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Saturday 30 August 2014

Perfect Cur' for 'Mun

IT'S often thoughtfully noted that great players don't necessarily make great managers but every so often a particular group backs up their playing achievements further down the path of their football career.

The great, great Kerry team of the 1970s spawned future inter-county managers in Paidí O Sé (Kerry, Westmeath and Clare), Mikey 'Ned' O'Sullivan (Kerry, Limerick), Ogie Moran (Kerry), John O'Keeffe (Limerick, Clare) and Jack O'Shea (Mayo).

Similarly, Armagh's All-Ireland-winning team of 2002 has, within a decade, produced Kildare, Laois and Louth's respective supremos, Kieran McGeeney, Justin McNulty and Aidan O'Rourke, with a handful of others serving or having served as members of backroom teams throughout the country.

Winning

Consider though, the case of Dublin's 1995 All-Ireland-winning side.

The name of Pat Gilroy jumps immediately off the page and represents the most obvious example, along with then team-mate and subsequent successor as Dublin manager, Jim Gavin.

Then there's Dessie Farrell, the man who ended Dublin's preposterous 28-year minor famine and now, Gavin's heir after the Round Tower's man's five hugely successful years with the county's U-21s.

John O'Leary (Wicklow) and Paul Bealin (Wexford) have managed senior inter-county teams while Mick Deegan - now a selector with Gavin - and Mick Galvin were responsible for the Dublin juniors All-Ireland win in 2008.

Paul Clarke trained the Dubs under Pillar Caffrey and Keith Barr got in on the act recently by taking St Brigid's to an All-Ireland U-14 Féile Peil na nóg Division 1 title.

Thrown into the managerial mix is Paul Curran, perhaps the most stylish and widely acclaimed footballer of the entire '95 brigade and on a mission to add to his managerial stock by taking Ballymun somewhere they haven't been in 30 years: to a Leinster senior title.

He has, in the short span of time since his own playing career concluded, managed Round Tower's Clondalkin, Thomas Davis, helped out briefly with St Mark's and now, most successfully, Ballymun Kickhams on top of serving a single season as selector with Gavin's U-21 side.

And he is, according to the man responsible for bringing Curran to Ballymun anyway, a potential future Dublin manager.

"His man-management skills are phenomenal," says Derek Byrne, who played for Curran at Tower's before making his own switch to Ballymun five years ago and then making the Curran/Kickhams connection two seasons back.

"He's learned an awful lot. I worked with him at Tower's and I could see even in those years that he learned and honed in his management skills. He's been amazing.

"Lads have such regard for him. Lads knew what sort of player he was so he carries that with him into management."

Byrne himself left Tower's, feeling they had gone stale and on top of his playing participation, trained the under-21 teams which won two Dublin titles under the stewardship of Paddy Christie and Ian Robertson.

Doubtless, Curran had made progress with Tower's and Thomas Davis, but both grazed on the lower slopes of Dublin football and when Declan Sheehan and Dermot Leahy stepped aside with Ballymun, Byrne saw an obvious and mutually beneficial match-up.

"The lads brought the team to a point and nearly got them the whole way," Byrne recalls.

Credit

"They should take great credit for that. We had been in two semi-finals and two quarter-finals and nearly got over the line and that's where Paul came in.

"I rang Paul and told him the job was there.

"I felt he was the right man to come in. And he jumped at it. He couldn't wait to come across."

Initially, Ballymun went nowhere in particular except as agonisingly close to Dublin's promised land as they had been before. Yet the progress was more obvious behind the scenes.

They were fitter, more organised and harvesting a winning habit in every match they played and the emergence of a band of cool-headed, talented youngsters brought potential along with them.

"Strangely enough, we got great belief from being beaten by Brigid's last year in extra-time," Byrne says.

"We weren't ready last year but this year lads realised we were as good, if not better, than Brigid's so everybody knuckled down."

Similarly, they turned their focus almost immediately to Leinster once Dublin was wrapped up and, in that, they have been almost impeccable in both victories over Mullingar Shamrocks and Sarsfields (Newbridge) so far.

Portlaoise are different, though.

They are, as Byrne admits, "the sort of club that thinks ahead to things like Leinster finals or even further afield before they play their county championship", with oodles more Leinster experience and senior inter-county talent than Ballymun.

"They got a good challenge the last day," he adds, "so they're going to be ready for this. And they'll remember being beaten by Brigid's last year.

"But it's all about ourselves," he adds. "We have a gameplan we look to implement. There are a few people who are given specific jobs but it's about us. That's the way it has been all year and that's the way we have to play it on Sunday."

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