Eoin Deasy clocked up the air miles last year. The St James clubman, who made the move to New York in early 2019, flew home for four championship matches to support his team-mates. KIERAN McCARTHY caught up with him to see if he has any regrets after missing out on St James’ greatest season
YOU’D understand if Eoin Deasy harboured some lingering regrets after he missed out on St James’ dream season, but he doesn’t. Hand on heart.
He was a mainstay on St James’ football and hurling teams for well over a decade, an ever-present Mr Reliable in defence, before relocating to New York for work with his fiancée Sara Brennan in early 2019.
It was an opportunity that was too good to turn down. Both Eoin and Sara worked at Global Shares’ HQ in Clonakilty and when the chance arose to manage the New York office, they grabbed it – so he swapped home in Grenanes, Ardfield for the Big Apple and it’s a move Eoin has never regretted.
‘A lot of the lads have asked if it’s bitter-sweet considering the club won the Carbery junior A football title the season after I left, but, genuinely, I was delighted for them,’ Deasy says.
‘Of course you have those what-if moments, but they’re fleeting, and I have no regrets with the move we made. This was a great opportunity for us here in New York and we’re more than happy here.
‘I played with St James for a good few years, we were knocking on the door for a while and they eventually knocked that door down last year which was unbelievable. Thankfully, I was there to see them become kingpins of West Cork.’
Deasy, who turned 34 last month, clocked up the air miles to support his team-mates last season. Of their nine championship matches between the Carbery and county series, he was there for four of them – that’s over 40,000kms travelling to and from games – including the divisional final against Ballinascarthy in Timoleague last September. That was a match he couldn’t miss.
‘Sara and myself had to fly home for the West Cork final,’ he explains.
‘We had been home for a wedding when they played Plunkett’s in July so we got that game in. I was in Gaelic Park watching the New York senior hurling final the day they beat Caheragh in Skibbereen. When they beat Timoleague in the semi-final in Clon, my sister was updating me all through the game.’
Eoin’s sister, Therese, is married to Alan O’Shea, St James’ import from Waterville who is a key figure in the club’s football success story. Football-mad, he’s manager, trainer and player – as well as Eoin Deasy’s brother-in-law.
‘When I was back home for the Plunkett’s game, Alan dropped me a text and asked would I do the water and said that it would be great to have me on the line. I was more than happy to help out,’ Deasy explains.
He noticed a difference that day.
‘That was my first time seeing the lads last season, and I was blown away by the style of football they were playing and their fitness levels – they looked impressive,’ he recalls.
‘Therese had to venture far to get Alan, but he’s a big addition to the club, on and off the field. I think from a playing point of view he brought an extra element to our attack and, from a scoring standpoint, took some of the pressure off Frankie Hayes and Mark Evans. We had more ammo in our forward line last year.’
Deasy was back in West Cork and on the line for the divisional final, St James’ first JAFC decider, and again he was made feel part of the panel and this adventure. He was so close to the action against Ballinascarthy that he could almost gently tug Bal players’ jerseys to remind them he was there.
‘That was an unbelievable day, it’s hard to put into words what it does mean,’ he says.
There’s a framed photo in his apartment in Jersey City of Sara and Eoin holding the Mick McCarthy Cup on the pitch after St James’ triumph. That’s a reminder of home and of St James’ greatest day.
‘Even looking at it sometimes, it’s hard to believe that St James finally won the West Cork,’ he says. ‘We were looking at Kilmacabea and other teams winning it, and we always wondered if we would ever be in that position, so it’s great that we had our day in the sun.
‘We had been knocking on the door for years, we had years where we took big teams out but we didn’t have the consistency to follow it up in the next round. We got the consistency in both football and hurling in 2018 but we fell between two stools, and when Bal beat us in the hurling last year there was a big focus then to drive on in the football.’
The weekend after the West Cork final, Deasy got to take in the hammering of Cobh in the county series before flying back to New York. As St James clocked up the wins he knew he’d be back for the county final in November. Again, he flew the 10,000km round-trip, landing in Cork at 12pm on the day of the game. He met the team at St Michael’s GAA pitch for the pre-match warm-up and travelled on the bus to Páirc Uí Rinn for the clash against Kilshannig.
By then a photo of Deasy holding St James’ green and yellow club colours was doing the rounds on social media. Another James’ clubman living abroad, Brian O’Donovan in Canada, asked whatever club members were abroad to send on photos for a collage. Deasy did, pictured holding a green and yellow pillowcase with Manhattan in the background. That’s an iconic backdrop and it’s the view from their apartment in Jersey City – Eoin and Sara look right across the Hudson river towards Manhattan, with the One World Trade Centre standing out from the crowd, stretching skywards. It has the wow factor; just ask James O’Sullivan and his fiancée Sinead Maher who spent a few days there on the final leg of their travels last summer.
Unfortunately, St James didn’t have that wow factor against Kilshannig in the county final, but there was no shame in coming up short in their first Cork JAFC decider. This ageing team had already defied all expectations in the Carbery GAA story of the year.
Deasy was back in the air for St James’ victory dinner dance in January. It was an occasion he couldn’t miss. Fittingly, the club presented him with a West Cork medal.
‘That was a nice touch and the club always made me feel part of it,’ he says.
‘To be honest, if I was around there was no guarantee that I’d be making the team,’ he adds, underselling his own importance to the club’s football and hurling teams over the years.
As one current player said, ‘He was consistently a stand-out performer in both codes in his corner back position, he’d very much remind you of Denis Irwin. He is the definition of the ultimate club man.’
Even though life has taken him to New York, St James and home are never far from his thoughts. All he has to do is look at that framed picture of Sara, himself and the Mick McCarthy Cup to recall the day St James’s Mountain men scaled their Everest.