Feature: The Brady bunch

Eamonn Brady was a championship winning goalkeeper for his native Mullahoran before winning the 2015 intermediate title alongside his son David with Ballyhaise. It has been a remarkable season so far and Michael McMullan takes a look…

WHERE do you start with Eamonn Brady and his success on different fronts in the Breffni County?

A three-time senior championship winning senior goalkeeper with Mullahoran, his daughter Elaine was player of the final when Ballyhaise ladies left it late to topple his native club to complete a league and championship double.

Youngest son Michael has been a pivotal in an attack that shot Ballyhaise to Sunday’s Ulster showdown with Cullyhanna.

When Glenullin looked to have one foot in Sunday’s final, it was David who rose like a salmon before tucking home the game-changing goal, into the only corner of the goal he had to aim at.

When Ballyhaise were last Cavan intermediate champions, in 2015, a 44-year-old Eamonn Brady was chipping kick-outs down the wing to David – then in his final year of minor – to run on to.

Winning a championship alongside your son is a dream. Not many get to taste it. Two years later, while a senior selector, he pulled out the junior team for a few games when numbers were light. On a few occasions his son Michael was on the same pitch.

Getting to play on the same pitch as both your sons, well, that’s just even better again. A Friday morning phone conversation peels only off the top layer of a story of pride. Below it, you can sample a grá for football the modest excitement in his voice only really tells.

And if there wasn’t enough happening this year, Eamonn and Ballyhaise underage’s driving force, Kathy Clarke, was helping Mick Flynn guide Cavan u-16 ladies to All-Ireland glory.

She has two sons – Eoin and Cormac – chasing Ulster medals on Sunday, but her daughter Clodagh was part of the Cavan success. So too was Rubi Gilmartin, brother of senior footballer Luke.

Ballyhaise is a walking example of the stories the club game has tucked away from the spotlight mainly radiated on the county side of the split season.

On Sunday, Eamonn Brady and Kathy Clarke will take up their place in the Castleblayney stand as their sons shop for another piece of silver to slide under the Christmas tree.

In Eamonn’s words, it’s best to “leave them at it” and let them navigate their own path, it’s Damien Keaney’s ship to steer.


Mullahoran eats and breathes GAA. How could it not? Hugging one side of the parish is current senior champions Gowna.

On another side, across the county and provincial border is Mullinalaghta who toppled the might of Kilmacud Crokes in 2018 to be crowned Leinster champions.

“There would be nothing else in the place only the GAA,” Eamonn Brady said of Mullahoran, a place that made an imprint in Cavan’s All-Ireland teams of the 1930s and ‘40s.

His late mother Teresa, from Cornafean, had an interest in the GAA. His father, Eddie, still keeps a handle all things Mullahoran, and beyond.

“I played for 25 years with Mullahoran,” Eamonn summed up of a stellar career that saw him add the 2006 and 2012 titles to his first taste of championship glory with the ’98 crop honoured as the jubilee team this year.

He played with Mullahoran until the age of 41 with his last outing coming in a defeat at the hands of Errigal Ciaran in the 2012 Ulster Championship.

Seanie Smith and Eddie O’Reilly are the only other players to start on the three winning teams.

After taking some time to break into Mullahoran senior team as an outfield player, the goalkeeper jersey became his calling card for an excellent career.

There were a few games with Cavan at the start of Martin McHugh’s tenure.

“They probably thought they’d never get rid of me,” Brady joked of his long career that was only broken slightly in the 2011 season.

“We were very competitive and played in a lot of finals. We had a good senior team at that time.”

Winning the title in 1998 was a standout memory. One of them as it took them another eight years to get back to the top of the tree.

Neighbours Gowna won three in four seasons in an era when Cavan Gaels won 10 titles in 21 years.

The 2006 title was special for Mullahoran after losing three finals on the trot to the Gaels, all with little to choose between the sides.

“It was our fourth final in a row against them,” Brady recalls. “They beat us in the three finals by tight margins, five, three and two-point losses.

“In 2006 we went in against them again as complete underdogs.”

Mullahoran were dealt a blow of having county player Eddie O’Reilly sent off just before half time and they trailed by a point as the teams trotted to the dressing room.

“We ended up winning the game with 14 men against a Gaels team who were probably in their prime and we beat them by six points. That was the one we got the most satisfaction from of the three (titles).”

While Mullahoran’s Ulster exit in 2012 was his last game, it wasn’t Eamonn Brady’s last dance.


Brady is a Garda based on Cootehill and after marrying Caroline, they went house hunting in Cavan town and their search took them out the road to Ballyhaise.

For a decade or more, he made the 70-minute round trip to Mullahoran training but the children, David, Michael and Elaine, dipped their toes in with Ballyhaise.

“My children started getting involved in underage football and I was doing a bit of coaching,” he said.

“I was asked by the present chairman, Paul McGoldrick, to help out at underage on Saturday mornings. The kids started going to that and I got involved in a few teams at underage here in Ballyhaise and it snowballed from there.”

The Ballyhaise senior footballers were wandering around in a championship wilderness since their 1968 intermediate title. But they were getting close.

Cootehill beat them in the 2014 final but the feeling was that if they got their house in order, success was within reach.

“I threw my lot in with Ballyhaise after being approached by one of the selectors,” Brady said of the call in the middle of the 2015 winning campaign.

“I decided to give it a go. I was 43 at that stage and the body was creaking a bit.”

As the tail end of the league morphed into the championship, he had the number one jersey on his back.

“They asked me to come on board to see what I could offer,” he said. “I had a good bit of experience under my belt at that stage and maybe they felt that the little bit extra would help.”

Without doing much in the three years since hanging up the boots, he did enough to keep himself in decent nick.

“I hadn’t kicked a ball at all,” he added. “I didn’t find it too bad, the muscle memory kicked back in and I got back at it after a few training sessions.

“I started to find my range again, it was a bit daunting going back but I enjoyed it.”

It was the same year his son David was helping St Patrick’s, Cavan to the MacRory title and Cavan minors to all the way to an Ulster final against a Derry team that started the current Oakleaf revival.

“He was doing his leaving cert around the time I came back,” Eamonn said. “I played my first game along with him on the team in the first round of the championship that year against Swanlinbar.”

From the days the father and son would spin into Breffni Park to watch games, to then being together, inside the same camp, was surreal.

“He was in as a mascot a couple of times for different games,” Eamonn added.

“I was thinking we had come full circle now. He is coming and we have two gear bags in the boot. He was mascot for a county final with Mullahoran and marched around behind the band with me and now he was togging out with us.

“You’d be keeping an eye out for him on the field but he didn’t need much minding, he was well able to mind himself. He was bigger and stronger than I was at that stage.”

David’s wing forward role would see him run a channel for his father’s kick-outs.

That was special and the moment on the pitch after their narrow 2015 win over Arva is there forever and a “different kind of feeling” to winning with Mullahoran.

For Ballyhaise to end their famine was one thing. After being beaten in finals, there was a tangible relief.

“For me, it was special to win it with my son on the field. It was a special moment and one that will live long in the memory.”

Eamonn played senior in 2016 before becoming a selector in 2017 and pulled the junior team out on a few occasions before calling it a day for the final time.

Now, his time is shared between coaching and watching. He laughs at the suggestion they’d tick all the boxes for a run at RTÉ’s Ireland’s Fittest Family.

“We were often slagged about it but it passed us by,” was the swift reply.

One of the greatest benefits of a run in the provincial championship is how it shortens the winters. It brings another handful of Monday mornings to digest a championship weekend. There is a spin to some far flung corner of the country the club wouldn’t usually grace.

“There is a great atmosphere around the place at the minute with the two teams going well,” Brady said, indicating how the Ballyhaise ladies’ success two weeks before the men was a “defining moment” in their bandwagon.

The success the community continued to dine out on this week is borne out of a combination of factors but good people and good structures are the main ones.

When Michael and David Brady sling the gear bags over their shoulder, they’ll get a good message or too. That’ll be the height of it. Eamonn will keep his bank of experience zipped up.

“They are well able to stand up on their own two feet and are two very committed fellas and very focussed,” he summed up.

“The last thing I would be doing on the day of a game would be giving them advice, they probably wouldn’t listen to me at this stage,” he added with a laugh.

“They know what to do and have been around long enough to know what to do, I let them at it.

“You’d have nothing only pride. It is very special going to games to watch them.”

There is the energy running through a community a run in the championship always generates.

“It is a great journey we are on and we are thoroughly enjoying it. It is a shot in the dark playing in Ulster against teams you don’t know anything about,” Brady concluded.

“It is exciting to be going to matches in December supporting your team all the way to an Ulster final, it is really special and everybody in the club is looking forward to it.”

If they could slip the Patrick McCully Cup under the tree, it would put the icing on the cake but Cullyhanna will have other ideas.

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