'Heffo's Army' gathers to say goodbye to a legend

Tue, Jan 29, 2013, 00:00

Members of the legendary “Heffo’s Army” were among the attendance yesterday at the removal of the remains of their mentor, Kevin Heffernan, to the Church of St Vincent de Paul, Griffith Avenue, Dublin.

They waited in the cold January evening with a large crowd for the cortege and then followed the coffin into the already packed church where the remains were received by Msgr John Fitzpatrick, parish priest of Sutton.

Members of St Vincent’s GAA club formed a guard of honour. Some mourners wore the familiar Dublin colours in memory of the man who masterminded the restoration of the county’s GAA fortunes.

Mr Heffernan (83), who died on Friday, was a Dublin All-Ireland winning captain and later manager in the 1970s and 1980s. He spent 36 years with the ESB, retiring as personnel manager, and he also served as chairman of the Labour Court.

“Heffo’s Army” was the title given to the remarkable group of footballers he brought together and moulded into outstanding players.

Among the greats present were Tony Hanahoe, Jimmy Keaveney, Kevin Moran, Gay O’Driscoll, Paddy Cullen, Tommy Conroy, Bernard Brogan and Brian Mullins.

Mr Hanahoe described Mr Heffernan as a renaissance man, a hard worker and a brilliant tactician. “He was a nice guy,” Mr Hanahoe added. “He was portrayed as having a tough exterior, but he was quite a compassionate man.”

Mickey Whelan and Paddy Holden, members of Dublin’s 1963 All-Ireland winning team, recalled their old friend. “Another one of the legends is gone,” said Mr Holden.

Also present was former Kerry manager and arch-rival Mick O’Dwyer, GAA director general Paraic Duffy and well-known GAA figures Seán Boylan (Meath), Pat Gilroy (Dublin), and Michael Babs Keating (Tipperary).

Addressing the congregation, former ESB colleague Michael Heyden said Mr Heffernan had refused to be regarded as an exceptional person despite his achievements.

“Kevin expected a lot from his friends,” he added. “On the other hand, he never set any limits on how far he would go to support his family or friends.”

The chief mourners were Mr Heffernan’s wife, Mary, daughter Orla, son-in-law Paul, grandchildren Kevin and Aisling, and his sisters Pauline and Claire.

The funeral takes place to St Fintan’s Cemetery, Sutton, today after 11am Mass.