In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely pays tribute to Brian Geary, who announced his retirement last week.
His frame cast a long shadow for many years, his powerful shoulders intimidated many forwards and his style was simple but very direct.
No big song and dance about his decision to leave the stage, it was never his way. Brian Geary called time on his career with the Limerick senior hurling team last Monday and in doing so brought to an end a career that served Limerick very well. Brian Geary had a quiet way about him, he didn’t court the media like others of this era instead he did his talking on the field.
For years he commanded a starting role with Limerick and the one thing people will remember about him was that this man was dependable. Yes, over the past couple of years it did not go according to plan but in the bigger picture Geary was a great servant of Limerick GAA in both hurling and football. He was part of a golden age at U21 level and it’s very sad to look back now and see almost all of these players washed through and nothing to show for it at senior level.
He experienced great days with Limerick but he witnessed bad ones too. Making the call to end your career is never easy – training and playing games with the county becomes a way of life. At first you think it will never end but before you know it someone else is biting at your heels to take your jersey. I have many great memories of Brian Geary playing both hurling and football. The supporters loved him particularly when he dropped the shoulder and met the incoming forward with a hay maker. A hit from Geary always emptied the lungs and removed the confidence to take him on through the centre.
Geary played the majority of this hurling as a defender and while he had a brief spell in attack it is as a defender that Limerick supporters will remember him most. For over a decade the Monaleen man gave great service to Limerick and on very few occasions did he have a bad game.
He began his career in 1999 and during that time he collected two U-21 All Ireland hurling medals and played in the U-21 football final which they lost to Tryone. I can still remember that day and had the fantastic effort from Brian Begley not hit the crossbar I think the outcome could have been so different. That was a great few years for Limerick and we all hoped for great days ahead but instead it turned out to be defeat after defeat and the decade finished with no Munster title at senior level.
Over his time playing Brian Geary produced some great displays but his performance against Tipperary in the second replay in Thurles was quite special. He commanded the defence that evening and his long range points proved to be telling. It took three games to decide the outcome of that saga with Tipperary but it was the start of a great championship campaign. When Brian Geary looks back I think he will forever cherish those games in 2007. The county needed a win so badly. After the third of those games in Limerick I spoke to Tipperary manager Babs Keating and he said of Geary, “Limerick was very solid in defence and we had no way of breaking down Brian Geary. He is such a strong player, the sort of guy every team needs. Geary was the huge difference between the teams in the three games and we paid the price for not containing him”.
The measure of any intercounty man is the loyalty he shows his club and in Geary’s case he never let his club down. Monaleen is a dual club but it was with football he reaped most rewards with his club.
Tom Crosse is the current Chairman of the Monaleen Club and was rich in his praise this week for Brian Geary, “We are sad to see Brian hang up his boots at intercounty level but we hope we can get a couple of more years out of him. He is someone everyone in the club looks up to, he has a very quiet way about him but he can galvanise lads. As a club we were very proud of Brian Geary and I wish him well now that he has called it a day”.
At the end of his career with the Limerick senior hurlers Brian Geary, like so many, has little to show for it. For the best part of his time with Limerick he will remember fondly but I will forever remember him as he left the field in Ennis as Clare gave us the mother and father of a beating.
He walked from the field straight through the tunnel into the dressing rooms all alone. I was working with RTE Radio that day and seeing that he was feeling pretty low I walked to the dressing rooms to see that he was okay. He sat with his head in his hands – it was a low point for him but also for Limerick.
The performance was shocking and I got the feeling that he felt sorry for himself but also for Limerick. Brian Geary was never a man to carry baggage with him, he was always a pleasure to deal with and in so many ways we have not yet replaced him at centre back.
It’s easy to take for granted a player but we must never forget the efforts they make to wear the jersey. I wish Brian and his family well and, like many supporters, thank him for so many great days with Limerick. The modern game is unforgiving and in that regard Brian Geary has called it perfectly.