‘Brian was one of the greatest of all’ – Hayden

Glowing, heartfelt tributes have been paid to legendary Dublin midfielder Brian Mullins, who has sadly died at just 68 years of age. His death was announced on Friday last. Mullins, hailed as a ‘colossus’ of Gaelic football, won four All-Ireland titles, nine Leinster titles and two All Star awards – amongst other honours – during a highly distinguished career.

On Tuesday I called former Roscommon great Seamus Hayden to seek out his verdict on a player he faced on a number of occasions during a golden era for their respective counties.

While Mullins was forming an era-defining midfield partnership with Bernard Brogan, Hayden – who these days is co-proprietor of the Down the Hatch pub in Roscommon town – was ruling the centrefield roost for Roscommon alongside the one and only Dermot Earley.

Seamus Hayden: “Ah Brian was a great player. His partnership with Bernard Brogan was a very formidable one. Brian was big, strong and very athletic. You could say we were unlucky to have come up against them!

“Mullins held the middle. He was a great playmaker. He never really wasted a ball. If he needed to get forward (for a score) he could do that too. As for the physical side of things, in my experience he never went overboard. He was no harder than any of the other midfielders around”.

I asked Seamus about the 1979 All-Ireland semi-final in which Dublin edged Roscommon by a single point.

“We were very unlucky that day. We kicked a lot of ball into Paddy Cullen’s hands (the Dublin goalkeeper). Jimmy Keaveney missed that game but Michael Hickey came in and never put a foot wrong!”

Those of us who saw Mullins in his prime remember him as a wonderful high fielder, an inspirational leader, a great passer, a strong presence, a man who could score…simply a superb player. Would Seamus Hayden place Mullins in the same category as Jack O’Shea, the man often described as the greatest midfielder of all time?

“I regard Brian very, very highly. He wasn’t quite the same type of player as Jack was, but I would certainly put him in the same league – he was inspirational, one of the greatest of all time”.

Seamus extended his sympathies to Brian’s grieving family and the entire Dublin GAA community.