Retired Tipperary goalkeeping legend Brendan Cummins received a Civic Reception from South Tipperary County Council at a wonderful function hosted by Mayor , Cllr Jimmy O’Brien in the Civic Officer in Clonmel on Friday evening last.
Representatives from the four divisional GAA Boards, the County Board, the Ardfinnan and Ballybacon Grange clubs, elected representatives and family members and friends packed into the council chamber to pay tribute to one of Tipperary’s greatest ever players - a living legend, as he was described on the night.
A Civic Reception is the highest honour the local authority can bestow upon an individual or organisation and Mayor O’Brien told those in attendance that he was privileged to be able to bestow the honour upon such a wonderful ambassador for Tipperary and the game.
“In twenty years as a senior hurler, he won every accolade the game had to offer. His level of service to the game and to Tipperary was phenomenal and some of the many saves he pulled off, defied logic,” he said before formally proposing the Civic Reception.
It fell to Cllr Tom Acheson to second the proposal and he referred to Brendan Cummins as being “an icon the GAA” who hurled with great dignity and honour.
Cllrs Michael Anglim, Liam Ahearn,Michael Cleere and Eddie O’Meara also spoke in glowing terms of the revered netminder who followed in the footsteps of the likes of Geraldine Kennedy, former Irish Times Editor, and Vincent O’Brien, Horse Trainer, as previous recipients of Civic Receptions.
The Patron of the GAA, Archbishop Dermot Clifford was also in attendance and thanked Brendan Cummins for his twenty years of sterling service to the county with Tipp. He had first watched him as a minor when Rev Fr Tom Fogarty was Manager of the team, he said, and then Fr Tom gave him his first start in the senior team in 1995. Referring to him as ‘Mr Reliable’ he marvelled as Brendan Cummins longevity and at how he managed to continue developing his game to adapt to the changes which materialised during the different eras. “Only for Brendan we would have been dead and buried many a day. We salute your Brendan and wish you and your family well,” he said.
County Board Chairman Sean Fogarty said that it made his extremely proud to hear all of the tributes being paid to Brendan Cummins, a man recognised locally and nationally as one of the greatest players the game has ever seen.
“I had the privilege of seeing him blossom from a shy gangly teenager to a superstar,” he said.
Joe Brennan, Chairman of the South Board, said that Brendan Cummins made it cool to be a goalkeeper and every young player wanted to be like him, pulling off those spectacular saves. He encouraged players to take up the mantle of keeper and that was very important, he said.
Present with his wife Pamela and children Paul and Sarah, his mother and father Anne and Johnny, Brendan Cummins was overcome by the reception received and by the hugely complimentary and positive comments rained in his direction.
He has been very touched by what so many people have done for him since he announced his retirement from the inter county scene, he said, and he described the evening as being a very emotional one. Indeed, he was very emotional himself as he spoke to the packed Chamber .
He recalled many of those who helped him on his way, from the first coaches in Ballybacon Grange after he had been brought down to the field by his father, right up to the many Tipperary coaches he played under.
He was particularly pleased to see Fr Tom Fogarty at the reception, a man who had great faith in him and who told when he gave him his first senior start, that one day he would be an Allstar.
“As I got on in life I wanted to be that Fr Tom, or that Ken Hogan, for the younger lads coming on after me and I hope that I have been that for them. Players of all ages need encouragement, and I was privileged to have been looked after by great people,” he said.
Referring to his being dropped by Babs Keating - his clubmate - Brendan said that it was “a turning point in my life, because I realised what I had and what I was missing. I was not going to let it happen again and I worked so hard to get back because it could so easily have been the end,” he said.
In articulating his delight and sense of privilege at having had the chance to represent Tipperary for so long , he looked forward to a day in the future when he might be serving the county again and received a standing ovation for his contribution to the event.