Obituary: Denis Mahony

Superstar of 1950s Dublin GAA and visionary motor industry figure

Denis Mahony: July 23rd, 1928-April 3rd, 2017

Denis Mahony: July 23rd, 1928-April 3rd, 2017

 

Denis Mahony, who died recently at the age of 88, was a superstar of 1950s Dublin GAA, who went on to become a highly respected and visionary motor industry figure, owning and operating the vehicle distribution business that still bears his name today.

In the late 1970s, Mahony, together with his brother Tim, acquired the Irish franchise for Toyota Ireland, a brand which was to become Ireland’s largest selling motor car. In time, Mahony reverted to concentrating on his retail motor group, Denis Mahony Limited, developing it into one of the largest and most recognisable in the country.

Denis Mahony, known as Danno, was born in Cork in July 1929, but the family moved to Glasnevin, where his father ran the Irish arm of Avon Tyres. His mother died when he was eight and his father died not long afterwards leaving Mahony, his brother and two sisters.

While his brother went to an aunt in Cork, the girls went to boarding school; Mahony went to live with the family of his team mate and school pal Jimmy Lavin.

Captain

He attended O’Connell schools and started to play Gaelic football with St Vincent’s. He won a minor All-Ireland medal in 1945 and went on to captain the Dublin senior football team who were defeated by Kerry in the 1955 All-Ireland final watched by a record crowd, at that time, of over 87,000. Playing with his beloved St Vincent’s GAA Club, Mahony won a record eight Dublin senior football championship medals.

Following his playing career, he served as chairman of the Dublin County Board for a number of years, as he built up his business.

Mahony was a gentleman, and an intelligent, insightful businessman, who was a great judge of character and, who, as on the playing field, motivated each and every player to do their part, well.

His first job was as a tax collector at the Irish Racing Board, but while the mileage was good, the opportunity to make better money enticed him to become the Munster area rep for door-to-door Encyclopaedia sales – a great training ground. While hitchhiking back from Cork in 1953 he was given a lift by Denis Fitzgibbon, later an icon of RTÉ radio (under the name Dinjo) and sales manager at Smithfield motors, then main Ford dealers. He started in Smithfield in November 1954 on £5 a week and a car – enough to allow him marry Joan Connolly the following year. Nine years later he opened up on his own in Glasnevin, and followed this with a second premises in Kilbarrack, opened in 1973 by his lifelong friend and later taoiseach, Charles Haughey.

Generous

He was one of the first to see the bright future for car leasing, and he held successful franchises for Mercedes, VW and Toyota. He was elected president of the SIMI in 1978/9. He was an extraordinarily generous man, but also worked very hard to achieve success for himself, his family and work team. He was an avid golfer and member of Lahinch GC since 1969, Portmarnock GC and captain of his local club, Malahide GC. In later years he spent as much time as he could in Quinta Do Lago, Portugal, a vision of his friend Dan McInerney.

Family was everything to Denis Mahony and he delighted in the time spent with his children Ita, Susan, John, Jeanne, Michelle, their partners, grandchildren and great grandchildren.