Thursday 20 September 2018

jack king of the hill

Ex-Dubs ace O'Hare says Sheedy's regarded as a true Blue by Dublin fans

CIARáN O'Hare got a text. It was from his former team-mate, Ken Spratt.

It marked a twenty year anniversary.

Erin's Isle were playing Fingallians in the quarter-final of the Dublin Senior Football Championship.

Isles were eleven points down with eight minutes to go. Isles won by a point.

"It was nice of Ken to send that text. They were great days," recalls Ciarán.

Isles had some team back in the 90's. They won two Dublin titles, one Leinster and lost three Dublin finals in succession.

They build an enduring rivalry, and friendship, with the wonderful Kilmacud Crokes team of the era.

Big crowds flocked to Parnell Park. The football was of the highest order.

They lost to Crokes by a point in the final of 1994, lost to Boden in the final the following year by a point. That was the campaign of their remarkable recovery against Fingallians.

And the unwanted hat-trick was complete in '96 when St Sylvester's beat them by two points in the final.

Yet the following season, they defeated Syls in the final. Their first success came in 1993 against Crokes.

Paddy Canning was the manager with Mick Downes, Martin McCarthy and Christy Cox.

Ciarán played for 17 years on the team. He was a top forward.

He played for Dublin under three managers, Pat O'Neill, Mickey Whelan and Tommy Carr.

He then served with Mickey Whelan as Dublin minor football mentor.

He also managed Isles and Lucan Sarsfields in the county, and he was the principal of St Kevin's in Ballygall where he had Ger Brennan and Ollie Clinton as colleagues.

That was the famous academy that had pupils like Fran Ryder, Gerry Hargan, Dermot Deasy, Mick Deegan, John Keanrs, Barney Rock, Anto McCaul and James McCarthy.

Now, Ciarán is the principal of St Declan's College, Cabra.

"The games are going very well here."

John Caffrey and Senan Connell are there. "Yes, there's no shortage of football chat at the dinner table," he smiles.

This week, the talk centred on the Longford Leader, Jack Sheedy.

"Jack is doing nicely. He'll always be highly regarded in Dublin."

Up on Hill 16, Sheedy will always be a Jack.

Jack hails from Lucan. Kevin Heffernan first called him onto the Dublin panel in 1984.

He looked around the dressing-room and saw his heroes - Tommy Drumm, Brian Mullins and Anton O'Toole.

Jack was also a fine soccer player. He played with Garda in the Leinster Senior League and in the FAI Cup.

He captained the Dublin junior team that reached the All-Ireland final in 1987. They lost to Cork.

Then in 2008, he helped Mick Deegan and Mick Galvin secure Dublin's first All-Ireland Junior crown since 1960.

They beat Roscommon in Portlaoise. That management team were known as 'The Three Amigos.'

Several of the players on that side went on to prosper with the senior Dubs - Michael Fitzsimons, Darren Daly, Jonny Cooper, Denis Bastick and Eoghan O'Gara.

Jack earned National League and Leinster glory with the senior Dubs.

He came close to clutching Sam. Donegal beat the Dubs in the '92 All-Ireland final, and the following year, Derry defeated Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final. He was unlucky to have an injury-hit summer but was still a part of the panel when they did lift the cup in 1995.

In '93, Jack got the late winning point against Meath. Those were the days when the Dubs and the Royals were rocking.

Ciarán would like to see a return to those times.

"It would be great if the Leinster Championship could go back to what it used to be like.

"You'd love to see the likes of Meath, Offaly and Kildare up there competing strongly again."

Ciarán says that investment of resources and effort is what would make Leinster competitive again.

Dublin put in the time, and the infrastructures, and they have enjoyed the harvest. Offaly possess a peach of a footballer in Niall McNamee, like Longford once had the poetry of Paul Barden. Jack Sheedy brings Longford to Croke Park on Sunday, but even the faithful at St Mel's Cathedral don't give them a prayer.

"That was a terrific result they had against Offaly. Especially after they lost the National League Division 4 final to them in Croke Park.

"And after winning the first round of Leinster, they are now in bonus territory.

"The big thing now is to try and give a decent performance against Dublin. What Jack will be looking for is for them to leave Croke Park with their heads held high and with something positive to bring to the qualifiers."

Ciarán declares that no team in the country will find it easy to scale Dublin Castle. "Jim Gavin is doing a first-class job. He's such a cool customer. Just like he was as a player.

"Dublin had a good League again. And I think they took a lot out of it.

"They are now a more flexible side in that they can set up to counter the opposition.

"They can be more defence minded if the game demands it, and they can also press high up the pitch.

"I think they were trying a few things in the League and it has worked well. Two different systems if you like. A plan A and a plan B."

Yet no matter what pundits like Mr Connell say, Ciarán insists that there's still 70 minutes to be played on Sunday.

When Isles were in their pomp, the great Johnny Barr famously declared after one famous victory. "There won't be a cow milked in Finglas for a week."

If Jack's Longford beat the Blues, the pages of the Longford Leader could well run out of ink.

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