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Sunday 17 December 2017

former dublin chief is optimistic

Lyons has full faith that Gavin's Dubs can return to winning ways

NEXT week marks 20 years since Kilmacud Crokes won the All-Ireland Club Senior Football Championship title.

It was the day of the Croke Park Hurricane.

"More like four seasons in the one day," smiles Tommy Lyons.

There was a snow blizzard. Advertising hoarding blew down the pitch.

The icy wind was so sharp that it could have cut a turnip.

Tommy was the Kilmacud manager that day. He was joined by Martin Glynn, Seán Donnelly and Dom Twomey.

That season they beat Erin's Isle in the replay of the Dublin Senior Football Championship final.

Two pulsating games. The replay went to extra-time. Crokes won by a point.

Joe Woods was the referee. "It was great stuff, warts and all," said Joe.

Kilmacud defeated Seneschalstown in the Leinster final and Castlehaven in the All-Ireland semi-final before overcoming Derry's Bellaghy by three points at Croke Park.

Mick Pender made a late, priceless penalty save. Mick Dillon was the captain.

Tommy went on to manage Offaly and the Dubs. He led both counties to Leinster gold.

The only other man to win the Leinster Championship with two different counties was Mick O'Dwyer.

Tommy was box office when he was managing the Dubs. Up to The Goblet for the post-training meal. And to meet the press.

The scribes used up a lot of ink. The pages were never empty. Or dull. He's long away from the dugout now. Does he miss it?

"No, not a bit."

He understands the perils of the manager's road.

The P 45 is, eventually, only a hand-pass away.

"The only man that kept on winning was Alex Ferguson.

"He went out on a high. Most managers run out of time, and run out of success."

Seán Boylan earns his praise.

"I was a great fan of Seán. He's such a charismatic man. John O'Mahony too.

"I had a huge admiration for Páidí ó Sé. He brought Kerry back from the doldrums.

"I think it was Páidí's personality that got them over the line to win that All-Ireland in 1997.

"I feel that was the start of the great run that Kerry have gone on since.

"He was an amazing personality. He was such a lovely character.

"The one thing the likes of Seán Boylan, John O'Mahony and Páidí proved is that there are many different ways to win an All-Ireland.

"Pat Gilroy won a great All-Ireland for Dublin. Pat was a very modest man. Very astute.

"Jim McGuinness won the All-Ireland his way. Everyone has their own way of doing it."

They include Jim Gavin.

Next Sunday, Jim will take the Blues to Castlebar to tackle Tommy's native county, Mayo.

Tommy spent his early years there before arriving to Clonkeen College where Dom Twomey brought him along to Kilmacud.

HIGHLY PROMISING

Injury foiled a highly promising career. But management proved a cosy fit. He'll be watching the game closely.

"Mayo might be a bit further back than people think they are," reasons Tommy.

"With new young players it takes two years to turn a minor into a senior inter-county footballer.

"And that's because of the physicality of the game nowadays. It was different when I was there back in 2002 when the likes of Alan Brogan and all those lads came through.

"You could do that then, but now the physicality of the players is very different. The game has changed hugely. "

And so has the complexion of the National League.

"In the last few years, the League has seen so many high quality matches, particularly in Division 1.

"Teams want to stay in Division 1. All-Ireland winners usually all come from Division 1.

"The standard of the matches have been very good this year.

"If a team has ambitions of being involved in the August Bank Holiday weekend, they'll want to be performing in the league.

"And the league is where they'll be bringing in new players to see can they find another one or two that will strengthen the panel."

And so it is with Dublin. Tommy is thrilled to see fresh talent emerging.

"Dublin have a lot of good young players, but the trick is getting the balance right.

PATIENCE

"Young players need time and patience. It doesn't happen overnight.

"It is a difficult job in trying to balance it.

"The league is the ideal environment for giving the young players the opportunity to see can they come on."

Tommy always likes St Patrick's Day.

Happy memories of the Crokes parade back to Páirc de Burca two decades ago.

But not only that.

The Championship is just around the corner.

And going to matches is a highlight of his life, especially now when he can sit in a theatre and soak up the banter.

"I enjoy the craic of going to games more so than ever I did.

"It's lovely just to be going along as a spectator without having to worry about anything else.

"It doesn't feel like twenty years since we won the All-Ireland with Kilmacud. It's amazing how time flies."

With new young players it takes two years to turn a minor into a senior inter-county footballer. And that's because of the physicality of the game.

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