patience was the key for vincent's: conroy
Back-to-back champions claim they're in 'bonus' territory
ON St Patrick's Day of this year, shortly after Diarmuid Connolly had destroyed Castlebar Mitchels in the All-Ireland club football final, Tommy Conroy leaned back in his chair in the media room under the Hogan Stand and considered a job well done.
The win had, he admitted, laid to rest a few ghosts.
He was a member of the St Vincent's team that lost the 1985 All-Ireland club final to Castleisland and he was, at that moment, very clearly managerially sated.
"I'm fantastic. I'm delighted. That's why I feel I can work on the golf handicap and enjoy it."
He meant it too.
The job was done. Vincent's were Dublin, Leinster and All-Ireland champions.
At the time, the Dublin county team were kings of their particular domain too.
All was well with the world and Conroy's intentions seemed absolutely genuine.
Seven months later, his golf handicap hasn't changed.
"To be honest, it probably would have been easier to walk away than stay," he says now, with the benefit of another Dublin title behind him and his team.
"I think it might have been a bit unfair to just walk off and then ask somebody else to step in.
"We took a bit of time about it and we just decided that, the fact that it was in to April, that we'd stay on."
Celebrations bled into the beginning of the league and before Conroy and his backroom ensemble knew it, they were preparing for another crack at the Dublin championship title.
The challenge was understandably daunting.
The Dublin county championship is easily the most difficult to win in the country.
And only the great teams do back-to-back.
Again, sitting beside Ger Brennan, back on St Patrick's Day, Conroy was gushing in his praise for his captain and the rest of his players.
"I don't think these guys really realise what they have achieved with the club," he said.
"They are up there now with all the greats in Vincent's."
Which isn't something a Vincent's man would say particularly lightly.
Think Heffernan, Mullins, Hanahoe, Keaveney, the Foleys, Pat Gilroy, Mickey Whelan et al.
At the time, he didn't even think he'd be in charge right now, let alone standing over the first Vincent's team to stitch Dublin titles together since 1977.
"It's an incredible feat," he admitted after St Oliver Plunkett's had been put to bed after a pretty impressive Championship of their own, given the scalps of Ballymun Kichams, Kilmacud Crokes and St Jude's were already taken.
"It's so hard. The competition in Dublin is so hard.
"There are six teams that could win the title and there are probably another four or five that could beat you on a given day.
"So it's a fantastic achievement. I'm just delighted because of all the hard work that they've done."
Given the Dublin SFC starts in May and the All-Ireland finishes in mid-March, it's a wonder Vincent's have had the time to celebrate, recover and recalibrate yet with a team sheet featuring the same 15 names as that which started on St Patrick's Day, they did it again.
"That's their hunger," Conroy insists.
"That's what they want. They want to keep training. They want to try and get better. And they set the standards and the work-rate and they got the fruits of that.
"They like to do things the hard way and they certainly did that (in the final). I think it was an incredible game, an incredible occasion. The game couldn't be started for 10 minutes because of the crowd coming in.
"I mean, I haven't heard of that before in Parnell Park.
"And really, just credit to Pat McDonagh and Plunkett's for the game they gave us. A fantastic contest."
The Navan Road team came replete with a deservedly lauded defence and yet Vincent's still looked better money than their one-point winning margin suggested.
"We talked about that during the week; that we would have to be patient.
"The system that they employ is very difficult to break down. They get plenty of people behind the ball but they also have very effective forwards when they get it.
"So it was patience and discipline. And while it didn't work for us always, when it did, we opened them up."
They also did it with Diarmuid Connolly and Mossy Quinn scoring just a point apiece.
"I've been saying that we're not just about Diarmuid Connolly," Conroy insisted.
"Diarmuid worked very hard and they closed him out and the same with Mossy.
"And that's when other people have to come up and get scores for us. And they did that."
They've over a week now to prepare for a trip to Portlaoise and the cliché about the first game post county being the trickiest applies here for any number of reasons.
"To be honest, I think everything after this is a bonus," concluded Conroy…but just like St Patrick's Day, his intentions are sure to be reset with each rising challenge.