‘He was to Galway what Messi is to Barcelona’
Eamonn ‘Chick’ Deacy passed away suddenly this week. Labour councillor Billy Cameron remembers his friend and salutes both the man and the footballer.
Eamon 'Chick' Deacy pictured with his League Championship medal, his Irish caps, and a Charity Shield medal from 1981. Photo: Hany Marzouk.
“Chick was a couple of years older than me, but in our teenage years we both played football. I played for Bohs and Chick played for West United. My memories are that we always ended up on the losing side and that was because Chick was on the opposite team.
“He was to Galway what Messi is to Barcelona. You could see he was driven and that he would eventually make it. He was writing to different clubs in England to get accepted there for trials. He knew he deserved it. All he wanted was to play football.
“It proved the character of the man that he did make it, playing with Aston Villa from 1979 to 1984. During his time there he won the league with them in 1980-81 and played in European Cup matches with the team.
“Chick got four caps for the Republic of Ireland and this week Liam Brady was recalling the tour to South America they were both on, but I have a memory of Chick wearing the Green jersey at Tolka Park in a match against Wales and I think that might have been his first international.
“When he got the breaks everyone was delighted for him, but the striking thing about Chick was that he wasn’t one of those ‘Do you know who I am?’ sort of people who would walk around town with an attitude. He was a humble and quiet person, who got on with his life and fulfilled his dream.
“The fact that he made it in England and played at the highest level would have been an inspiration to Galway footballers. They would have looked at Chick as being the watermark and if they wanted to make it they had to be as good as Chick. He would have been an example to look up to for those who wanted to go places. He never blew his own trumpet. That’s just the type of person he was.
“What was also amazing was that after coming back from England, from what would now be a Premier League club, that he would be happy to play with his native city’s team, Galway United, again, and for free.
“What were his best qualities as a footballer? I would say a command of mid-field and distribution and movement on and off the ball. He had great vision of where to put the ball, he was just streets ahead of others in that regard.
“He had talent in abundance and he was no shrinking violet on the pitch. He was able to take whatever came his way. I don’t think he ever wanted to captain a team. He wanted to concentrate on his won game and get on with the nitty gritty but he was a team player and he had the skills that would surpass the other 10 team-mates put together.
“It’s strange but that part of the city, The West, seems to create notable footballers. The first professional footballer from Galway was Matt Lee who played in Scotland for Kilmarnock, and now one of his grandsons, Greg Cunningham, plays for Man City. So you had three generations - first Matt, then Chick, now Greg, all with origins and links to the West, who played football at a high level.
“What I’ll miss most about him is popping into the shop on Sea Road and just having a few words about football, or meeting him on High Street or Cross Street, of him just beeping the van at you and waving as you passed by.
“Chick had a certain quality I can only call special, special in all his attributes. Some people just have that aura about them. He was a man who achieved so much.”
In conversation with Kernan Andrews