Thursday 14 December 2017

Deacy defied conventions

STRANGE, that a career which yielded two of the biggest prizes available to a footballer from this part of the world -- a league medal from England's top flight and a European Cup winner's medal, brought little else in terms of reward.

But there was nothing usual about the career of former Ireland, Aston Villa and Galway United player Eamon 'Chick' Deacy, who sadly passed away suddenly in his native Galway yesterday aged 52.

This was a soft-spoken man from the west of Ireland who had a career with one of the biggest clubs in England but willingly gave it all up to come home to Ireland and run a fruit and veg shop in Galway at the age of 26.

In an era of Tevez-style sulks and rows over handshakes, such an approach seems positively Victorian.

"There was a wholesomeness, an honesty and a naivety about Eamon which was very refreshing at the time and is now very rare in the modern game," is the recollection of Eoin Hand, manager of Ireland for Deacy's four-game spell as an international in 1982.

Despite being a league winner with Aston Villa in 1981 (five appearances in that title-winning season) and also a squad member when that side went on to win the European Cup in Rotterdam a year later, Deacy was a relative unknown and was only capped four times, all of them in friendlies.

The impression of Deacy is that, instead of being upset at 'only' getting four caps, he was thrilled to have played even once for his country. Greg Cunningham, the Manchester City player currently on loan to Nottingham Forest, previously told the story of how, days after he made his senior Ireland debut against Algeria in 2010, he got a card in the post from 'Chick' Deacy, saying he was glad that Cunningham had taken over his title as the last Galway lad to play for Ireland at senior level. "Eamon was very naive but such a lovely lad, a diamond as a person," Hand told the Herald after hearing of Deacy's passing.

"He played for me when we lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago in '82. He was having a nightmare in the first half but so was everyone in the team. We'd had terrible travel problems and no sleep before the game. I still remember that Eamon had his shorts on back to front.


"When I told him at half time I was taking him off, he didn't have a row with me. He just said, 'Thanks Eoin'. He knew he was having a bad game but he didn't sulk or moan when I took him off."

Incredible to think in this age of squad rotation, but things were done on a smaller scale back then, Villa famously using only 14 players on their way to winning the league title in 1980/81, and Deacy was one of them.

A team-mate recalled that Deacy initially declined when asked to go up and receive his medal, claiming that he hadn't done as much as the regular first-teamers, and manager Ron Saunders had to pick up his medal.

Deacy played little in England after that -- just four appearances in the 1982/83 season, 13 games for Villa in 1983/84 as well as a spell on loan to Derby County, and soon after the defender made the decision to come home to Ireland, playing part-time for Galway United (he was an FAI Cup runner-up in 1985) and setting up his own business, even though he had an offer of a contract from Derby.

-- Eamon 'Chick' Deacy, RIP

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