Tributes paid to Dublin football colossus Brian Mullins after his death

‘It has been often said that Dublin teams stood on the shoulders of giants. Today we lost one of those giants’

The death of Brian Mullins on Friday after a short illness has sent waves of sadness through Dublin and the wider GAA. An iconic figure in the great 1970s team, he won four All-Ireland medals and was one of the few players to span all four All-Ireland successes of the era.

He also won nine Leinster titles, two national leagues and two All Stars. The complete centrefielder, he could catch, move, read the game exceptionally well and intuitively identify what needed to be done to meet on-field challenges.

In a team of largely older players, who had been brilliantly repurposed by Kevin Heffernan, he brought the dynamic of youth and athleticism and was a teenager when the memorable first All-Ireland was won in 1974

In the process and over the subsequent years of the era-defining rivalry with Mick O’Dwyer’s Kerry, he earned that most overused of tributes, “iconic”. He had come under the influence of Heffernan at St Vincent’s and was one of a number of the club’s players to backbone the team, including the captain and in 1977, player-manager, Tony Hanahoe.


Together they won the All-Ireland club title in 1976. The club posted its reaction on Twitter on Friday evening.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Brian Mullins. An absolute colossus in St Vincents. There’s so much to say about the man, and we’re all still processing this. We’ll honour him in the coming days. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”

Dublin GAA also released its tribute on the county website, reflecting both his role in the 1970s team and its influence on the modern trajectory of Gaelic games in the capital.

“In the recent past it has been often said that Dublin teams stood on the shoulders of giants. Today we lost one of those giants. Brian Mullins was a colossus and a Dublin GAA legend.

“Whether in the blue and white of St Vincent’s or the sky blue of Dublin, Brian was a dominant force who inspired his team-mates. Majestic fielding, perpetual motion, clever and accurate in possession, and capable of getting vital scores — he was indomitable with an iron will to win.

“Brian helped light the touchpaper that reignited Dublin’s fire almost 50 years ago. It is with great sadness that he has left us today but the memory of his deeds will live in the hearts and minds of Dublin supporters, and indeed well beyond the county lines, forever.

“Dublin GAA convey their condolences to his family, former team colleagues, both club and inter-county, and friends.

“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”

Eleven years in the blue jersey were made even more remarkable by the misfortune of a serious car crash in 1980 that left him with apparently career-ending injuries and the resilience and fortitude that got him back on the field, never mind resuming at intercounty and winning a fourth All-Ireland three years later was seen as almost miraculous.

As a young man, Brian Mullins excelled at other sports as well, including playing on a famous Leinster under-19s team in 1974 and on Friday the province acknowledged his later role as head of sport in UCD.

“UCD has been our home since 2012 and nobody has made us feel more at home than Brian Mullins. Our hearts are broken for his family and friends at St Vincents, Dublin GAA and UCD. One of the all time GAA greats. And an even better man. Fathach fir. Croí bhriste.”

Although he looked an obvious candidate for management and proved it with both St Vincents and Derry — when working as a school principal in Donegal — the chance to take on Dublin never arose beyond a short stint in an acting capacity.

He did lead Derry to both league and Ulster titles, prompting this tribute on social media

“Championship winning manager from 1998 and an icon of Gaelic football with his native Dublin, Brian Mullins was a great friend to Derry GAA. He will be sadly missed. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.”

Dublin GAA have said that there will be a minute’s silence before all its fixtures this weekend.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times