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Thursday 8 December 2016

playing the best of best pleases the olaf crew

IT was up in Stackstown Golf Club. Pádraig Harrington's home from home. It was many years ago. It was the Naomh Olaf Presentation Dinner.

Tommy Brennan made a speech. It was all about reaching for the stars. Tommy was managing the footballers. And doing a fine job of it.

Brendan McGlynn wrote the history of the club. It's a wonderful publication. Tommy wrote a compelling chapter. It's called The Golden Years. And indeed they were.

Those days will never leave Tommy, who was such an inspirational figure. He recalls being asked to help out a minor team "and staying for 17 years."

He remembers the contribution of mentors like Bill O'Brien, Kevin Birrane and Phil Monaghan.

And his words trace the remarkable journey through the grades all the way to Senior Division 1 football.

Back in 1996, Naomh Olaf reached the Dublin Senior Football Championship semi-final. On the way they beat Parnell's, St Jude's, following a replay, and St James's Gaels.

They met Erin's Isle in the semi-final in Parnell Park. Isles won by three points.

The Balally emotions were mixed. Pride at getting so far, and disappointment because they felt the game was there for the taking.

They also ran Na Fianna to a goal in the Championship in 2001. That's the Na Fianna side that reached the All-Ireland final.

They admitted that the match against Naomh Olaf was one of the hardest of the period. The Sandyford spirit played such a huge part in the team's success.

In his piece in the book, Tommy tells the story of Paddy Feehan.

At the time, Paddy was an apprentice carpenter. He worked in Swords. He cycled from Balally to Swords. Cycled back again. Got changed and played his match.

Last Sunday, David Byrne wore the number three shirt for Dublin.

"We were delighted to see him start the game and to play so well," states Olaf's chairman, Anthony Delaney. "It's great to see one of our own playing for Dublin. It's such a boost for the club and it's such a spur to all our young players.

"David is a big role model here, just like Clara O'Sullivan (pictured), the Leinster winning captain of the Dublin U16 footballers."

On Saturday, the Olaf's armada will be heading for Donnycarney to play St Vincent's. "The club is excited about it. It's a lovely opportunity for us to be playing the best of the best. Vincent's are such a top side, but we are looking forward to it."

Hopefully, the weather will be smiling. The original tie last month was called off following the torrential rain that fell all day on that Friday. The ticket for the winners is a second round meeting with Ballymun Kickhams.

Olaf's played them in the Championship last season. "We held our own for 20 to 25 minutes. We were well in the match. But in the second half, they pulled away.

"We are hoping that this time we will give an even better performance. We have prepared well, so we'll see how we go. We know we face a huge challenge, but we'll give it our best."

Naomh Olaf campaign in Division 3. They are joint second in the table behind Kilmacud Crokes.

"We are happy with the way things are going. Shane Smith and his management team are doing an excellent job.

"We have talented young players coming through, and another timely boost was the sponsorship we got from Merrion Fleet.

"But for us it's all about progressing one step at a time. We'll be giving it everything to try and get promoted this season.

"Yet at the same time, we are relishing the chance to take on a team like St Vincent's.

"That's where you want to be. You'd love to be in a position to be playing that type of quality side, week in, week out.

"Eventually, that's the target. It's all about building and looking to the future.

"Yet the team are playing some solid football, and we want to give it a good show against Vincent's."

Last week, the Olaf's army were also in Parnell Park supporting their U16 footballers.

"Unfortunately, we lost out to Ballyboden St Enda's, but it was fantastic to reach an A final.

"It was a wonderful campaign. The side had some big results. And, hopefully, we'll play in many more A finals in the years to come."

distinction

The Marino men are seeking the prized three-in-a-row. They last achieved that distinction back in 1977. Not many clubs have managed to do it. And with the quality of Dublin football ever-rising, the chances of completing the three-card trick are getting rarer by the day.

The last club to win the three-in-a-row were Na Fianna in 2001. That's the era Naomh Olaf gave them a game and a half.

And before that, it was Thomas Davis who won three Championships in succession in 1991.

And the two clubs met in the opening round last month, with the Mobhi men prevailing.

The Glasnevin side begin this week's Championship business when they tackle UCD on Thursday night. The menu now sees eight Senior Championship games after the Boden-Crokes tie was called off.

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