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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Gloves off for second round

Trinity braced for Na Fianna as big guns get ready to unload

THE Trinity blood runs through Tomo Behan. A folk hero of Donaghmede. With Tom, the Gaels will never blow an ill-wind.

A one-club man, and proud of it. And he continues to be chuffed with the commitment the Trinity lads put in. They have been doing it for years.

And they are still there, enhancing senior football with their honest-to-goodness attitude and the craft of their feet. From their mud-splattered days in Fr Collins Park to the state-of-the-art facility at Drumnigh.

"We have a fantastic set-up there. It's great to see, especially with our juvenile section getting stronger and stronger," notes the Trinity manager. Yet no matter what the view, nothing stirs the coffee quite like the scent of championship football. "It's a great auld time of the year," relates Tom. "It brings such a buzz to things."



Festival

There are 15 Dublin Senior Football Championship matches on this week -- a three-day festival running from tomorrow to Friday night.

Parnell Park will be staging two double-bills on Thursday and Friday. St Vincent's will be in action on Thursday. They have won the Dublin crown more times than anybody else -- 24.

Vins last lifted the claret jug in 2007. Mickey Whelan led them across the Blue Sea that was the Malahide Road. Tommy Conroy was part of the management unit. He's now the boss-man.

Vins are never far away from the blue riband of Dublin football. And when it's a championship week, everyone has the same question tucked up the sleeve of their jumper -- 'which team most tickles your fancy?'

Thomas Behan plumbs for Plunkett's. "They have to make the breakthrough someday," he says. "They have been knocking on the door for a while now.

"At the same time, it's hard not to look beyond the likes of Kilmacud Crokes and St Brigid's. And Ballymun could be there or thereabouts.

"Ballymun have been a top team for years. They just can't seem to get past the semi-final or the quarter-final. You always need the rub of the green. Maybe this could be their year.

"I feel Raheny are another dark horse. I saw them against Ballinteer last week. They are flying. They are very fit. And they had that super result against St Mary's in the first round.

"That could be a tricky one for Plunkett's, but I suppose with the quality of player that Plunkett's have, you'd still have to expect them to come through it."

Last year's runners-up hit four goals against Tower's of Clondalkin in round one. Jason Sherlock got two of them. That old soft, shoe shuffle is still dancing to the beat.

The champions, St Brigid's, are in Parnell Park against Lucan Sarsfields, who gave Plunkett's quite a rattle last term in the semi-final.



Handsome

Trinity have their own appointment. They are out in St Margaret's against Na Fianna, the five-time champs, who had their last success in 2001, the year they completed the three-in-a-row. Na Fianna had a handsome victory over Fingal Ravens in the first round.

Trinity had to endure extra-time against Naomh Mearnóg before emerging.

"We began well, building up a 1-6 to 0-1 lead but then we took our foot off the pedal and we found it hard to pick it up again," recalls Tom. "But the lads dug deep, as they always do, and we grinded out the result in the end. We face a hard one now in Na Fianna. They'll be the big favourites going into it, but we never say die."

Templeogue Synge Street also showed that quality when they beat St Sylvester's at O'Toole Park. Synger are back there tomorrow night against another of the heavyweights, Parnell's. Denis Bastick got a picture goal against Syls. Templeogue Synge Street trailed by two points. There was only a minute left when the Dub gathered possession.

In his ear-piece, every producer in the stadium was roaring for him to tap over a point. But on he went, riding the waves before gently guiding a left-footer low into the pocket.

Celebrations? High-fives? No, no time for that. Denis ran back to the engine-room, waving away any gesture of jubilation. There was still work to be done. In its own little way, it recalled an All-Ireland final that Synger's most famous son, the Blue Panther, played in many years ago. Jimmy Keaveney scored a classical goal, but as his colleagues ran up to him, he gestured them away.

Over the years, Trinity Gaels have been used to climbing hills. They held a distinguished Division 1 address for years.

"We had a long innings there alright. One year we got relegated, but we bounced straight back up," says Tomo.



Priority

"Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and we are now in Division 2. Our priority is to hold our own in Division 2 and re-build.

"The lads have given tremendous service over the years. It's all the same fellas. Their commitment has been unbelievable.

"We have young lads coming through and hopefully, one day, they will be able to fill the shoes. They certainly have no shortage of role-models to look up to.

"And the best thing of all is that so many of the senior players are putting the time back into the club by managing or coaching at juvenile level.

"That's what it is really all about at the end of the day. I'm a firm believer in club before county. It all starts with the club. You have no county team without the club."

Tomo has seen the game change. "It has got a lot quicker. The fitness levels have increased so much.

"It's become very tactical. So much about it is stopping the other team from scoring. Teams focus more on cancelling out each other.

"I'd favour the more traditional approach, 15 v 15, and let the best 15 win. But so much of it is all about gym work and speed work nowadays."

In Donaghmede, it will always revolve around the spirit of the Gael. And that's the conviction that Trinity will bring to the North County against the Mobhi men.

"It's all about true Trinity Gaels grit. We never give up. We'll keep going till the end."

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