Fenton hails huge Farrell influence in player of year win

by Stephen Findlater

** PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Year Brian Fenton. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Brian Fenton heaped praise on Dublin boss Dessie Farrell for his supportive role as the Raheny man landed his second PwC Footballer of the Year gong last Saturday.

Farrell took on the difficult role of trying to keep the Dubs’ winning streak rolling following Jim Gavin’s departure but Fenton always had trust after his earlier dealings with the Na Fianna man.

“Dessie, I’ve said this loads of times, is a special human being,” Fenton said on Sunday morning. “He would have been the Under-21 manager when I was first called onto the team.

“Around the time I was on that panel, sadly my mother passed away. Just how Dessie was with me around that time went above and beyond GAA managers and GAA coaches.  

“Of course, he was the manager of the Under-21s, and he wanted the best for the team when we were preparing for the championship.

“For him, in those moments and those days and weeks to be so human and so approachable, to be there for you and ringing you. That was so important because here I am, new in the team, and you’re trying to make an impression but you’re trying to deal with all this personal stuff. For him to bridge that gap and make it so easy for me.

“Shane Carthy recently spoke about Dessie and how he almost saved his life.

“This is the intervention that Dessie Farrell, and underage managers and people you are coached by in your life. That’s the effect that they have on you, that second father figure – the only father figure potentially in some cases.”

For the player of the year gong, Fenton was voted by his peers for the second time following success in 2018, making it his fifth All-Star all told.  

He was among nine Dubliners to get the nod this time but the Raheny man did feel his good friend and team mate Ciaran Kilkenny would have been hugely deserving of the top honour for 2020.

“I got word I had won, Ciaran got word he hadn’t so I reached out to him and we chatted on WhatsApp,” Fenton explained.

“I didn’t get an opportunity to speak on the phone but Ciaran and I are so close that there is almost that telepathy there. Naturally there will be disappointment.

“I was disappointed in 2016 for example when I didn’t win the award but I think Ciaran is happy for me.

“It certainly affected my enjoyment of it this time around because I won it in 2018, Ciaran… look at the year he has had, look at the couple of years he has had. He absolutely deserves one.

“I would love for him to get one as a friend but obviously I have to try and enjoy it myself but it is in your head that Ciaran has not won one and how deserving he would be of the award.”

Both are set to be on board for the forseeable future with the Dubs but there will be a turnover in team mates with Paul Mannion, Paddy Andrews and Michael Darragh Macauley confirming they are stepping away while Jack McCaffrey took a break during the summer.  

But he does anticipate Stephen Cluxton – who was a surprise omission from the All-Star list – will continue on.

“It consumes your life. Paul Mannion has achieved everything and has just said, ‘Look I want to go and pursue other things in my life’ and that’s important.

“Jack obviously has his career and stuff and similarly with Paul but hopefully he’ll be rejoining us.

“From my perspective, I think there is loads of time after when I’m 32 or 33 or 39, whatever Clucko is, to do other things in my life. I just love playing Gaelic football and that’s where I get my kicks.

“Every year you’d be in the dressing room after an All-Ireland final and we’d all start chanting ‘One more year, Clucko, one more year!’ He’s a freak, he’s in the best shape.   He’d be sending me 10 minute YouTube videos of abs sessions he’s doing and I’d be thinking ‘How are you doing this?’”

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