By John Harrington
Carlow GAA lost one of its most legendary figures this week when Brendan Hayden Snr sadly passed away on Monday.
Gaelic Games were his passion and over the course of a life-long service to the GAA he served with distinction as a player, manager, referee, and administrator.
A talented dual-player, the Tinryland club-man was one of the key figures on the Carlow football team that went toe to toe with the best in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
His finest hour arguably came in the 1961/62 National Football League Final when Carlow came close to beating the great Down team that had won All-Ireland titles in 1960 and 1961.
A free-scoring half-forward who possessed both skill and athleticism, Hayden was a regular on Leinster Railway Cup panels from 1959 to 1966.
“He was a good one, a legendary figure without even knowing it,” said former Carlow GAA PRO, Tommy Murphy, who was a lifelong friend of Hayden’s.
“I would have rated him in the last 60 years of what I saw anyway that himself and his brother-in-law, Ned Doogue, were the two best footballers I ever saw with Carlow.
“Brendan was a left half-forward, sometimes centre-forward. He would deliver day in, day out. Hayden never came off the field without notching up something.
“When Mick O’Dwyer made his debut in Kerry in March 1957 they played Carlow in Dr. Cullen Park. Hayden was left half-forward and O’Dwyer was right half-back. And O’Dwyer always said that Hayden gave him a roasting that day.
“The biggest tribute I’d have to pay him, and I travelled a lot with him in latter years, was that he hardly ever missed a match.
“He was a familiar figure at the back of the stand in Dr. Cullen Park and it didn’t have to be a senior club championship match or anything like that, Junior would do him or a chaps (juvenile) match.”
Hayden won four Carlow senior football championships and five Carlow senior hurling championships, refereed at inter-county level, managed multiple clubs to success, and served with distinction for many years as an administrator with the Leinster Council and his own club, Tinryland.
His achievements in Gaelic Games were legion, but what his friends and family will remember him most for is his vibrant personality and wit.
“You’d have fierce banter with him,” chuckles Murphy. “There would be barbarous lies up at the back at the stand! He’d be telling the young lads all sorts!
“Brendan would see me going in to the press box and would should, ‘Hey Murphy, come here!’
“So I’d go over and he’d come up with a story you never heard the likes of. I’d have to go along with it and he’d be delighted then because the young lads would be going away with a pack of lies.
“He was always up to a bit of fun. He’ll be sadly missed in Dr. Cullen Park, he was a great personality.”
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