Tuesday 23 January 2018

final sure to excite

Speedy Ballymun defender Hubbard predicts Sunday's NFL Final will be a cracker

DON'T bring the knitting.

And it's unlikely that you'll see a combine harvester parked in front of the Canal or Hill goal.

Alan Hubbard is expecting a Sunday treat. A match that mirrors his own footballing style.

He's the swashbuckling right half-back for Ballymun Kickhams. He has that dart of pace, and adventure, that often takes him deep into the opposition's hall, stairs and landing.

He thinks that Dublin and Cork will do the old game proud.

"Both teams love to play football. Cork racked up a high score against Donegal.

"The neutral will want to see a high scoring game. I don't think Dublin or Cork are too defensive, so it could be a great spectacle. And it has the potential to be a high scoring game."

So no repeat of the booing at the Dublin and Derry date.

"People weren't happy, but if teams want to set up that way if they feel it's the only way they can win the game, you can't begrudge them that."

He has seen the defensive shield tightening its grip, even at under-age level.

"It has gone to another level, even in club football. I saw a U16 team put 13 players behind the ball.

"It's not pretty to look at. It's frustrating because there's not a lot you can do.

"But it doesn't bode well for entertaining football."

Yet Alan feels it could spark new pages in the story of the game.

"You can't tell any team in any sport how to play. From a spectator's point of view, you would rather see a match with 2-14 to 2-13 rather than 0-6 to 0-4 or 0-4 to 0-3 at half-time.

"It's up to the coaches and managers to now adapt new ways of breaking down the defensive system. It might make people think a bit more about the game.

"The wing-forward role has changed in the last few years. Wing-forwards weren't known for dropping back, but the likes of Brian Dooher and Paul Galvin turned it into an art. Then everyone was doing it.

"And it's the same with people putting 13 behind the ball. Others follow."

Yet systems or no systems, no forward would enjoy a picnic with John Small.

John didn't have to look far for guidance at Kickhams, including Hubby himself.

"I was managing at U14 and U15 level and I have seen John coming up. He was part of a very good under-age team.

"He was playing for the Ballymun seniors at 17 or 18, and even then you could see his talent.

"He was marking inter-county footballers and he didn't look out of place. He's a very committed lad and he deserves it. I'm delighted for him.

"He's a very good man marker. Man marking is his strength. If he's marking a top forward, he'll do a good job. He'll go very tight.

"He has a great burst of pace. He has been doing well in the National League.

"And if he keeps putting in the performances, there's a spot there for the taking.

"He was in the squad when we won the Dublin and Leinster titles, but he was still very young.

"Making the jump into adult football has become much harder because the players are so big these days.

"In club football, the training has got so intense. It has nearly gone from the old two days a week to five days a week .

"With all the fitness and strength work, Dublin club football is now at the highest level it can be."

The Mun are well represented in Blue. Alan would love to be a part of the choir.

"It's the top level, and everyone wants to be playing at the top level. But I don't think too much about it.

"I enjoy training and playing with the club every week, meeting up with the lads and so on. I look forward to that, but if the chance came to play for Dublin I'd love it."

The Hubby-Master lit up Parnell Park on those big Championship nights under the lights.

Spell-binding duels with the likes of Crokes and Vincent's. Leinster glory and within a breath of the Andy Merrigan Cup.

Memorable days under Paul Curran. "He's an exceptional manager. He was there for four years and we are very grateful for what he did for us.

"We have a new management now, so it's a fresh start and exciting times ahead."

Into the dugout are three men that know the Mun better than most - Anto McCaul, Declan Sheehan and Val Andrews.

That's some three-card trick.

Ballymun have drawn Parnell's in the opening round of the Dublin Senior Football Championship.

Winning the prize in 2012 sparked such emotional scenes.

Their brand of football got people off their seats.

A tight, compact defence didn't give away a sausage. Not even a cocktail one.

And then they broke with such speed. It was a winning style.

Easy on the eye. Hard on the opposition.

A hard-working unit all reading from the same script.

Kickhams almost repeated the triumph the following year.

They had Vinnie's on the ropes. More than once.

But the two sides produced such wonderful drama before enthralled audiences.

Dublin club football at its best.

And now the show is only a Barney Rock free-kick away.

"We just want to get out now and put in performances and try to get back to the top level. County Championship finals, being in Leinster and the All-Ireland series. That is what it is all about.

"But first things first. You can't look too far ahead because the Dublin Championship is so difficult. On the day if you don't play well enough, anybody can nearly beat you.

"Vincent's have achieved so much in the last few years. They are an exceptional team. But if we can put in the performances, we can get back there again."

And he judges that the Dubs won't be too far away from Sam.

"They have such a pool of talent. The U21 team have done in recent years and a lot of those players played under Jim Gavin.

"They are coming straight onto the squad. Some are starting. And some are not starting.

"Eric Lowndes is an exceptional footballer and he's not even starting. The same for Kevin Nolan, who's an All-Star. And there's a few really good players who are not in the first 15 every week."

A successful Dublin side is also good for Ballymun. "We have six lads on it. That's great recognition for the club, and they are bringing that Dublin confidence back to the club."

And he's tipping the Dubs to make it three-in-a-row. He might even bring the calculator.

"Potentially, it could be a very high-scoring game. And I think Dublin will be a little too strong…….hopefully!"

Promoted articles

Entertainment News