Method in the last man standing’s madness
All-Ireland club final the perfect stage for 41-year-old after a storied career
St Brigid’s Shane Curran celebrates at the final whistle of the All-Ireland club semi-final against Crossmaglen. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Though the world is wide and you can see a lot of it lying on the flat of your back, maybe the last thing anyone expected Shane Curran to see was sense. Yet it came. Dropping slow for sure but it came all the same. It was during the Connacht club semi-final last November between St Brigid’s and Salthill/Knocknacarra and the occasion was the rapid and painful ending of one of the Brigid’s goalkeeper’s trademark forays out the pitch.
This particular voyage didn’t get halfway to the horizon before a shooting pain in his 41-year-old quad muscle sank him to the ocean floor. Kevin McStay left his spot on the sideline and stood over his goalkeeper, half-annoyed and half-amused.
“Kevin came out and said to me, ‘Look it, you could do it 10 years ago. You can’t do it now,’” says Curran. “And I was lying on the ground going, ‘Kevin, I’m only realising that now!’ So I won’t be doing it again. I don’t have it in me to find my way back these days so that’s probably the last one.”
Pause. Beat. Smile. Can’t resist. “Although if the occasion demands it . . .”
Fun to have him around again, ain’t it? Shane Curran, three weeks short of his 42nd birthday and still crazy after all these years. The last chance saloon’s last chancer. A Jackson Pollock painting in a Power Point world.
One morning a couple of weeks back, his phone dinged with a message from Brigid’s selector Benny O’Brien. It was a photo of the pair of them together, taken on March 17th 2011. Both had a creamy pint in hand and the background was the inside of The Big Tree on Dorset Street, an hour and a half before St Brigid’s faced Crossmaglen in the All Ireland final. Curran had chronic back trouble at the time and his doctor had warned him that any playing future he thought he had was behind him. Yet here he is, back in Croke Park, back in an All Ireland final of his own.
“I’m not one for retiring. I always said that I wouldn’t retire. I think the game retires you rather than the other way around. I never really got people who announced their retirement. If people ask me am I going to hang the gloves up, I always say, ‘No, they’ll hang me up.’ That’s the way it should be. The game is offered to you when you’re good enough to play it and it’s taken away when you’re not good enough. That’s what ends a career.”
Ah, but which career are we talking here? Where most of us are granted but one life, Curran is on at least his 103rd. There was the one as the hotshot teenage soccer goalkeeper back in the mid-1980s who had both Manchester clubs sniffing around him. There was the one as the star minor forward for Roscommon and later the self-styled “best club footballer in the county”.
There was the one as the Athlone Town goalkeeper for much of the ’90s. There was the one as the Roscommon captain and totem in the middle of the last decade. And now this. If life is a department store, Curran has stopped on every floor for a mooch around.
It’s 22 years ago since the weather changed his life. Actually no, that’s wrong. Flip it completely and we’re somewhere close to the truth. It’s 22 years since the weather left his life exactly as it was. Back then, Pat Devlin was over him at Athlone Town and he doubled as a set of eyes and ears for Kenny Dalglish, then the manager of Liverpool. As the potential those eyes could see far outweighed the occasional nonsense those ears had to listen to, Devlin recommended Curran for a professional contract.