Sporting Advent Calendar #20: Tipperary and Dublin pay tribute to Dave Billings
Under-21 players pay fitting tribute following the GAA stalwart’s sudden passing last summer
Dublin and Tipperary stand together before the game as they observe a minute’s silence for the late Dave Billings. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
The sudden passing of Dave Billings in April sent waves of sadness through the GAA. Social media rippled with tributes, many from young players all around the country, who had benefited from their dealings with the larger-than-life UCD GAA officer.
Throughout the year the loss to the GAA world at large continued to register. Dublin placed a picture of Billings in the dressing room for September’s All-Ireland final, remembering his role in developing at some stage nearly everyone on the panel and mourning a lost link with the great 1970s era.
Only last month the great Limerick Corinthian Stephen Lucey, an alumnus of UCD’s Sigerson and Fitzgibbon sides, announced his retirement and had this to say.
“There is one person I would like to mention who had a huge influence on me and that is Dave Billings who passed away earlier this year, but will never be forgotten. Rest in peace Dave.”
On the day of his funeral, Tipperary met Dublin in a tight under-21 semi-final at O’Connor Park in Tullamore. The contest culminated in another famous under-age win for Tipp against the Dubs but that wasn’t the immediate focus of this poignant picture.
Before the throw-in the nine players from either team who had been through UCD gathered in the middle of the field and linked arms, creating a striking commemorative tableau.
As a tribute it was perfect: UCD, the blue jerseys of Dublin, teams of under-21 players - the development grade with which he had most contact - and for all his county allegiance, Dave Billings would have been thrilled for Tipp’s achievement in reaching the county’s first All-Ireland at that level.
When a telephone call to Dave was drawing to a close he used to conclude with: “There. Will that do ya?” Sadly it eventually had to.