Flashback: 2005 AIB All-Ireland Club SFC Final - Ballina v Portlaoise
By John Harrington
When the final whistle blew in the 2005 AIB All-Ireland Club SFC Final between Ballina and Portlaoise, it was fitting that David Brady should have the ball in his hands.
He had tried and failed to win six previous All-Ireland Finals, but had finally reached the promised land by playing a pivotal role in Ballina’s success.
It seemed as though everyone on the Ballina bench made a beeline to share the moment with him because he was swamped within seconds of the final whistle blowing.
Not surprisingly, the tv cameras also made it their business to seek him out as soon as they could as well to capture what was an emotional moment for the big midfielder.
“I have been a loser all my life,” said Brady. “These fellows are all young. They don’t know what it is like to lose. Today I am a winner. I can now die happy."
A lot has been said over the years about the difficulty Mayo teams have had in winning All-Irelands.
Some have questioned their character, but a fairer appraisal would be to say they’ve consistently come up against better teams and have had more than their fair share of ill-luck at times too.
Ballina, certainly, showed no lack of character or bottle to win the 2005 All-Ireland SFC Final in the manner that they did.
It’s worth remembering that as a club they had their own baggage to deal with coming into the match in the shape of the 1999 All-Ireland Club Final defeat to Crossmaglen Rangers.
It was a match they really should have won, as David Brady recalled in his recent TG4 Laochra Gael show.
“We had so many chances, we had so many opportunities,” said Brady of that defeat.
“We led, I think, from the very start to the very, very last minute of the game. A low-scoring game and the one time that Crossmaglen go ahead they win the All-Ireland.
“Once you go through these things they linger, but they don’t linger for your life and you don’t carry them for your life. It’s bloody football, throw it away, get on with it.”
Six years on from that 1999 Final defeat, Ballina reached another decider with a new-look team that was heavily stocked with players who had won it all at minor and U-21 level.
Up against them was a highly talented Portlaoise team boasting inter-county stars like Cahir Healy, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Brian McCormack, Ian Fitzgerald, and Colm Parkinson.
The common consensus was that the Leinster team had an edge in class, and the match seemed to be going along expected lines when Kevin Fitzpatrick hammered home a penalty that helped Portlaoise into a two-point half-time lead.
Ballina came out for the second-half a reinvigorated team though, which may have been in no small part due to a couple of inspirational pep-talks in their dressing-room.
Manager Tommy Lyons made a point of reminding his players exactly what they were playing for by producing an All-Ireland medal from his pocket.
"I had an All-Ireland club medal and I showed it to the lads and said they had half an hour left to achieve one for themselves," said Lyons.
"David Brady also cried with determination during the half-time break and it just showed the level of commitment and desire that was there. No one deserved it more than David."
Brady himself played a big role in ensuring his team-mates were primed for a big second-half performance with his own rallying call.
“I remember half-time in the dressing room we were sitting down and Ronan McGarrity was sitting down on the bench,” recalled Brady’s brother and team-mate Ger in that Laochra Gael episode.
“He was in bits, he was completely out of it, he got an awful belt.
“David pulled Ronan up up by the scruff of the jersey and said, ‘Look what they are after doing to him. Are we going to let these fellas do this to one of our own?’ And there was some choice language used.
“The hairs were up on the back of your neck. It was a call to arms really.”
Ballina took the match to Portlaoise at the start of the second half, kicking 1-2 in the space of five minutes with the goal coming from Stephen Hughes.
But hard questions were asked of them again when a Kevin Fitzpatrick goal for Portlaoise edged the Midlanders back in front again.
The last ten minutes were terrifically tense. Patrick Harte levelled the game up for Ballina after 51 minutes and then with two minutes of normal time remaining Liam Brady converted a monster free from 47 yards out to edge the Mayo club in front.
They held their nerve by dominating possession in injury-time to claim a hard-fought but deserved victory.
So, what did it feel like to finally win an All-Ireland title at the seventh time of trying for David Brady?
“It’s better than I ever expected,” he said, when interviewed after the match.
“When we went a goal down I just said, ‘this can’t happen again’. They’re a different bunch of players than any I’ve played with all my life.
“They’re 20, 21 years of age and they’re never lost really because they don’t know what it’s like to lose.
“I’ve been a loser all my life. And today, Hogan Stand boy, to pick up the Cup. I’ll die a happy man now.”