Saturday 22 October 2016

it's standing room only at connolly

The man with the golden boots set his sights on third successive Dublin SFC title

THERE was a big crowd gathered around Connolly Station.

Nothing to do with the bus strike.

Upstairs in Parnell Park, Diarmuid Connolly was holding court.

Normally, he does his talking with his feet. Turning the prose to poetry.

The Dublin Senior Football Championship begins this week. The biggest carnival in town.

St Vincent's have the extra pressure of going for the three-in-a-row.

The last club to do that was Na Fianna in 2001. In the modern era, Thomas Davis have been the only other side to have done so. That was in 1991.

A cluster of other clubs have completed the hat-trick, but that was in a different age.

They include Geraldine's (1942), Garda (1935), O'Toole's (1920 and 1924), and Young Ireland's (1893).

Vincent's have lifted the claret jug more than anybody else - 27 times.

The have performed a few three-card tricks of their own.

They won seven-in-a-row in the 50's, they achieved a four-in-a-row in 1960 and the last time they won three titles in succession was in 1977.

Yet, as Diarmuid relates, modesty is a way of life at the club.

"St Vincent's is a massive community. And it's not just the guys that play," he says. "You go down to Pairc Naomh Uinsionn on a Saturday morning and there's 250 kids there learning the games.

"It's great to see, but trying to get into the car-park on those mornings is a bit of a disaster!"

Diarmuid admires the devotion. "The coaches that come down and coach the juveniles are so much part of the club. Everybody has an influence."

Getting a parking spot on such busy days is never a problem for Brian Mullins.

He arrives on the bike.

The Vincent's children are well used to having giants at their shoulder.

"You'd see all the famous St Vincent's and Dublin players around the club and you'd always look up to them," relates Diarmuid.

"But you wouldn't really view them in that light. You'd regard them as club people, like everybody else.

"Take Brian Mullins with all his All-Ireland medals, All-Stars and all the success he had had in the game.

"The likes of Brian and all these guys have done massive things in the game, but at the same time you always felt that they were people that you could talk to."

The pictures on the walls tell the story. Legends in every corner.

Heffo's Heroes. Mickey Whelan. The great Davy Billings.

Diarmuid looks at all these icons and he commends their willingness to put the time back into the club.

The likes of Heffo out managing the U15's.

"As a player, I wouldn't have too much time to give in that capacity at the moment," he says.

"But it is something that I will look at in the future."

Looking to next Friday night, Vincent's meet St Olaf's, who have been boosted by the sponsorship from Merrion Fleet Management.

Last year, Vins beat St Oliver Plunkett's/ER on a high octane October night under the lights.

The previous season, they toppled Ballymun Kickhams after being on the canvas the first day and in the replay.

Crokes, Boden, Brigid's and Jude's will also be in most people's mix.

But the old theory still holds true - it's harder to get out of Dublin than getting past the old Red Cow round-about on a Bank Holiday Friday.

Yet one man who is always able to avoid the traffic is Diarmuid himself.

He could top the bill at the London Palladium. Every little thing he does is magic.

Yet even on the day when deep security curtails his impact, he can still rove out the field to create space for his colleagues.

Just like another Dub on the Vincent's Wonder Wall, Tony Hanahoe.

When Tony went a roving, he left the hall door open. And Diarmuid does the same.

He'd be the first to hail the contributions of fellow forwards like Gavin Burke, Shane Carthy, Ruairi Trainor, Ciaran Dorney and the maestro, Mossy.

And the depth of the panel has also been a big factor in the journey.

"We have 35 guys on the squad all fighting for places. Our motivation is as strong as ever. We all want to win another Dublin Championship."

And the number 11 doesn't complain if the opposition wants to park the bus.

"It's within the rules.

"You have to be able to adapt your game to overcome whatever is put in front of you.

"I enjoy trying to overcome a blanket defence. It's a different focus. A different challenge."

All in a day's play to the man in the golden boots.

Whatever you do this Championship season, try and get out to see this genius lace up the dancing shoes.

It's a pleasure and a privilege.

When John Sheahan composed the Marino Waltz, he had Diarmuid Connolly in mind.

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