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'The Big Easy' bows out having left his mark on the game

By Declan Bogue

It was a former Ballinderry coach, Charlie Conway, who was the first to label Enda Muldoon 'The Big Easy'.

You might ask what the multicultural home of Spanish architecture, French cuisine, Satchmo and voodoo has to do with a Gaelic footballer from the shores of Lough Neagh. And the answer could only be that it is the certain elan with which Muldoon carried himself on a football field.

Lanky and skinny in his youth, he was the ultimate 'great feet for a big man' example. Since he announced his retirement on Twitter he has gained the inevitable tributes, but the most telling, for me, was one from Joe Canavan, one of the Errigal Ciaran Canavans and a long-time Ballinderry coach, who replied: "The Big Easy! A gentleman on and off the field. Always early for training, mad for games and looking for ways to improve. Proof that practice makes perfect."

There is no surprise that Muldoon had such mastery over his skills. Those that tend to turn up early - and the most extreme example of that in Gaelic games was Stephen Cluxton - redefine how the sport is played.

On days like the drawn 2008 Ulster club final between themselves and Crossmaglen Rangers, he served up kickpassing and catching from the Gods. In the week between that game and the replay, he suffered an injury at work when furniture fell on one of those silken feet. Muldoon showed up for the replay in a moon boot, the world deprived of a treat.

There is a pity, having heard how he played on Chrissy McKaigue this year in the Derry Championship, that he is retiring from club football at the age of 40, though taking on the management of the Banagher club made it inevitable.

Thankfully, playing to your forties is now no longer a great surprise, with Derrygonnelly Harps showing the way with two 42-year-olds in their starting line-up.

The advances of training, nutrition and sport science are taking effect.

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