Longford Paddy Collum: 'I have no fear of playing Dublin'
Longford 'keeper has kept Dublin U21s at bay ... now he's craving a senior ambush
MAYBE it's the confidence of relative youth. Or his own towering stature - all six foot four. Or perhaps it's simply that Paddy Collum has only ever faced Dublin once in championship combat - and emerged victorious.
Whatever the explanation, Longford's recently installed first-choice goalkeeper doesn't fear facing the All-Ireland favourites in their own back yard this Sunday.
If you believe the bookies - Dublin are 1/50, Longford 14/1 - the latter may as well stay at home. Collum begs to differ, citing his own case history.
"I have only played once against Dublin," he points out. "That was 2013 above in Parnell Park in the quarter-final [of the Leinster U21 championship]."
Dublin, under Jim Gavin, had won the previous year's All-Ireland. Now, under Dessie Farrell, they had a fresh wave of minor graduates with grand designs on glory.
"I was in college in Dublin at the time and a few of just tipped down to Parnell Park to watch them play Carlow. I was sitting in the stand and I didn't know how I was going to be able to keep the ball kicked out to them!" says Collum, recounting a turkey shoot that finished 4-27 to 0-2 for the holders.
And yet, a fortnight later, there was no hint of trepidation on the bus as Longford journeyed up to Donnycarney.
"We only went up full of confidence," their 'keeper maintains. "It was our team that had won the Leinster minor in 2010. We were fairly confident of turning them over. And just the way that it happened ... a wet evening, they got a goal early on [via Ciarán Kilkenny after 20 minutes] but we stuck at it and we dug deep. We were there or thereabouts at the end and we took them by a point."
It ended 1-6 to 1-5; Longford later reached the Leinster decider but, for the second time in three seasons, fell short at the final fence.
However, their competitive streak at underage level has imbued a strong self-belief in the Fr Manning Gaels clubman. "I have no fear of going up to play Dublin at all," the 23-year-old insists. "It doesn't dawn on me at all."
Collum cites Longford's Leinster minor success in 2010 as another positive portent: a provincial campaign that started with a 22-point horror-show defeat to Offaly culminated in Croke Park revenge against the Faithful.
In between those polar opposites, "Kildare and Dublin played three times in the minor and then Kildare came down here to play us and they were already talking about All-Irelands, never mind Leinsters. Our manager said goals win games and we put the ball in there enough times to beat them [by 3-5 to 0-13]," he reminds.
"Then the following year  we beat the Meath team that were going for Leinster in U21 since they won it in minor three years earlier. We have always been able to provide a bit of a shock anyway, but we haven't just finished out the Leinsters with a win."
Whatever about minor or U21, though, surely senior against the Dubs is a different ball game? Collum, though, can't wait to embrace the moment. Having served as sub 'keeper to Damien Sheridan for several years before the latter's retirement at the end of last summer, Collum had to wait until Tullamore last Saturday week for his SFC debut.
That back-from-the-brink win over Offaly has set up the ultimate challenge. He has played in Croker before (the 2010 Leinster minor decider and recent Division Four final, both against Offaly, spring to mind) but never in front of a "blue sea on the Hill."
Might he be facing that famous terrace's own unique version of 'keeper sledging?
"You could be," he muses. "Depends how you perform on the day. They might be happy with you in one way - but hopefully they won't be at the end of it."
You ask has he seen a better 'keeper than Stephen Cluxton and, while he duly sings the praises of his opposite number, he is equally effusive about his former comrade/rival, Sheridan.
Last year was spent in the capital studying sports science through the Portobello Institute. The course was held in the Cusack Stand.
"I've been in Croke Park enough times, last year, looking out on the field, so mad to get out there," he signs off.