IN THE first of a new series on the legends of the game in Kilkenny, Barrie Henriques catches up with a natural sportsman who was bitten by the hurling bug from a very early age.
Name: Martin ‘Goggy’ Brennan
Place of birth: Dunaguile, Castlecomer
First adult competitive event: Versus Thurles Sarsfields, playing in goal.
Where: Pitch behind Semple Stadium.
Sporting heroes (as a youth): Ollie Walsh and Martin Coogan. Both terrific hurlers, and golfers too.
Favourite sporting memory (not your own): Being alive to see my son James (Shiner) win All-Ireland minor (1988) and under-21 (1990) titles. He was captain in 1990. Also watching him win two senior All-Ireland medals with Kilkenny in ’92 and ’93.
Your own personal sporting memory: Beating Tipp in the All-Ireland final in ’67. Winning under-14 Championships in 1960 and ’61, beating Graignamanagh and Mooncoin respectively.
Sporting hero now: Henry Shefflin - the best ever.
Current sporting interests: Hurling (as a spectator) and golf.
From 1 to 10, where do you rate your sports?: Both 10 out of 10.
Did you like training?: Loved it.
Which opponent caused you the greatest problems?: Dan Quigley.
MARTIN Brennan, affectionately known as ‘Goggy’ was a natural rather than a crafted sportsman. Growing up in sports-mad Castlecomer, it was not surprising that he was infected with the hurling bug from the cradle. As he often would say, “if you didn’t hurl in ’Comer, there was nothing else for you to do, but blackguarding”.
As a youngster he came under the influence of Fr Ryan and John ‘Tara’ Ryan. Martin probably suffered somewhat from a lack of stature - it was the age where “we’ll put the small lad in the goal syndrome”. As a result, his hurling career had him in goal on occasions more regularly than he would have wished for, but it didn’t matter to him.
“I didn’t mind in one sense as long as I got on the team,” he philosophically remarked. In fact his first adult outing in Thurles saw him play between the sticks.
Martin played at corner-forward in the epic - and some would say historical – All-Ireland final of 1967, a feat not achieved since 1922. He was also a member of the All-Ireland winning team in 1969 when Kilkenny beat Cork by 2-15 to 2-9.
His career was cut short when he suffered a severe ankle fracture while playing with Kilkenny in New York (it was his first trip to the States with the All-Ireland champions). Martin Brennan was never to play hurling again.
He was a selector on the Kilkenny under-21 team in 1990 with Brendan Fennelly (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Martin Morrissey (Dicksboro), Mick Hayes (Young Irelands), Barrie Henriques (John Lockes) and Nickey Brennan (Conahy Shamrocks). He got involved in coaching club teams within the county, with his first assignment taking him to Danesfort. He subsequently coached teams with the Fenians, Young Irelands, and Conahy.
His interest in golf blossomed too. He managed to lower his handicap to a very admirable 8 – he still plays a tidy game off 12. He has been a regular visitor to the winners enclosure, winning two Captains Prizes in the process.
He saw employment with the Castlecomer Products Engineering and Avonmore, among other employers.
Married to Joan they had a family of two boys (James and Jason) and one daughter Olivia, who is married and living in Delvin, Co Westmeath.
He still is very active, playing golf as often as possible - Joan is also an avid golfer, so that helps. He follows the fortunes of his beloved Erin’s Own, and Kilkenny. “There has been nothing like them in my time anyway, I feel,” he would say.
Other than golf, how does he spend the rest of his time?
“I’m a member of the most valuable company in the country at the moment, and that takes up a good bit of my time,” he said with a whimsical smile.
And what company is that?
“The most valuable people in this land presently are the Grannies and Grand-dads,” he said. “Our hands are well full with minding grandchildren!”