A hero of football and Dubliners' hearts, Heffo makes final journey through capital's streets
On the back of the missalette for the requiem Mass was a black-and-white photograph of a dashing young footballer in the sky-blue shirt of Dublin, holding a Gaelic football with the heavy lacing of the 1950s period and the steadfast gaze of some matinee idol.
The second act of Kevin Heffernan’s life as the godfather and re-creator of Dublin football has so filled the sky that it almost eclipses the fact he is also regarded as one of the finest Gaelic footballers of the last century.
That portrait of the manager as a young man bore simple testimony to a life crowded with glittering accomplishment and immeasurable influence.
They all said it: Kevin Heffernan was special.
Yesterday generations of Dublin footballers walked in twos and threes up the steps of the Church of St Vincent de Paul on Griffith Avenue to both celebrate the long and fascinating life of Kevin Heffernan and to mourn his death along with Mary, his beloved wife, and Orla, the couple’s daughter.
Shaper of lives
As ever, the players spoke about Heffo. And even as they prepared to say goodbye to him, there was the sense that they were still trying to get to grips with the man whose voice and leadership shaped lives.
“He was . . . ahh, he was just awesome,” sighed Kevin Moran, the idol of how-many 1970s city teenagers, still raven-haired and lean as he stood at the steps of the church.
“It meant an awful lot to him beating Kerry in 1976 . . . He said he had waited so many years for the chance to beat Kerry in the final. He never set out to change the course of the game, he just set out to make Dublin successful and that is what he did do. And then everything else followed after that.”
Eoin “The Bomber” Liston, the genial big man from Kingdom country and a thorn in Kevin Heffernan’s side on more than one September, smiled as he remembered how the Dublin boss would preoccupy Kerry thoughts in those golden summers. “We knew how smart he was. And we often lay awake at night wondering had he our measure.”
The church was full long before 11am. President Michael D Higgins was represented by Cmdt Tony Whelan, and the Taoiseach Enda Kenny by Cmdt Mick Treacy. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin was present and former taoiseach Brian Cowen stood with mourners at the rear of the church.
Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton arrived with Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar. Dublin Lord Mayor Naoise Ó Múirí was in attendance too.
Three flags decorated the interior of the church: the blue and white of St Vincent’s, the Irish Tricolour and the navy and sky-blue of Dublin.
Msgr John Fitzpatrick told the congregation that the chalice on the altar had been made from the medals donated by the 1955 St Vincent’s team. “Which one of us did not believe that we were intrepid soldiers in Heffo’s Army?” he asked fondly.
As Tony Hanahoe said, all of Dublin’s All-Ireland victories since 1955 are touched with the fingerprints of Kevin Heffernan: “He was omnipresent in Dublin football.”