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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Pulling on a Dublin jersey the pinnacle

THIS week's Legend of the Ball is Dr David Hickey, former Dublin footballer and holder of three All-Ireland medals (1974, '76 and '77), two National League titles (1976, '78) and two All Star awards (1974, '76). Hickey was also a prominent member of Pat Gilroy's backroom team when the Dubs captured the Sam Maguire in 2011.

GREATEST MOMENT IN A DUBLIN JERSEY?

My first match for the Dublin seniors, or even the minors. In some ways it was the pinnacle of my career because as a kid it was all I wanted to do -- to play football for Dublin. I still remember my first minor game, it was against Kildare in a friendly in 1967.

WORST MOMENT IN A DUBLIN JERSEY?

To be honest about it I've had no bad moments. We've had some very disappointing defeats and I'd say the '75 one was fairly traumatic. But you know I've always felt a great honour to play for Dublin and wear the jersey, even after a heavy defeat.

WAS IT MORE SATISFYING TO WIN ALL-IRELAND AS A PLAYER OR SELECTOR?

Well playing is where it's all at really. But I must say to be involved with that group of fellas last year was a privilege and a great, great pleasure. It was probably one of the most spectacular finals ever. You couldn't stage manage a final like that.

OUTSTANDING CLUB MEMORIES?

An awful lot of my great memories would stem from underage football. Your whole world revolved around the game on Saturday and Sunday. Often it was three or four games with under-16, minor and under-21 and with a small club like Raheny you often got to play in them all. When the corporation used to post that a game was off it was traumatic! But those matches under Brendan Lee were what it was all about. He was a great man, the type every GAA club has, the wonderful volunteers who did incredible social work for the country as well as everything else.

BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON CAREER?

My parents facilitated me in every way. Then Brendan Lee, Kevin Heffernan and Tony Hanahoe.

TOUGHEST OPPONENT?

The fella who I never got a look in against at all was Ger Feeney of Mayo.

BEST PLAYER YOU PLAYED WITH?

Brian Mullins. He was a colossus.

IF THERE WAS A TRANSFER MARKET, WHO WOULD YOU HAVE SIGNED DURING YOUR ERA?

Mikey Sheehy (Kerry) or Tom Prendergast (Laois) or both of them!

ANY CHILDHOOD HERO?

Des Foley was my big hero.

DO YOU THINK THE GAME IS BETTER NOW OR WHEN YOU PLAYED?

The older guys often say it's not the game it was and nothing annoys me more than hearing that from guys who played 30 or 40 years ago. It's a different game. Now they are fitter, faster and stronger. You get games like last year's All-Ireland final that was spectacular. But I do think the game has become muscle-bound, an athletic contest. There are a few survivors like the Gooch (Kerry's Colm Cooper) and Bernard Brogan but the game is becoming a war of attrition.

IF YOU COULD MAKE ANY CHANGES TO THE GAME WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

There are a few things I'd like to do to the GAA. I would recruit players who have just finished their inter-county careers and ask them if they would become referees.

I'd pay them €100k a year. I'd make them do courses and learn the game. The lack of consistency is awful. I would do something with the handpass. Maybe if you receive one you have to kick it.

I think the patient, possession football that some teams play is a pain in the ass to watch. And a third thing is bring in a Champions League format for the championship -- four groups of eight.

Each team would get seven (Championship) games a year. You'd get the top two in each group to play in quarter-finals and it would be run off in three months.

PET HATES IN THE GAME?

I hate the Ronaldo-isation (feigning injury and diving) of football. It really needs to be stamped out. Pat Gilroy was adamant that he would not accept simulation. That needs to be tackled very seriously.

It's hard enough for the referees but that stuff makes it unmanageable.

HARDEST THING ABOUT RETIREMENT?

The way it happened. I played a friendly match in 1983 for Dublin and twisted my knee and when I was making my comeback my cruciate ligament went. I never got an invite back after that! I never retired really, I just petered out!

HOW WILL THE DUBS DO IN 2013?

Win the All-Ireland and the National League and do it in style.

ADVICE TO GIVE TO YOUNG LADS?

I have a young fella who's nine and just to show you there is still a magical element to playing for Dublin he told me the other night that his dream in life was to play for the Dubs, and if he didn't make it he'd play for Barcelona. A fantastic set of priorities!

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