A text from Jack O’Shea caps off another stellar year for Brian Fenton

Dublin midfielder was named Footballer of the Year again on Saturday night

Brian Fenton of Dublin is interviewed after receiving his PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Year award for 2020. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Brian Fenton of Dublin is interviewed after receiving his PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Year award for 2020. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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Gods make their own importance. On Saturday night, as he basked in the glow of being named Footballer of the Year for the second time in three seasons, Brian Fenton picked up his phone to find a text sitting there from Jack O’Shea. The king of midfielders was getting in touch with the modern prince of the position, sending well wishes and respect down through the decades (and the 4G network). Fenton was nearly giddy looking at it.

“Blew my mind to be honest,” he said. “When you get a text like that you think this is hardly real but he had a genuine connection where he got my number because we know the same person. It was just a touch of class from him. I’ve never met him. My dad is obviously a Kerry man and he talks about Jacko like how if you removed the sacred heart off the wall in the house and put him up there. That is how highly these men were thought of.

“I got a text from him last night and it was just lovely. It was something I said to my sister at the time – I hope to think that in 30/40 years’ time, I will text someone and congratulate them because it meant so much to me and it was such a touch of class from him.

“I have heard a lot about him, I never saw him [play] but by all accounts the greatest, the best ever. Could kick frees and do all sorts of magic. So you are always striving to get to that level of performance and to be seen at that level. But for me, the biggest thing was to get a text from him. It unbelievable, great, humbling.”

In terms of All Stars, Jacko still has what might be the most stunning record in football – six in a row, all in the high-demand spot of midfield. Fenton picked up his fifth award on Saturday night but he’ll have to keep collecting them until 2023 to match the great Kerry man on that score.

Former Kerry player Jack O’Shea gave Fenton a text after he won the award. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Former Kerry player Jack O’Shea gave Fenton a text after he won the award. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Hardly impossible, granted. Fenton turns 28 next week and has designs on at least another five years in the Dublin No 8 shirt. He sees teammates taking time out to attend to other things in their life and while he understands their reasons, he can’t imagine ever doing likewise.

Golden period

“We’re all different. And I’m very fortunate. Jack [McCaffrey] obviously has the medicine thing and his career. Paul [Mannion] has his own personal goals and ambitions in life. And hopefully he will rejoin us at some stage. You can see why. But particularly with the success we’ve had, the lads are like, ‘Been there, done it, worn the T-shirt and I’m going to do other things now’.

“But yeah, from my perspective, my outlook is ‘Holy sh*t! We’re in the best days ever’ . This is such a golden period. I’ve to pinch myself that I’m part of it. How could I ever turn my back on this? Now obviously if my career became incredibly demanding, I might have to look at it differently.

“But I’m very fortunate that everything is in place to play Gaelic football. And my outlook would be exactly that. It’s just, ‘How could I ever turn my back on this?’ I could never fathom walking away from it”

After picking up the PWC-sponsored award and doing the photos and whatnot, Fenton met up with Hurler of the Year Gearóid Hegarty for a coffee. Two giants of their game, hungry for each other’s knowledge and experience.

“I’d have much rathered it was a pint,” admitted Fenton. “It would have been great to get a snug and hide ourselves away for a few hours. It’s really interesting, Limerick have this unbelievable team, all this talent, young age profile. They’re sort of looking at what we’ve done over recent years and Gearóid was like ‘This is what we want to do, we want to dominate, we want to win and be successful on a consistent basis’. His outlook is really interesting. He’s a very humble guy.

“Only I had to go to work I would have sat with him for six hours, I wouldn’t have let him go. It’s amazing to connect with these lads, get little nuggets from behind the scenes. Also to remove any things they’ve heard about us – he was asking ‘Do your girlfriends really get expenses?’ and all that sort of nonsense! It was nice to quash those rumours!”

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