| 17.3°C Dublin

Barrett latest in line of Mayo men to switch

'I got more sledging at home than Dublin' - Varley

Close

ON THE RUN: St Vincent’s Enda Varley, a former Mayo footballer, in action against Offaly’s Rhode during their Leinster club SFC final in December, 2016 in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise. Pics: Sportsfile

ON THE RUN: St Vincent’s Enda Varley, a former Mayo footballer, in action against Offaly’s Rhode during their Leinster club SFC final in December, 2016 in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise. Pics: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

ON THE RUN: St Vincent’s Enda Varley, a former Mayo footballer, in action against Offaly’s Rhode during their Leinster club SFC final in December, 2016 in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise. Pics: Sportsfile

Over the past decade, the rivalry between Dublin and Mayo has bordered on nuclear at times… so you might surmise that Chris Barrett can expect a hot reception on the club fields of the capital now that he has enlisted with Clontarf.

But Enda Varley doesn't think so.

"Probably one remark" is all the former Mayo forward has received since joining St Vincent's in 2016. "I was actually quite surprised - there wasn't that much sledging in terms of verbals. To be brutally honest with you, I got more back in my own county."

And then he ventures a reason why.

"Definitely every (Dublin) club has a few culchies at this stage, and I think players just accept it," he explains. "They can't really be sledging me when they have four or five players of their own team coming in as well."

Barrett's reason to switch club allegiance now, at 33, makes sense on several levels. He is based in Clontarf, married and working in the city. His native club is virtually the last stop before Boston: Belmullet clocks in at around four hours, or 300km, from the capital.

A fascinating sub-plot is that his new clubmate, Jack McCaffrey, has opted off the Dublin panel. Clontarf open their Dublin SFC1 round-robin campaign away to holders Ballyboden St Enda's on Saturday; Varley and Vincent's are in the same group, facing Whitehall on the same evening.

Barrett is treading a path well-worn from the west. Three of the Mayo team that started the 1989 All-Ireland final had Dublin club attachments: skipper Dermot Flanagan and Seán Maher played for Civil Service while Kevin McStay's one season with Ballymun coincided with Mayo's first September appearance in 38 years.

"If you look at the programme," says McStay, "the club after my name in the All-Ireland - much to my father's chagrin - was Ballymun Kickhams!"

The late Greg Maher, Seán's younger brother and another starter in '89, would later follow the same path from Claremorris to Civil Service. Flanagan's back story was different: he was raised in Dublin but also played for Ballaghaderreen.

Since then, a handful of Mayo All-Ireland finalists have joined Dublin clubs. They include Pat Kelly and Brian Maloney, two Kilmaine men who won All-Ireland medals with St Vincent's in 2008; Conor Mortimer (Shrule-Glencorrib to Parnell's); Kevin O'Neill (Knockmore to Na Fianna); and Varley.

Austin O'Malley's nomadic career path from Louisburgh to Wicklow and back also incorporated a Marino pitstop with Vincent's.

You can understand why players based on the other side of the island would transfer clubs, even if county men still face the same arduous commute. The one 'advantage', for Mayo's large capital cohort, is that they can take a passenger seat heading west for training in Castlebar.

Yet as Barrett revealed in an interview last year: "The worst is the Tuesday session … you get back at one o'clock and you're staring at the ceiling for another hour because your mind can't shut off that quickly. You're up then again at seven for work and you're like a zombie for the day."

Varley, a Mayo panellist from 2009 to the start of '15, can empathise. He would leave the classroom in Pobalscoil Neasáin, Baldoyle at 3.55 to reach the Lucan Spa for a 4.30 mini-bus shuttle down to MacHale Park. By the time he hit the bed, his day had lasted 17 hours.

He originally moved to Dublin, in 2011, because he couldn't secure a full-time teaching post out west. When he transferred from Garrymore, five years later, there was "a small bit of backlash, we'll put it, for me doing it. But people have to understand, you have to live your life as well. And at the time I wasn't happy. I just had to make a change for my own sanity, if anything else."

Toll

Varley could soon see the benefits when, after a Sunday morning game, the new Vincent's recruit found himself back home at 1pm. "Just the travelling," he says. "Physically it's bad for the body, but mentally it definitely takes its toll as well."

Mayo are noted for having so many Dublin-based county players; Varley reckons Kerry have been "more proactive" in helping to facilitate employment closer to home. "We probably had an issue with county board level for a good few years now," he ventures, "and hopefully it's sorted out with Liam Moffatt going in there (as chairman)."

Harking back to his transfer from Ballina Stephenites to Ballymun, in 1989, McStay recalls how he had been "on the road for six or seven years with Mayo, and I was getting a bit tired of that whole part of it."

But there was another reason behind the switch. He had broken his leg in late 1987, didn't play in '88, and was craving a "less pressurised situation" as he contemplated a comeback. The Army officer was based in Dublin and colleague Tom Carr was playing for Kickhams; one chat led to another and then a move.

As it happened, McStay missed Ballymun's county final defeat to Thomas Davis in '89, having suffered a dislocated jaw against Galway. "We had a massive team. I think just about everybody was a county footballer," the RTÉ analyst says. But his sojourn didn't last. "I did it for the year. It was grand for what it was, but obviously it wasn't the same as home," he admits.

But one thing McStay still vividly remembers about the Dublin club scene in that even league matches were ferociously competitive affairs. "Then when you're a county player from another county," he concludes, "you were open season, half-killed."

Just as well that a certain new Clontarf addition is tough as nails.