Football icon to be mourned by thousands
Eamon pictured with his friends Michael O'Connor and Joe Hanley on the occasion of Eamon’s receipt of an honorary degree from NUIG.
By Linley Mackenzie
Sporting personalities from Ireland and England will gather in Galway today to bid farewell to one of the city’s best loved legends, Eamon Deacy.
Eamon Deacy, known as “Chick”, died suddenly on Monday morning en route to work at the family’s greengrocers in Sea Road.
The Irish soccer community will be led by FAI chief executive John Delaney, while several clubmates from Aston Villa’s 1980/81 League and European winning team, will attend, including Gordon Cowans, Ken McNaught and Aston Villa director Robin Russell.
They will farewell a sporting icon, who despite playing on some of the most illustrious football stages in the world, shunned the lime-light and wanted no reward but to play the game of football he loved so much.
Eamon Deacy was a Galway man through and through. Growing up as the youngest in a family of 10 in Henry Street, Eamon attended St Joseph’s College, The Bish, as his father Michael, his uncles and his eight brothers had. It was from his father he became known as “Chick”.
“Dad always used to call him his little chicken,” recalls Eamon’s brother Michael. “He’d say to him, ‘come on my little chick, we are off to football.’”
It seemed he was destined for the game. His mother Christina Molloy hailed from Terryland, and it was his grandfather who sold the land to the Galway FA that was to become Eamon’s “home” pitch for most of his life.
A natural sportsman, Eamon was a fine athlete, played rugby with the Bish and also with Galwegians, while he also played Gaelic football with St Michael’s. But from an early age, it was football to which he was most attracted.
“From the time he could walk, he was out the back yard with a football,” says Michael. “By age 13 he was always down at the Swamp, frequently by himself, kicking a football around. I suppose it was the game that gave him the most satisfaction.”
As a youngster he joined West United and, as is typical of a man who never forgot his roots, he finished out his playing days with his childhood team, playing in the over 50s.
Yearning to test his ability further afield, he worked hard to get to the top, playing with Clyde for a time in Scotland along with stints at Sligo Rovers, and Limerick. Of course it was with Galway United, formerly Galway Rovers, that Eamon provided the Galway sporting community with so many days of enjoyment. A fierce tackler, who gave 100 per cent on the pitch, he was known as the “ midfield dynamo” who scored Rovers’ first goal in the League of Ireland against Thurles Town in 1977. It was fitting that some 15 years later and in the twilight of his career, he was a member of the Galway United side that claimed the FAI Cup with a 1 - 0 victory over Shamrock Rovers.
However it was across the water where Eamon Deacy deserved to play, and he received his opportunity when Ron Saunders of Aston Villa signed him. He was to play at Villa Park for five seasons, during which time he established himself as a key member of a squad that won the first division title in 1980/81 and went on to win the European Cup. Although he did not play in the European final - opting to play for Ireland for whom he was capped four times - he reluctantly accepted his cup winner’s medal.
It was the life of which he dreamed, yet it never changed the man. He is often aptly described as demon on the pitch, but a gentleman off it.
“I remember he had never had a red card and wanted one,” says Michael. “One day he creased a guy and was duly sent off, but he ended up crying with guilt, asking himself why did he do it.”
He met his wife Mary when she, as a young journalist working for the Galway Advertiser, went to interview the soccer star. He returned to Galway to be with his family, turned down an offer to play with Derby, married, and continued to delight the crowds wherever he played.
“He was at the top of his game when he came home, but he never forgot the people he knew in Birmingham. Not only did he always call Ron Saunders every New Year’s Eve, but he never forgot his landlady. A couple of years ago he got in his car and drove to Birmingham so he could attend her funeral.”
Eamon Deacy was a relucant hero. He hated the idea of receiving accolades which he richly deserved - most recently a Hall of Fame award at the Galway Sports Stars and an Honorary Doctorate from NUIG in 2009.
“Eamon always saw the good in people and he was forever 20 years of age. He was a modest, kind, and genuinely devout person who lived for his family. As the youngest in the family he was extremely close to his parents - it really was a relationship to behold, ” says Michael.
Decency, modesty, and integrity are just some of the words friends and family have used to describe the popular 57-years-old. He may have made his name as a brilliant footballer, but it was Eamon, the person, the father, the husband, the friend, and the mentor who will missed.
Eamon is survived by his wife Mary O’Connor, daughter Dawn, and son Jake, and his brothers and sister Michael, George, Mary, Neil, Ernest, Tommy and Don. He was predeceased by brothers Nicholas (Dixie) and Desmond.
Eamon Deacy is reposing at Conneely’s Funeral home this evening (4pm to 7pm) with removal to The Augustinian Church where his funeral Mass will take place tomorrow at 11am.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis