Many in attendance wore blue to show respect for Dublin footballer Brian Mullins. Dozens of schoolboys donned white and blue St Vincent GAA club jerseys. A man stood at the church gate waving a Dublin GAA flag.
Terry Broughan of Cabra wore a long sky- and navy-blue denim style skirt and long cobalt wig “as a sign of respect for all of Dublin”.
Hundreds of family members, friends and fans paid tribute to Mr Mullins, who died on September 30th following a short illness. His funeral Mass took place on Wednesday at St Vincent de Paul Church on Griffith Avenue in Dublin. With so many in attendance, the church was over capacity, forcing mourners to stand outside or watch the service on livestream.
UCD chaplain Fr Eamonn Bourke officiated the service. “I told Brian that I had the privilege of seeing him play in Croke Park in the late 70s, early 80s, to which he replied, don’t tell me you’re that old.”
Fr Bourke spoke of his excitement when Mr Mullins visited his primary school in Ballymun decades earlier. “It’s like a young Brazilian school boy meeting Pelé or young American basketball fan meeting Michael Jordan for the first time.”
He still remembers the simple message Mr Mullins delivered that day: “Stand your ground. Don’t give up. Keep going.”
These were words Mr Mullins himself lived by. After a near fatal car accident in 1980 that almost ended his career, he not only played football again, but helped Dublin clinch the 1983 All-Ireland title.
“I have it on good authority that there’s a lot of nervous people in heaven shaking. I mean shaking in their boots,” said Fr Bourke. “Members of Meath, Kerry, Mayo and Galway because Dublin has a new midfielder in heaven.”
Although renowned for his football prowess, Mr Mullins also played cricket and rugby. After retiring from football, he worked as principal at Carndonagh Community School in Donegal for years. In 2000, he was appointed director of sport at UCD.
Gifts brought to the altar highlighted his prolific life; among them UCD memorabilia, a book in Irish representing his love of the language, a picture of his grandchildren, who he was devoted to, and of course, St Vincent and Dublin club jerseys.
Mr Mullins’ son, Bernard Mullins, shared memories of his dad, saying he was a “wonderful father” and “proud of his family”.
His father meant a lot of different things for different people. “He was a Dublin man. A UCD man. A sports man.” But his love for St Vincent’s was constant. “Nothing made him happier than spending time at Saint Vincent’s. He would do anything for the club.”
Among those in attendance were former All-Ireland Dublin managers Pat O’Neill, Tony Hanahoe, Jim Gavin and Pat Gilroy, Dublin women’s manager Mike Bohan, GAA President Larry McCarthy, former Meath football manager Sean Boylan and former basketball player Jerome Westbrooks. The current Dublin squad, including Jack McCaffrey, Ciarán Kilkenny and James McCarthy, were present as well as Kevin Moran, the former Manchester United and Ireland player who played for Dublin in the 1970s. Galway footballer Brian Talty, who sparred with Mr Mullins on the field, paid his respects. Col Stephen Howard represented the President Michael D Higgins and the Taoiseach was represented by Commdt Claire Mortimer.
Mr Mullins’ coffin, draped with the Dublin GAA flag, was carried out of the church by pallbearers with family members following. Blue and white flowers spelling out ‘dad’ were laid next to the coffin.
The funeral took place at Balgriffin cemetery on Wednesday afternoon. Mr Mullins is survived by his partner Elizabeth, wife Helen, sons Bernard, Pádraig and Nathan, daughter Jackie, and 10 grandchildren.