONeill (Leinster Secretary) explained he didnt send me out the official form for the minor game because he wanted me to do the senior match.

I think John Dowling was to have done it but became unavailable. I was a bit nervous and told John Doyle I wasnt going to do it but he persuaded me otherwise.

Ill give you one bit of advise says he, theres one rule thats not in the book at all, the 11th commandment common sense, use that and youll be grand.

Again big Johns advise was followed and Hayden refereeing career took off to such an extent that he took charge of four Leinster SFC finals 1969, 1970, 1973 and 1975 the 1971 All-Ireland semi-final between Galway and Down as well as the Kerry v Dublin 1975 All-Ireland U-21 final, the 1976 All-Ireland Colleges SFC final and County senior finals in Wexford, Offaly, Kilkenny and his native Carlow, the 1985 draw and replay with Rathvilly and Naomh Eoin.

Brendan toured America as the All-Star referee in 1977 and was very disappointed that he was overlooked for the 1978 All-Ireland SFC final, the appointment for which would have been the pinnacle of his refereeing career.

As a man central to many scoring records as a player it was perhaps appropriate that he should also be the man in the middle of the highest scoring Leinster final of all-time. That was 1970, they were experimenting with 80 minute games for Provincial finals and Meath and Offaly ran up a huge score, I was busy making marks in the notebook laughs Brendan.

Indeed he was, the Royals won by a stunning 2-22 (28) to 5-12 (27)!

Hes not sure whether it was in that final or the 73 decider between the same teams but he recalls an amusing incident where one particular Offaly player kept complaining about the refereeing as his man consistently got the better of him.

Eventually running out of patience Brendan, instead of taking the moaners name, simply enquired as to is it you or me is marking Rennicks?!

I met that Offaly player a few years later and he said Jesus I would have preferred if you had booked me or told me to shut up, that remark really flattened me laughs Brendan.

TOUGHEST OPPONENTS: Inter-county: Cathal OLeary of Dublin, very speedy, strong in 50/50 ball situations and when he did get the ball he could hare up the field on a 40 yard run.

Paddy Gibbons of Kildare, a native of Mayo, was hard man to get a score off. Paddy ODriscoll (Cork), Paddy Harrington (Cork), the golfers father along with the Kerry pair Sean Murphy and Mick ODwyer were others I found very difficult.

Club: Tommy Corcoran of Eire Og was the greatest hoor, no matter what way youd turn or twist hed be on your boot.

Bob Sheehan (Ballinabranna), Jack Dunne (Ballinabranna), Jimmy Hickey (Bagenalstown), Sean Treacy (Palatine) and Brendan Doyle (Kildavin) were other men I had great club battles with.

FACTORY FOOTBALL: I will always cherish the winning of factory football titles with Cosets, the Sugar Factory team. One year we beat Roadstone in the final, They had players like Noel Delaney and Sean Brennan (Laois), Pa Connolly (Kildare) and John Timmons, Paddy Holden and Mickey Whelan of Dublin.

They were as good as inter-county games, inter-provincial even, the factory had a great team that time, there were great interest in the games, there was a special train run to Newbridge for one final. We won two Leinster titles, there was no All-Ireland in football, completed the Leinster double one year.

Cosets had a good hurling team too, inter-county quality, men like Kilkenny All-Ireland hurlers, Seamus Cleere, Martin Coogan and Paddy Moran, we won two All-Ireland inter-firms titles, 1963 and 1964, happy days.

OFFICER WITH A SHOULDER TO THE WHEEL: Even before his playing days were over Brendan Hayden had been taken up administrative roles and at this stage he has been Chairman of Tinryland GFC on three separate occasions.

Even when not in the chair he has been a willing worker for the club and was deeply involved in the acquisition and development of their Rathcrogue home as well as its recent redevelopment when heavy negotiation was required to sort of the by-pass situation.

Brendan was Carlows Leinster Council delegate for 17 years and was as proud as punch when elected Honorary President of Carlow GAA in 2004.

TRAINER/COACH: Naturally Brendan Haydens intelligent football brain was called on to take charge of teams and, again, even before his own playing days were at an end the Tinryland stalwart was involved in this aspect of the game.

He steered Rathvilly to the JFC title in 1967 and two years later Joe Gorman and himself put the title-winning Tinryland U21s through their paces.

Subsequently Hayden trained Tinahely to a lot of success in Wicklow and won a title of some description every year he was with Fenagh including a couple of Intermediate titles and guided his own Tinryland second string to a JFC title in 1988.

Brendan also served as an inter-county selector on several occasions, including 1982-83 when Carlow won their division of the league.

FAMILY DYNASTY: Brendans father Joe won SFC medals with Tinryland, his Uncles Ned and Mick Price were good footballers too while his brother Pat The Diamond was a useful kicker, played with one of the best Carlow minor teams of all time.

And When Cupids Arrow struck Brendan Hayden, it was from the quiver of Brid Doogue whose brothers Ned and Maurice were inter-county footballers.

With that pedigree it was virtually certain the Hayden offspring would be of sporting persuasion and sons Joe, the late Martin, tragically killed in a road accident in 1988, Brendan and Colm grew up into dual stars in their own right, gifted with big ball or small, be it with club or county or, in Colms case, province, emulating the feat of dear old Dad by winning Railway Cup honours. Daughters Ann and Marian are also sports fanatics, Marian a talented footballer of inter-county quality with an inter-provincial call-up on the cards.

GUARDING THE HURLING NET

Though were not a hurling county

I have often heard folks say

Still we won the honoured bounty

On that wet September day

From the home of Munster hurling,

Rebel Cork I mean

As they watched our flags unfurling

In the yellow, red and green

DOYLES homely little bar in Castledermot has a clock behind the counter the handles of which tick backwards!

It was there one Wednesday afternoon six or seven years ago on the way home from a colleges game in Newbridge I heard Brendan Hayden sing that opening verse of the 1960 Carlow hurling song.

The backward clock provided an appropriate backdrop to a trip down memory lane as Brendan, a renowned Railway Cup footballer, spoke with immense pride of his involvement with the pioneering Carlow hurlers of the late 50s and early 60s.

It was a subject we returned to in his Springfield Drive sitting room recently and, like many hurling old-timers, Brendan agrees that the greatest day of all was the day they beat Cork in Kilkenny. Though the NHL win over the Rebels Christy Ring and all! is a cherished memory, that is not the Cork game Brendan is referring to.

Ah no, the day we beat Cork in the All-Ireland Junior Home final in Nowlan Park was really special. Carlow had come from nowhere, hadnt won a match for over twenty years, then in the late 50s we beat Laois and Offaly to win back-to-back NHL titles and the thing took off recalls Brendan with relish.

We won the Leinster Junior in 1960, beat Wexford in New Ross in the final, another great day and then we found ourselves up against a fancied Cork team in the Home final and by then there was a big Carlow crowd following us continues Brendan who, though a high scoring football forward, was a hurling goalkeeper.

Against wind and rain in the second half we had a mighty battle with Cork and I remember Red Liamy Walsh leaving a string of their backs in his wake on one great run, he had a mighty game that day, he was only ten stone but he had the heart of a tiger and skill to burn says Hayden.

If the Red lad had played with Kilkenny he would have won several All-Ireland senior medals, would have been ranked alongside Eddie Keher asserts Hayden.

Willie Hogan was another good one, when playing right half back his huge clearances were inspirational, Pat Somers took every match very seriously and if you let in a goal he would in fierce bad form. He was a great man to cover off. Jimmy McCarthy was a total ball-player, Long was an opportunist and Paddy OConnell, Ned Gladney, Martin Hogan and Tom Nolan were sound men, Moling Morrissey and Black Billy Walsh were grand hurlers too says the net guardian of his colleagues adding Jimmy Phelan had us coached to the last, he got the last ounce out of us.

That last ounce culminated in the county winning its first ever All-Ireland title in either code but while the 1962 Intermediate final proper victory over London was celebrated in style, the 1960 Junior Home final win over Cork has many backers as Carlows finest hour.

It was a great game and a great occasion, probably our best ever display and we learned what it meant to the people of the county when on the way home from Kilkenny we were greeted at the county border by ecstatic Carlow supporters reveals Brendan who reckons John Duggans lively song captures the atmosphere of the time perfectly.

Carlow had to go to London for the final proper, the Tinryland natives first trip outside the country and but for a late Phil Wilson goal and a point Hayden would have returned home with an All-Ireland medal.

The pitch in New Eltham was in a terrible state, the match should not have been played, it was a mudbath and to this day I regret one incident when it attempting to make a reflex save my feet got stuck in the muck sighs the custodian of that 2-4 apiece draw.

The replay in Croke Park was a high scoring affair, Red Liamy was the victim of tough London tackling, had to go off with a bad facial injury and we were beaten by three points, a major disappointment.

Revenge was to be sweet two years later when Carlow beat London in the 1962 All-Ireland Intermediate final in Croke Park. By then Brendan Hayden had been replaced between the sticks by Jackie OConnell though he did continue as sub goalkeeper for the entire campaign, citing the Home final win over Galway in Birr as another masterful Carlow display.

Hayden, however, was back in the No 1 jersey for the opening round of the 1962-63 NHL when Carlows first game as fully fledged seniors, six weeks after winning the All-Ireland, pitted them against Christy Rings Cork.

Pat Somers did a good job marking Ring and when Ring was switched Martin Hogan did the business while at the other end Red Liamy and Willie Hogan were on fire enthuses the goalkeeper of Carlows never to be forgotten 1-17 to 1-12 Dr Cullen Park victory of the legendary Leesiders.

Having enjoyed NFL success over Kerry with all-time great Mick OConnell on board, the NHL with over Cork with Christy Ring completed a unique double for Carlows dual star.

CLUB HURLING: Coming from a football stronghold such as Tinryland the fact that Brendan Hayden hurled at all was unusual. How did that come about?

My father brought home two hurls one day for my brother Pat and myself. There used to be murder between us out in the bog laughs Brendan.

Not surprisingly he played no schools or under-age hurling apart from one minor match with The Rockies, an amalgamation team drawing resources from a wide expanse of mainly football country.

Upon starting work in the Sugar Factory Jimmy Phelan, who had starred with Kilkenny in the Thunder and Lightening All-Ireland hurling final of 1939, enticed the county footballer to hurl with Pearses, the pet name on the Carlow Hurling Club team of the time.

While one might have expected, given his scoring exploits with the big ball, that the dual star would be used up front Brendan admits I always fancied playing in goal, enjoyed it in there and like the football, where I only ever played two or three games in the backs, I played virtually all my hurling between the sticks.

Pearses fielded a powerful team who having been beaten in the 1959 final by St Mullins came storming back to hammer the Southerners in the SHC finals of 1961 and 1963, Hayden a steady net guardian on both occasions.

Noel Chic Gorman played on Red Liamy Walsh in those games, he had great self confidence and played the red lad better than anyone.

Strangely, having been beaten by St Mullins in the 1965 SHC final replay, hurling in Carlow Town went out of existence and Brendan Hayden became a free agent.

After a few years with taking stick in hand an approach from Michael Doyle to hurl with St Fintans (Ballinabranna) met with a positive response.

They were of mutual benefit to each other, Hayden adding a leavening of experience to a young Ballinabranna side only recently emerged from Junior ranks. A shock victory over Erins Own in the 1969 SHC final gave Brendan Hayden his third SHC medal.

Hayden might have drifted from the game soon after but in 1972 fellow Sugar Factory worker Dick Gladney, Palatines hurling messiah, was looking for a goalkeeper to put finish on a promising senior team.

Again it was a marriage made in heaven, Hayden starring in goal while at the other end JJ Canavan was consistently bursting the net. Amazingly Pal were crowned 1972 champions after a thrilling 4-9 to 0-18 victory over red hot favourites Ballinkillen, Haydens clean sheet vital to seeing off their Terry Byrne he scored 0-14 and lost inspired opponents.

Carlow Town Hurling Clubs reformation saw Hayden return to play a bit of junior and won a medal in that grade in 1979 as well as picking up another SHC medal in 1980 as a 44 year old sub goalkeeper.

 

A dheis De go raibh a h-anam dilis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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