Farewell to the man who gave Dublin star quality
We grew up in the shadow of Croke Park but never knew it until Heffo arrived
We grew up in the grey shadow of Croke Park, but never really knew it.
It was the place where country people went on a Sunday. They would park their cars on our street and cut through Ballybough and up the Clonliffe Road.
Going to “the match.”
It rankled, even though we didn’t have a car.
The younger boys collected English football cards, untroubled by the swelling roars from Croker as they sat out on the path swapping them.
Heighway, Bremner, Best, Giles, Osgood. These men were their sporting stars, but distant ones they could only see in a magazine.
Micheál O’Hehir provided the soundtrack for those teenage Sundays. There was always Gaelic on the radio, but it was background noise, no more.
Until Heffo came along.
And with him, these gorgeous young men with flowing hair and attitude and slacks that flared from the hip. Real football stars, not photographs from a packet of chewing gum.
They were exciting, they were sportsmen, they were winners and they were ours.
This was Gaelic football, this was showbiz and this was DUBLIN!
Summers would never be the same.
Kevin Heffernan, the manager, gave a lot to the GAA. But he gave a lot more to his city.
He gave us pride and a sense of belonging and he gave us some of the best times ever.
The team and the hysteria, came from nowhere. It was 1974 and suddenly, Dublin were in an All-Ireland final.
We went mad.
Those things that everyone takes for granted now – the hype, the hoopla, the chants, the songs, the dressing up and the painting over – it didn’t really happen back then. Heffo’s Army changed that forever.
We swarmed up the grassy slopes behind Hill 16, packed on to the terrace and swooned.
When it rained, the dye from our paper hats ran down our faces. When it rained, the grassy slopes turned into a swamp and you risked life and limb sliding down.
It always seemed to be raining, but it didn’t matter. Croke Park meant something now.
The Corpo made Kevin Heffernan a Freeman of Dublin in 2005. All they did was put an official stamp on what happened 30 years ago.
Now, the man who shaped our seventies summers is gone.
Oh the Jacks are back, the Jacks are back, let the Railway end go barmy, ’cos Hill 16 has never seen the like of Heffo’s Army.
That’s what we sang.