It is an emotional trek, a wonderful experience tinged with much sadness.
The passing of a son of the housing estate we all loved so well inevitably brings back the days when for some of the finest young lads and lassies on Mother Earth, Fatima was the place we were all so proud to call home.
Liam Brennan who died at his Cedarwood Drive, Loughboy home after a courageous battle with illness played on Team Fatima Place that would eventually become Emfa and Kilkenny City.
He played hurling as a very young lad, as did most of us in the area that included Emmett Street, Kennyswell Road, Fr Murphy’s Square, Dean Cavanagh Place and St Theresa’s and St Francis Terraces.
He probably wore the black and amber in many All-Ireland finals and the international jersey of The Boys in Green in World Cups that were played on Ireland’s most quaint soccer pitch, the sloping, bockety field of Fatima.
TO DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM
As chiselers we delighted in letting our imaginations run wild as we dreamed what we eventually found out was the impossible dream.
To be catapulted back to Fatima of the ‘Fifties, ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies is enlightening, even romantic, a beautiful reminder of the great collection of football lads who lived beside or in the vicinity of the world’s most unusual soccer stadium.
Liam and his school friend and neighbour Nicky Power would have been at the heart of many soccer rumbles.
Like most of us, neither would have been a Roy Keane or George Best but the big plus is that they enjoyed every minute of their youth playing games that would give them good life values.
I remember Liam Brennan was a good ball player, a laidback midfielder who preferred his team mates to do the running.
His involvement would have been mainly pitch battles with neighbours’ children, teams that everyone believed, or at least pretended to, were Manchester United, Liverpool or whatever clubs were to the fore in the then English First Division Championship.
IT WAS PURE MAGIC; LIVING THE DREAM
There were times when some families were lucky to have a pot to pee into but the camaraderie, friendship and loyalty of people like Liam and Nicky were priceless.
It was pure magic; living the dream.
Sadly, as life would have it, many of our dear friends have passed on. We think in particular of Michael ‘Snowball’ Walsh, Matty Power and Paddy Carpenter.
For different reasons, there would have been enough material for a book on the all too short lives of all three and it would not have been surprising if one and maybe all would have been best sellers.
All three kicked a football, each had a positive and at times wonderfully humorous contribution to make to a community that appreciated and enjoyed their company.
Liam and his schoolboy pal and neighbour Nicky Power had much in common; both were quiet and friendly and seldom if ever uttered an unkind word about anyone.
Paddy Carpenter was a great character who I can still see with a slice of brown bread and blackcurrant jam delivered to him by his mother Judy during a game with Highview Athletic of Graignamanagh.
HIGHLY INTELLIGENT AND GOOD HUMOURED
Judy epitomized all that was good among Fatima parents. She was highly intelligent and almost always in good humour, that was until you incurred her wrath by misbehaving.
Happy family life was the key to positivity and friendship in Fatima as caring parents worked to ensure that young guns stayed on the straight and narrow.
The simple things in life, playing hurling, soccer, kick the can and Jack, Jack show the light were super ways of keeping active and getting on with sound neighbours.
Only a dolt would dare to scorn the simplicity of the time as groups of young lads crouched on footpaths playing poker for beer labels.
We were living in an epoch when grass was breakfast, dinner and tea for a local man’s horse that grazed on the green in front of our homes.
The only drugs we knew about were pain killers that granny took for her bunion.
Sound parents meant that Fatima Place and environs were good for man and beast.
Liam Brennan’s home, like most others in the area, was a happy place as parents Bridget and Garrity gave their all for the good of a family of sons and daughters.
A COURAGEOUS BATTLE WITH ILLNESS
Formative years were full of parental example and encouragement.
The kindness and care that Liam received in his tender years and his inter-action with other youngsters in the area may have been among the virtues that helped him and his loving wife Phyl, a member of the Grace family, to rear an exemplary family of two sons and two daughters.
Liam and Phyl respected others so they were halfway down the two-way street of life as others admired them in return.
Liam lost his battle for dear life. The ones he loved were at his bedside when he passed away.
Aged 65, it was so sad to see a doting dad being taken as he would have appreciated more time with his wife, children and grandchildren, the extended family he loved so dearly and for whom his efforts were never spared.
Like his father Garrity he was a plasterer by trade, a chip off the old block.
Plastering was a trade at which he excelled and was so popular, as borne out by a super turnout of fellow tradesmen at his funeral.
SAYING GOODBYE IS NEVER EASY
There too was a guard of honour of fellow sportsmen and women from Callan Golf Club where Liam was a long time member.
Saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy.
But as the young Brennans reflect on the life and times of a man who gave so unselfishly of himself, they will never forget to remember and cherish the quiet man with a friendly smile who was always a compadre with a warm heart.
Their hearts may always be heavy but they will have the consolation of knowing that the man they adored was one of Kilkenny’s finest.
Liam is survived by his wife Phyl; son Mark and Geoffrey; daughters Joanne and Cathriona; brothers Stephen and Tommy; sisters Linda and Pat; daughter in law Olivia; grandchildren Ciara, Chloe, Kian, Leah, Sophie, Andrew, Ryan and Aaron; brothers-in-law; sisters-in-law, nephews and nieces.