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Calm before the storm


Ballymun Kickhams manager Paul Curran. Picture: Paul Curran

Ballymun Kickhams manager Paul Curran. Picture: Paul Curran


Ballymun Kickhams manager Paul Curran. Picture: Paul Curran

WHAT have Alex Ferguson and Paul Curran got in common? That may seem a bizarre question to ask and, in truth, it seems, they don't exactly share a multitude of traits beyond an obvious ability to get the best out of their respective players.

We pose the question because, the night before our conversation with Curran, in the clubhouse of Ballymun Kickhams, half the planet had been tuned into events at Old Trafford.

Manchester United were coping quite admirably with Real Madrid when that controversial red card for Nani turned their Champions League tie on its head. Fergie, as Fergie tends to do when officialdom conspires against him, mutated into a raging inferno. Then he started exhorting the crowd to pump up the volume. Of even greater significance, his players seemed to lose their own composure for that pivotal period during which Real struck twice.

It's hard to imagine Curran losing the rag in such fashion because, well, it's not his style. We won't quite say he's Zen-like on the line but, as Val Andrews told the Herald last December, on the day his native club claimed their first Leinster SFC title: "Curraner has brought a calmness ... he's a fabulous manager and we're delighted to have him."

Even more delighted now, you suspect, as Ballymun Kickhams count down the days to Sunday's AIB All-Ireland final showdown against St Brigid's of Roscommon.

"I think it's just the way I am really," Curran muses, when asked about Andrews' description of his calming influence. "There's no point in me getting too excited, about anything really ... I don't personally think that kicking water bottles or bouncing stuff off the ceiling in the dressing-room is going to get the best out of these lads.

"The way we've gone about our business is that we train as hard as we can; we prepare as well as we can; and we just go out and let them at it really. That's it. There's no rocket science to it."

Speaking of rockets, did he see Ferguson almost self-combust the night before?

"You could see some of the players, they were in the referee's face last night. Really what they should have been doing is talking to each other about 'Okay, fellas, we're down to 10 men here, we've got to roll up our sleeves, we've got to do this, we've got to be a little bit more organised' ... and they lost their way after that.

"Madrid started coming into it and they ended up getting two goals because maybe they were distracted a little bit, the United players. And it's one of the things we talk about: that no matter what happens in a match, you don't lose that focus."

During his own decorated career, Curran played under six different Dublin managers. On the Zen-to-Fergie scale, he rates Gerry McCaul as "very calm", Paddy Cullen as "calm", Pat O'Neill as "a little bit more extreme!"

Mickey Whelan would "give you both barrels"; ditto Tom Carr who would be calm most of the time but "when he lost it, he lost it".

His days in Sky Blue ended under Tommy Lyons, who "wouldn't get too excited about anything really, which is a good way to be".

But surely Curran has occasionally 'lost it' with his own players?

"Oh yeah," he confirms. "Not too often, but I think only a couple of weeks ago, we played very well against Dr Crokes, won a semi-final, and the following week we went out and played Ballyboden in the first league match.

"And we were awful. And it was more to do with the head. There's no better place than this county to bring you back down to earth, because there's 10 teams that can beat you, maybe more, if you're not right."

Given his own groundbreaking success with Ballymun, Curran's name is sure to be mentioned whenever Jim Gavin departs the Sky Blue hotseat (albeit that vacancy won't be happening any day soon). But would he want the job?

Right now he has no inter-county ambitions "whatsoever" – as you'd expect from a manager whose every footballing thought is consumed by Kickhams and their All-Ireland quest.

But down the line?

"I don't know, to be honest. I'm not being flippant. Obviously it's not my call. Would I like to be a senior inter-county manager? I'm not so sure."

Intriguingly, it's not the workload that might scare him off because he doesn't see that much difference between club ("we've put in a huge amount of work with this group") and county management. But the pressure and scrutiny are certainly more intense.

"I think with the club, for most of the year, you can go under the radar and nobody gives a sh**** basically. But, for big occasions like county finals, provincial finals and All-Ireland finals, you get a taste of what county stuff might be like," he surmises.

This Sunday he'll get to savour exactly what's involved.

"I do think it's a step up," he warns. "We've been excellent for spells in every game that we've played. Devastating at times. But, all too often, we go out of it. And I'm just hoping that we can put in a more consistent performance and get a little bit more from our inside line."

Last word?

"I'm confident – if we perform. One of the things we'll be talking about all week is the performance. And having said that, if we go out to Croke Park on Sunday and we perform at our best and it's not good enough, then, you know, I'll be able to take that."