Meath senior goalkeeper Seán Brennan proving to be that vital safe pair of hands

After championship first-round victory over Longford, Brennan is ready for Sunday’s Leinster quarter-final against All-Ireland champions Dublin

There is nothing unique in the first telling of Seán Brennan’s rapid rise to the Meath senior goalkeeping position. Just 22, his breakthrough came with the Meath minor football team, winning the 2018 Leinster title, having previously played in goal for several soccer clubs, including in neighbouring Dublin.

He also comes from good football stock, his grandfather Tony Brennan was a forward on the Meath team that won the 1967 All-Ireland, later serving as a Meath selector alongside Seán Boylan.

What sets it apart is Brennan’s telling of how he ended up in the goalkeeping position in the first place. When taking to competitive Gaelic football, at about age 13, he’d already been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, which required a heart monitor as a precautionary measure.

“I had the heart monitor put in for two years when I was younger because I had an irregular heartbeat,” he says. “So I suppose I wasn’t able to be running around too much out the field, so I was put in goals and kind of thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll do a year or two here and be back out’. But I just haven’t seemed to leave the goals since. That’s how it started in Gaelic football terms anyway. But no, it didn’t affect me much. It probably affected my mother more because she couldn’t look at the games knowing.


“To be honest, looking back, it’s probably the best thing that could have happened to me because I don’t think I would have been too good of an outfield player, so it’s kind of a blessing in disguise really. And after two years, when they monitored it, they came back and said, ‘Listen, it’s worked itself out’. I wasn’t getting irregular arrhythmias in it so, touch wood, it’s been all good to this day.”

After starting all seven league games for Meath during the Allianz Football League, Brennan made his first championship start in the first-round win over Longford last weekend, which set up Sunday’s Leinster quarter-final showdown against All-Ireland champions Dublin.

He did feature in the Tailteann Cup last summer, first given the number one jersey by manager Colm O’Rourke after Meath lost to Offaly in the Leinster quarter-final.

“To be honest, I didn’t see it coming at all. I think I got told maybe a week or 10 days beforehand that I was playing so it felt like the longest week or 10 days ever waiting for it to come around.

“But I just accepted it with open arms and just said, ‘Listen, just go at it with no regrets, they obviously have seen something in me to give me the shout’. So I kind of never looked back since then, and thoroughly enjoying it.”

He enjoyed his time playing soccer too, before giving first and now only preference to Gaelic football: “I played a good bit of soccer growing up. I would have played with the NEC, which was the Meath area for soccer. I played with Bohemians for a little bit, and I played for a team out in Coolock, called St Malachy’s in the DDSL and really enjoyed my time.

“I come from a fairly small club in Meath in Dunderry, so coming up to Dublin and straight into Coolock was a good experience. I met some great characters up there, some lads I’d still chat to today, but gave that up because I wanted to go with the Meath minors, so I haven’t played soccer since. Loved my time playing it though.”

Also known for his placed-kicking skills, Brennan has been embracing that ever-expanding and increasingly critical goalkeeping role.

“I love how important it has become, whether it’s kick-outs or free-taking or influencing the game with the ball in your hands. I think it’s a positive the way goalkeeping has gone. I know there’s talk about rule changes with kickouts and stuff, but I think where it’s at is good.

“Even the likes of Derry, the way Odhran Lynch plays or Ethan Rafferty, you take great enjoyment in seeing that, because you know it’s not easy to do either.”

Now in his final year of secondary school teaching at DCU, Brennan was only nine the last time Meath beat Dublin in the Leinster championship, in 2010.

“Unfortunately there hasn’t been any more days like that since,” he says. “You’d like to think with the current crop we have, that the next four or five years, you don’t know where that could take us.

“Because you kind of see where we are at the minute, the kind of rough edge of everyone that’s in that dressingroom, we know the quality is there and age is probably on our side as well.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics