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Saturday 3 December 2016

All Ireland build up: 'Heffo had spies in all the bars to catch lads out', reveals hero Jimmy Keaveney

Dublin Football Veteran, Jimmy Keaveney pictured at his Portmarnock home
Dublin Football Veteran, Jimmy Keaveney pictured at his Portmarnock home
Dublin's legendary manager Kevin Heffernan

On Sunday Jim Gavin will be aiming for his second All-Ireland title as Dublin manager - a feat not achieved since the legendary Kevin Heffernan was in charge of the Dubs.

Heffernan tasted All-Ireland success with the boys in blue on three occasions in the 1970s and 1980s.

Three-time All Star winning forward Jimmy Keaveney told the Herald that 'Heffo's Army' fever gripped the city and got the ball rolling in Dublin to get the county to the GAA summit.

Failings

Keaveney's Dublin career began in 1964, but the forward became so disillusioned with continuous failings he retired from inter-county football in 1973.

However, Heffernan coaxed him out of retirement when he took over in 1974.

"I'd got fed up with it. I wasn't enjoying it," Mr Keaveney said.

"We were that bad - our training was two laps around the pitch. Kevin came along in 1973 and he rang me up and said 'look Jimmy, we want you to come back training'.

"I said I'd do it, because I knew he wouldn't take 'no' off me," he added.

An early championship exit was predicted for the Dubs in Heffernan's first season.

However, the work behind the scenes was paying dividends. The drinking culture among players became a thing of the past.

"You'd have to look after yourself, because Kevin had spies all over the city and you'd get caught," Mr Keaveney said.

He recalled being pulled up after one Friday night out.

"He did have a word with me, but not just me, a good few of the lads too. Kevin got us going, he got us motivated and the training was hard," he said.

'Heffo's Army' won All-Ireland titles in '74 and '76 - the latter being extra special for Heffernan because it was his first victory over Kerry.

Heffernan was obsessed with beating the Kingdom - and the win had supporters desperate to celebrate with their heroes.

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Dubs legend Kevin Heffernan

After the match, the team were taken to a hotel outside of the city, because of the sheer volume of people wanting to take part in the celebrations.

"I think a fella actually came through the roof of the hotel," Mr Keaveney said.

"It was a flat roof on the hotel and he was trying to get into the function and have a few drinks with the lads - he got in eventually," he said.

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