Matt on mission to add gloss in goals after cracking their Dublin hex at Crokes
THE number one jersey always felt comfortable on Matt Collins. He has been a long-time student of the art.
"Even from my earliest days I wanted to be a goalkeeper. I'd be studying the top 'keepers, trying to pick up bits and pieces. Not to say that I picked up too many!"
Matt is being modest there. He was outstanding in the county final as Kilmacud Crokes won their first Dublin senior hurling championship title in 27 years.
He didn't spill a cornflake on that Donnycarney afternoon as Crokes overcame Cuala. His hands and touch were as sure as a master cutter from Waterford Glass.
Matt hails from Cork. He played with Ballinhassig and for Cork at minor, U-21 and intermediate level before moving to Dublin and a teaching job at Terenure College.
"I'd watch goalies from all different sports. Peter Schmeichel would be one. Ger Cunningham is a big idol. And so too is Martin Coleman from my own club in Cork.
"I had huge admiration for Ger Cunningham. They are big shoes for any goalkeeper to try and fill, but, hey, goalkeeping is something you learn about everyday and you just try and put all the knowledge together."
Matt will be minding the castle for the Dubs Stars against the Dublin hurlers in the annual Evening Herald/Dublin Bus clash as St Peregrine's on New Year's Day (12.30).
"He's impressed with the standard of Dublin hurling.
"It's excellent and the profile has risen in the last couple of years.
"There is a physical honesty in Dublin hurling that you mightn't get in many places. The players mightn't be as skilful as, say, the lads back home, but the effort, organisation, and physicality are just phenomenal.
"I didn't understand the club rivalry before I came up, but I fully understand it now. And out Southside, Crokes and Cuala are the big two."
Crokes won the final by seven points. "Big men do it on the big days and that is what we did in the county final," he says. "Many thought over the years that Crokes were not fulfilling their potential. But by winning we put all of that to rest.
"The lads showed unbelievable spirit. It was a great team performance. I felt our backs were exceptional, especially in the second half when we came under pressure.
"It was the way we won it that was among the most pleasing things. There was such determination there.
"Everybody knows about the potential at Kilmacud because of all the underage success, but thankfully now we have finally come to the top table."
Leinster's House then came knocking. Oulart-The Ballagh in Parnell Park.
"We knew we were up against a very experienced side in Oulart. But in no way did we feel inferior to them. We felt we could beat them. And we should have beaten them.
"It was very disappointing to lose that game. People could have felt that our ambition might have stopped when we won Dublin. But that was far from the case. We wanted to go beyond Dublin.
"We have played all the teams in Leinster in challenges and we knew we could compete with them all. To me it was a lost opportunity... another year gone. Hopefully we can use the experience to our advantage next year. You could view it as another step on the road but the road doesn't always be too long."
Likewise, Matt holds similar thoughts on Dublin. "It's a huge year for Anthony Daly and Dublin. It's now or never.
"I think that Kilkenny defeat in Leinster hurt them a lot. They are still hurting. That put such a huge dampener on things.
"I don't know what went wrong that day. Was it the hype or whatever? They were just so down after that, and they'll be keen to put that right. But Dublin hurling has been going places and the good thing is that the young players are coming through."
Youth is also flourishing on Leeside. "With it being such a young team, you couldn't have better people at the helm than Jimmy Barry Murphy and Ger Cunningham, two absolute legends.
"They have done it all. Players can only learn by listening to them. It will take a while, but Cork hurling is coming back."
And Matt also suggests that Dublin hurling is coming home.