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7 March 2013; At the AIB GAA football Senior Club Championship Final press conference is Ballymun Kickhams, Dublin, player Alan Hubbard. Ballymun Kickhams will take on St. Brigids, Roscommon, in the AIB GAA Football Senior Championship Final on Sunday 17th March at 3.45pm in Croke Park. Ballymun Kickhams GAA Club, Dublin. Picture credit: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

7 March 2013; At the AIB GAA football Senior Club Championship Final press conference is Ballymun Kickhams, Dublin, player Alan Hubbard. Ballymun Kickhams will take on St. Brigids, Roscommon, in the AIB GAA Football Senior Championship Final on Sunday 17th March at 3.45pm in Croke Park. Ballymun Kickhams GAA Club, Dublin. Picture credit: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

7 March 2013; At the AIB GAA football Senior Club Championship Final press conference is Ballymun Kickhams, Dublin, player Alan Hubbard. Ballymun Kickhams will take on St. Brigids, Roscommon, in the AIB GAA Football Senior Championship Final on Sunday 17th March at 3.45pm in Croke Park. Ballymun Kickhams GAA Club, Dublin. Picture credit: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

ALAN HUBBARD has barely had time to take his seat at the 'Inquisition' when the first question cuts straight to the chase. Did you get the call yet?

"What call?" he asks, laughing. "From my boss at work?"

The question is posed half in jest but has, at its heart, some serious merit. The context? Hubbard had also 'met the press' before Ballymun's AIB All-Ireland club football semi-final against Dr Crokes, when the conversation inevitably turned to a phone call in May 2011 when he was told by Pat Gilroy that he was no longer part of his championship plans.

That axing coincided precisely with his 24th birthday; some four months later, Dublin were All-Ireland champions.

That semi-final press night was followed by a semi-final masterclass from the team itself. Ballymun were a brilliant mix of athletic endeavour and tactical innovation in banishing the hotly fancied Kerry champions; and no one was better than their No 5 ball magnet, rightly reflected in his selection as TG4's man of the match.

"Ah he was outstanding really, wasn't he?" waxed his manager, Paul Curran, soon after the final whistle. "I think a lot of the talk this week was about their forwards, and I think he quietened (Brian) Looney today ... I'd say that's as well as I've seen him playing."

 

Belated

Hence the quip/enquiry about any belated call from Jim Gavin, who didn't include Hubbard among the seven Ballymun players promoted to his extended Dublin senior panel before Christmas.

"No, I haven't heard anything, but I don't think Jim was going to make any contact with anyone from Ballymun," the 25-year-old Bus Eireann employee now says.

"I don't think they were due to go back until the (All-Ireland) series was finished. But, to be honest, I'm not even looking at Dublin. My focus is on Paddy's Day, and that's it.

"I just want to get out there, perform and play well and try and drive this team over the line."

It's the right answer (and the only one you'd expect) from a player preparing for the biggest day of his sporting career – next Sunday's All-Ireland showdown with St Brigid's of Roscommon.

If fate had taken a different fork in the road, Hubbard might be an Erin's Isle player today. He mightn't be playing Gaelic football at all, let alone preparing for the ultimate St Patrick's Day parade in Croke Park.

In a footballing sense, he has grown up with the majority of this Ballymun team, having started playing with Paddy Christie's famed underage academy at the Mun when he was 12.

"Myself, Eoin Dolan and Elliot Reilly came in from the Sacred Heart School in Ballygall. We were all playing soccer at the time, but we played with Paddy and just liked it so much that I think the three of us gave up soccer at the same time with Tolka Rovers, and we haven't looked back since," he recalls.

And the Erin's Isle connection that never was?

"Funny enough, an Erin's Isle man was my teacher – Dermot Murphy, who managed Erin's Isle back in '98 when they were in the All-Ireland final – and he actually sent me up to Paddy Christie with Eoin Dolan, and he still gets a bit of stick over that!" Hubbard reveals.

"I'm from Finglas, across from Beneavin College, which is an Erin's Isle school," he expands, "and where the grounds are, I think they say I should be up with Erin's Isle! But I'm not worried about that."

In many ways, his incremental underage progress with Christie's Ballymun colts was the perfect learning curve for the senior team's eventual elevation to the Dublin club summit after 27 years, followed by a maiden Leinster title and now this, a first All-Ireland appearance.

"We were always in the top three or four in Dublin all the way up to minor," Hubbard recounts. "We were beaten in a minor B final in our first year minor against Ravens; a minor A final with Kilmacud Crokes; and then thankfully we put two U-21s together back-to-back in our second and last year (at U-21). Maybe that has been the driving force of this team."

Another motivation was more personal: a desire to bounce back after his Sky Blue world came crashing down upon him almost two years ago. This play-anywhere tyro had actually started the first three rounds of the 2011 league, at corner-back ... suddenly he was off the panel.

 

Determined

"I have parked it," he now insists, adding: "It's probably the best thing that's ever happened to me in hindsight, because I came back, I was more determined to become better.

"Paul (Curran) had a chat with me and he got my head back in the right frame of mind, because for a couple of weeks – maybe a couple of months – it was very hard to get back playing football."

Part of his 'problem' with Dublin, he suspects, was the aforementioned versatility: at different stages he played corner-back, wing-forward, roving corner-forward. "I never thought any of them was my best position," he maintains. "I've always thought wing-back was; growing up that's where I've always played.

"But if you're put somewhere by any manager, especially on a county panel, you're never going to complain about where you're playing.

"You just want to get that jersey: if I was asked to play in goal, I'd probably give it a go. But thankfully Paul came in and said to me, 'You're going to play wing-back' and I haven't looked back since."


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