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When GAA rivalry leads to love

by Edited by Jimmy Rhatigan

A GAA rivalry that inevitably led to love and camaraderie was referred to by a loving nephew as he gave the eulogy at the funeral of a beloved aunt and grandmother.

Chubby Brennan, a son of Cobh who fell in love with his adopted Castlecomer spoke glowingly of a woman who was fondly Aunt Mai.

He told a funeral gathering of how the rivalry between the hurling Rebels of Cork and the black and amber of Kilkenny started and how a friendship grew as Cobh and ‘Comer were akin to twin towns.

Extended families, neighbours and friends that came together to celebrate the wonderful life of a woman who passed away as she was headed for her 103rd year also heard a heart-rending tribute in verse from Aunt Mai Brennan’s grand-daughter Fiona Brennan.

We are delighted to publish the edited version of Chubby’s masterpiece, also the words of wisdom from a daughter of Castlecomer who, like an extended Cork/Kilkenny family adored Aunt Mai.

We hand over to Chubby:

I would like to offer sincere thanks to the nurses, doctors and staff of Sacred Heart, Carlow who cared for Mai with such love and affection, to all staff in Castlecomer District Hospital, to Paddy Coady and his staff for their kindness and professionalism, to Fr Ian Doyle, Bunty Dunne, Anthony and family, the family of Seán Hewitt, Dublin, her long life friends. 

Aunt May and the late Johnny Brennan, Cobh


We send love to Mai’s grand-daughter Jennifer and great grandson son Taylor in Australia, thanks to all who joined us on the webcam from different parts of Ireland and indeed all around the world. 

Grateful thanks to all her wonderful Yellow Road neighbours and to so many people who offered sympathy as the sad news of Mai’s passing spread throughout the town and beyond.

I feel so honoured and privileged to speak on behalf of the Brennan family at this final farewell to a lady we all affectionately knew as Aunt Mai. 

People might ask how did Chubby get the honour? 

Well Aunt Mai’s late husband Mickey, along with John Brennan, 33 Kilkenny Street, their brothers Jimmy, Kieran, Tommy and sisters Lizzie and Mary were all siblings of my late father Martin Brennan (born on Yellow Road, Castlecomer – died Cobh, County Cork 1970).

So started the rivalry and eventual admiration and friendship between The Kilkenny Cats and The Cork Rebels. 

To us all Aunt Mai was a legend, a wonderfully kind, caring, witty inspirational and very talented individual who shared her ups and her downs with the Almighty God in whom she had unbelievable belief. 

Aunt Mai kissing the Blarney Stone


In all the years I have known her and times I met Mai along with my mam and in the company of others, never did I hear her speak ill of anyone.

In fact if accusations were cast, Aunt Mai’s reply was ‘let it be in the hands of God, let Him decide. No one knows better.’   

Mai Coogan was born in 1919 to William and Kate Coogan, Yellow Road. 

The records differ. Some say birth date was August 7; others August 14, but regardless, either leaves Mai just six months short of her 103rd birthday.   

She enjoyed and cherished growing up with her brothers Tom (Crettyard), Paddy (Athy), Liam (Yellow Road) who was laid to rest only recently and her much loved sister Kathleen. 

Mai was educated at Castlecomer School until she was 15. From school she went to work on the Wandesforde Estate from where she gathered many beautiful stories and happy memories. 

In 1940, her life was to change again when she married her Yellow Road neighbour and love of her life Michael ‘Mickey, the Baker’ Brennan. 

Mai and Michael reared six children, Johnny, Billy, Maureen, Tom, Mike and Kate. 

Sadly, her husband Mickey was called by God on September 24, 1975, aged 69. 

Aunt Mai and her husband The Baker Brennan


More heartache followed for Mai and her family when her eldest son Johnny died in early 2002 and on February 1. 2005 when Mai lost her beautiful daughter-in-law Ann, Both are always in our hearts.

Following on from Johnny Brennan’s funeral in Freshford, Mai was to be part of history when John Brennan, Cobh agreed to hold a Kilkenny/Cobh Brennan Reunion a few years later in Cork.

Guest of honour was the eldest member of the clan. 

Yes, you guessed correctly.

Mai Brennan carried the black and amber, She was greeted on Belvelly Bridge, Cobh by a piper and paraded to meet the flag-bearing and applauding Brennans of Cobh. 

At last our hero had graced her brother-in-law’s homeland. That weekend Mai was last to bed, first up, as our neighbour Noreen Cronin acted as her minder and bodyguard throughout the weekend.   

To her loving children as ye sit before me and as the tears flow, I would like to say to each one of you, let them flow.

The tears are ones of grief and most of all tears of joy in honour of a such a fantastic mother who in her own way cared for each of you in a special way.

The late Liam Coogan, Yellow Road, Mai Brennan on her 80th birthday and her late sister Kathleen


Mai Brennan, always in our hearts

She filled your minds with the gifts to respect, with the gift to share, to encourage, to forgive, to love, to further teach your own children these powerful strengths she was gifted to by God.

Sometimes God acts in strange ways.

Barbara and partner Gary arrived from Sweden to visit Granny; they chatted, took pictures and left happy having informed Mai of their plans to marry only to be notified later that Mai had passed away. 

Barbara and Susan were a big part of their granny’s life, so much so they asked me to acknowledge that they are what they are today because of the love and care Mai gave to them during their time living on the Yellow Road.    

To all Mai’s grandchildren and great grandchildren, you will all have your own superb memories and stories, 

I say to you to continue her great legacy, pass on the great stories and always hold granny in the highest esteem.

When you need help, talk to her, when you need guidance, ask her, when you are down, she will be there to pick up.  

Believe, like Granny did, in the power of God and prayer.


Chubby Brennan

When tomorrow starts without me, please try to understand, that an angel came and called my name, took me by the hand; 

The angel said my place was ready, In Heaven far above, and that I’d have to leave behind all those I dearly love. 

But when I walked through Heaven’s Gates, I felt so much at home, for God looked down, smiled at me, and told me Welcome Home. 

So when tomorrow starts without me, don’t think we’re far apart, for every time you think of me, I’m right there in your heart.        

A lady has left us; thanks for the memories Mai. May God bless you, speed your journey and now you will hopefully get time in Heaven to look after your husband’s flannel shirt! 

Rest in peace

Chubby x


August 1919 saw the arrival of Ireland’s only queen. 

The Yellow road her birthplace and it’s there she would remain because it’s there she met her true love and a mother she became. 

She was blessed with six children and they became her life as well as being a granny and an ever caring wife. 

Her door was always open and people always came to see that special lady and hear stories of her fame.  

Ya see she worked in Wandesforde’s of this she was so proud and she loved telling stories of that elegant English crowd. 

Lord and Lady Wandesforde and skating on the pond serving up the dinner they had a very special bond. 

But true love took her out of there and then came all of us and she was 10 times busier because could we make a fuss. 

Her house was filled with gran kids, for weekends we would come and eat her out of house and home but we had so much fun. 

She thought us how to knit and bake and even how to sing she thought us how to hug and love a very special thing. 

For those of you that knew her you will know all this is true for there was never any boundaries for the things that she could do. 

The skies have gained an angel on this her parting day but the love she leaves in all our hearts will never go away. 

So here’s to all those memories and the time we spent with you, we will always miss and never forget our beautiful lady in blue. 

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

Kind regards

Fiona Brennan

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