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Brian Og – A leader of men
By Colm Bradley
Terrible, awful, tragic. Those were the words used on Thursday when news broke of Brian Og Maguire’s death. But they are just sounds. Something to fill the void when there is nothing to say. Because what can be said? What comfort can be given? Probably nothing in truth. So let’s write instead.
Brian was preparing for a senior championship final when he died. Just 19 months after he lifted the All-Ireland Intermediate club title for Lisnaskea he and his team-mates were getting ready for the next step. This week I had began working on the eight page preview of that senior final that was going to appear in the Fermanagh Herald.
One piece was concentrating on the key battles on the day. It was three quarters written, here is an extract: “Much will depend on how Brian Og Maguire performs for Lisnaskea; when he plays well the Emmetts play well too. A calm head on young shoulders Maguire has improved his game over the last two years and has developed into the team’s leader and should he influence the game and dictate matters like he can the championship may just be returning to Lisnaskea for the first time since 1994.”
It seems perverse to even re-type it now. When things like this happen sport is firmly put into perspective. In many ways football should not be even mentioned about in an article such as this. Except what else can we do. Football is the only way I know Brian. I don’t know what he was like as a son, a brother, a loved one. I don’t know what his sense of humour was or what movies he liked to go and see. Sure, I could pretend, but what would be the point?
I knew him as a footballer. And that was enough to know a few simple truths. People sometimes say that sport builds character. I don’t believe that. I think sport reveals character and Brian was the sort of player who wore his character plainly.
He had honesty, integrity, and bravery. All that was obvious. Reading twitter and facebook in the hours after his death friends and team-mates used those words time and again. It was clear he was as loved off the pitch as he was inspirational on it.
At 24 he had achieved a lot in the game. To his family and loved ones those achievements are but footnotes to the person he was. He was and is so much more to them than the man who captained Lisnaskea to All-Ireland glory. He is seen above leading his team out onto Croke Park for that final. Yet for me, because I didn’t know him outside of a few polite interviews, I will always have one picture of Brian in my head: raising the All-Ireland trophy above his head in the Hogan stand. Eyes closed, lost in the pure satisfaction of the moment. Lost in the knowledge that hard work, trust and a refusal to accept second best had given the Emmetts yet another glorious chapter in their history. That is how I will remember Brian. As a leader of men.
I can’t imagine what his family and loved ones are going through at the moment. As a father I don’t want to even think about it. On the night Brian died I was getting ready to bath my son. He looked up and smiled. He loved watching the bath being filled. The bubbles, his toys bobbing up and down. Before putting him in I gave him an extra tight hug and told him I loved him. Life is precious and family the most precious of all.
In that respect it would be easy to say that football doesn’t matter. As I say, it finds its perspective at times like this. Yet, amid all the devastation and heartache we know that football mattered an awful lot to Brian. It was part of Brian. He worked hard to achieve his potential and had begun to cement his place as a Fermanagh regular. It was plain to see that he gave his all to be all he could be.
For Brian’s family the pain at present cannot be imagined. I don’t know if that pain will ever dull. We can only hope that the love they provide each other along with the support they receive from friends and family will help. And perhaps they may find some comfort in the game that Brian played with such passion. Honesty. Bravery. Integrity. Brian Og Maguire. Rest in Peace.