Sunday 17 December 2017

Phil O adds to the sound of Gavin's good vibrations ahead of Championship bid

PHIL O'Dea is filling big boots. Gerry Hargan's.

Last season, Gerry was managing the Ballymun Kickhams AFL Division 7 side. Now Phil has the bib.

He's enjoying it.

"The standard has gone up in all the Leagues. It's hard to win a League or get promoted. You have to have consistency."

Jim Gavin's concerns are more on the top floor. Phil says that Eoghan O'Gara will be missed.

"He'll be hard to replace. There are not many of his type of players around. He's a great man to win ball in front of goal. He can give you options."

Phil states that the National League is the ideal stage for the Championship dress rehearsal.

He was applauding the Dubs as they scaled the walls of Derry on Saturday last. Not a time for the picnic table on the Clonliffe Road. Derry brought the cement. Buckets of it.

Yet the Dubs donned the blue-overalls and put in an honest night shift.

He admired their grit. And now for the Farney men next Sunday.

"Going to Monaghan will be tough, but whether the team qualifies or not is really not the issue.


"It's all about building up the panel for the Championship and that is what Jim is doing. He is giving plenty of fellas a chance.

"They are all getting a fair crack of the whip. The team is going in the right direction, and I think they'll do well again this year.

"The Championship is always the big picture. The League is important, but it's also where you want to be giving fellas a run."

Phil gave many forwards a run when he was playing in the Ballymun rearguard. He was a diligent, determined defender. The first name on the team-sheet.

He rates three attackers in particular, Kieran Duff, Timmy Cummins and Ray Cosgrove.

"Dully was a class act. Still is of course. A lovely fella.

"Timmy was from Limerick and he played on that very good Parnell's side that had a lot of success.

"I also rated Ray Cosgrove of Kilmacud. He was a difficult player to mark. He was two footed and he could certainly take his scores. He was very tricky."

Phil is Mun to the marrow. The club is in his heart.

He was on the Ballymun side that won the club's first ever Dublin U21 Football Championship in 1990, beating the famous Vinnies in the final.

Phil was 19 years on the Ballymun first team squad, 1989 to 2008. Just missing out on two memorable eras.

But nonetheless the scrapbook is full of happy times. There was the scent of silver - Division 2 League, AIB and St Vincent de Paul titles.

Two Senior Football Championship semi-finals were reached. The closest he got to Donnycarney's blue carpet was a semi-final replay defeat to St Brigid's.

He shared in the pang of disappointment two years ago on St Patrick's Day when Kickhams were on the threshold of All-Ireland gold.

"It's hard to recover from a defeat like that." But they came close. St Vincent's beat them in the replayed final the following season.

Who knows if they had got out of Dublin? And the prospects are bright for this term under Anto McCaul, Declan Sheehan and Val Andrews. Phil played under all of them. And he played with Ian Robertson. "Robbo was one of the best footballers of them all. He had such quick hands."

Phil also puts Paul Curran and Seamus Moynihan in the master-class. And then there's the peerless Paddy Christie. Phil served with Paddy as Dublin U-21 Championship glory came to Páirc Ciceam. Phil was also a minor mentor. At first-hand, he saw the emergence of John Small, now one of the most highly-regarded defenders in the city. Phil is thrilled to see him doing so well with the Dubs.

"He was always very dedicated to his football. He has a great attitude, and he's a quality defender."

Phil wasn't too bad himself. Good enough to play for the Dublin Masters. He has played with some top, top footballers at Kickhams. And he was never out of place. He has helped to shape the future generations at the club, and now he has answered Hargo's call. Yet no matter what task he takes on, with Phil in the building, it's always a Magic Munday.

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