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Visionary businessman steeped in the GAA

Story by Paul Fitzpatrick

Thursday, 20th July, 2017 6:55pm

Visionary businessman steeped in the GAA

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Philip Michael 'Phil' Brady was born on February 2, 1932, the fourth eldest of 11 children to Tommy and Kate Brady of Gurteen, Arva.

He attended Wateraughy NS along with his brothers and sisters. It was there that Phil met Marie Duignan, who would become his wife.

After he finished school, he started his first job in Smith's Garage in Cavan, cycling to work each morning.

He soon rose through the ranks in Smith's and, in September 1961, an opportunity arose to purchase a garage of his own, Cassidy's Garage in Arva, which would include a Volkswagen agency.

He sold the house which he had recently purchased at Moynehall, Cavan and, with the help of the proceeds and his family, he purchased the grage in Arva. Brady's of Arva was born and, after that, there was no looking back.

From that moment on, Phil Brady was a constant presence in his business and built up a very successful operation, with a remarkably loyal customer base. 

He had a word for everyone and was very geared towards looking after customers.

He was a hard grafter whose only holiday was a night or two in Salthill once a year with his beloved wife Marie, with whom he enjoyed almost 50 wonderful years.

Marie was also a great support to him in business; she would also look after customers and her warm welcome and homemade brown bread was famous.

Together they raised a family of eight children, seven boys and one girl. All of his children were very close to his heart, particularly his only daughter Joanne, who travelled from Dublin on a weekly basis to be with him, especially after Marie passed away.

The great passions in Phil Brady's life were his family, his faith, his business and, of course, the GAA, with which he became synonymous.

Almost every Sunday of his life, he attended a football match and sometimes two or three. He would go along to Longford and Leitrim club and county matches and, of course, club and county games in his native Cavan.

At the age of 16, he was chosen as a delegate for the Cormore club. And when he was 25, in 1957, he lined out at corner-back on the Cormore team which won the Cavan Junior Football Championship final against Belturbet.

In the semi-final that year, against Stradone, The Anglo-Celt described the corner-back's performance as “outstanding”.

Just as in business, he rose through the ranks and, in 1980, he was elected as chairman of Cavan county board, a position he held for seven years. During his tenure, he was a proud man as he presented the intermediate cup to Arva, a title they won again just a couple of months before his passing.

He also oversaw the centenary celebrations in 1984.

After moving on from the chairmanship in his own county, he represented Cavan on Central Council in Croke Park. During this time, he spoke strongly in favour of Croke Park opening its doors to other sporting codes.

After his passing, one former GAA President wrote to the Brady family to express how appreciative he was for their father's support and counsel.

“Phil was a man of the people who knew what was the right thing to do for the GAA. That guidance and advice was something I greatly cherished. No GAA President can operate without the wisdom of people he can trust and Phil Brady was such a person to me,” he wrote.

Away from football, he was heavily involved in the early years of the Arva show – he was the first secretary of that committee (which incidentally celebrates its 60th anniversary this year) and a founding member of the Arva Development Association.

He was a man of simple tastes, a people person who loved the simple things such as a quiet drink with friends and neighbours in Arva. He had a great love for the town and an affinity with its people.

The funeral was one of the largest ever witnessed in the region, with thousands descending on the Church of the Sacred Heart in Arva – where Phil attended Mass each morning - to pay their respects.

The Brady family were greatly moved by the hundreds of cards and messages they received – while their father was great fun socially and would have enjoyed catching up with his many friends, he was not one for fuss and certainly not for boasting.

That modesty and an old-fashioned decency made him a hugely popular figure in his home county and further afield – he was named Cavan Person of the Year in 1986 – and his excellence in business was recognised with a number of national and international awards.

But for the man himself, those sort of accolades were not important. The esteem in which he was held by staff, GAA colleagues, friends, neighbours and relations was shown at his funeral and removal.

He bore his illness with great humility and he had great love and admiration for the professional medical personnel and pastoral carers who looked after him.

That way with people was important to him. He would go the extra mile in helping people out, encouraging non-drivers to get behind the wheel, for example, and tutoring them.

In truth, the importance of hard work was engrained into Phil Brady from birth.

He was a visionary who spotted opportunities before others did. As well as the business in Arva, he was also instrumental in starting Brady's of Cavan and Brady's of Dublin.

He had a great rapport with customers and indeed staff, who were extremely important to him. The longest serving of his employees, John Joe Miney, started work in the garage in Arva in 1962 and retired just this month.

Phil's brother James, a vet, was a county football star and is hale and hearty in Offaly.

Another brother, Donal, lives in Longford, for whom his son Dermot is the longest-serving current inter-county player.

Two other brothers, Fr Charlie and Fr Vincent, the latter of whom spoke beautifully at his funeral mass, are based in California. 

Phil Brady passed away on December 3 last in his 84th year and was pre-deceased by his wife Marie and brothers Paddy (Forthill) and Thomas (Killygarry). He is survived by his children Joanne, Cathal, Gerard, Philip, Niall, Finbar, Padraig and Michael, his brothers Fr Charlie and Fr Vincent in California, James (Offaly), Donal (Longford), Gerry (Dublin), John Joe (Arva), and sisters Kathleen (Dromard) and Patricia (Beesie) in Cavan.

Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam.

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