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Sunday 25 September 2016

'I won't ever be the most popular'

McMahon unconcerned about his team's legacy as Dublin greats

Philly McMahon at a press conference before Sunday's final Photo: Sportsfile
Philly McMahon at a press conference before Sunday's final Photo: Sportsfile
Philly McMahon in action for Dublin

Philly McMahon's fairly epic performances at the sharp end of Dublin's All-Ireland win last year meant his short-listing for the Footballer of the Year award was obligatory.

That the prize is decided by a vote of the inter-county playing body meant he was almost certain not to get it, regardless of his bona fides or those of the eventual winner, Jack McCaffrey.

"That's what it is, isn't it? It is a popularity contest," McMahon shrugs.

"Sure, I won't be the most popular county footballer throughout my career. I accept that, once I can do my bit for the team," he adds.

"I like to think I'm a nice person off the pitch," the Ballymun defender goes on.

"On the pitch, I'm there to do what I can to help my team win."

What he did, ultimately, was powerful.

McMahon robustly kept Aidan O'Shea to a point and kicked 1-2 himself when Dublin beat Mayo in the semi-final replay.

In the final, he held Colm Cooper scoreless and kicked a gem.

He was the hammer who hammered the hammers.

The sort of performances that if, say, Kieran McGeeney or Seamus Moynihan had delivered them, would have made the chronicles of great defensive displays.

Yet O'Shea explicitly stated he had been head-butted after the drawn game.

Kieran Donaghy's protested to David Coldrick that he had been eye-gouged in the final.

Memorably, that led to McMahon declaring the following morning: "If I get all these accusations against me and I win an All Ireland, then I don't give a shit."

Popularity contest? Not a chance.

"Look, a lot of people say - and you hear it all the time at the All-Star awards, 'oh I don't really care, I wanted to win for the team'.

"I actually didn't care if I didn't win it, I honestly can say that.

"Because there's times where I've seen footballers that should have won All-Stars and they didn't.

"Sometimes there's people have won All-Stars that shouldn't have.

"So I don't really care about it, I honestly don't."

McMahon has always been a fiercely independent characters and his personality betrays his on-field reputation.

Currently, he employs eight people between his companies; BK Strength and Conditioning and Fit Food.

"They understand when I'm in the business end in football and take a lot of pressure off me," he says.

In this, he joins a list of Dublin footballers who have gone into business, notably the team from the 70's he may now ultimately eclipse.

Naturally, McMahon points out, there is a relationship between sporting and professional success.

He has learned when and how to push the brakes on one and accelerate on the other.

"I always ask the question to myself: would my companies be where they are today if I hadn't got the GAA connection with Dublin?

"Or would the time I spent training and playing with the team...if I put that into the businesses, where would I get?

"There's a balance. When you look at the '70s team, you realise that the success they had - maybe from the Dublin network or the GAA network, helped them develop their careers.

"We probably have two business owners, at the minute, on the Dublin team, myself and Bernard (Brogan).

"The rest are doing really well. It's a great thing about GAA, that we develop a career during our sporting career."

The idea of surpassing the 70's team is not something which features prominently on McMahon's 'To Do' list, he stresses.

He has no targets beyond the very immediate. No grand list of honours he must tick off.

He doesn't have a number of Celtic Crosses in mind for when he finishes up.

After he won an All-Ireland in 2011 and '13, he made it his goal to start every Championship match for Dublin in 2015.

That resulted in his finest work to date as a footballer.

"I don't play football for that reason," he insists. "I don't think most of the lads do.

"We didn't start off playing for Dublin to be 'the great Dublin team'. Like, I started on the Dublin team when we had nowhere near a chance of winning an All-Ireland.

"Anyone that speaks about being 'the next great Dublin team' is probably outside of our circle anyway. Because we don't think about that."

Other, less successful Dublin teams "put the shift in that we've put in," he points out.

"And just because we've got the bit of tin at the end of it doesn't mean we deserve any (more) respect.

"Now that's probably hard to understand from the outside, from someone that's not a player.

"But I respect the players that have played before me and that will come after me.

"That's the legacy that I personally want to leave," McMahon concludes.

"That I did my bit for Dublin GAA.

"Not that I was there to be the great player, or on the great team of Dublin."

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