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'Streets taught us how to play ball' - Reid believes south Dublin zone left stamp on players

 

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Andy Reid. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Andy Reid. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Andy Reid. Photo: SPORTSFILE

They are the great rivalries of the game: Celtic v Rangers, Bohs v Rovers, Liverpool v Everton, Arsenal v Tottenham.

Andy Reid played in more than a few derbies in his 16-year playing career, but local clashes at (literally) street level still stand out for him. "I'm from Clogher Road," Reid recalls of his childhood in Crumlin, on the city's southside.

"We'd play against the lads from Aughavanagh Road around the corner, you'd have 30 lads playing in the match. You'd be up against lads who were seven or eight years older than you and if you wanted a kick of the ball you had to fight for it.

"We didn't have proper teams but you still had rivals. You'd play against Rutland Grove and you hated to lose. It wasn't planned, someone would come out with a ball and ask for a game.

"It's sad that lads, and girls, don't play like that as much any more, off the cuff, just playing with your mates, playing for your road. Maybe the streets aren't as safe now, but the streets was where you learned," added Reid as he spoke about the early days of a career which took him to the Premier League (114 games), a £4million transfer to Spurs and 29 caps.

Those streets around the area of Crumlin, Drimnagh and Kimmage saw generations of footballers emerge.

It's an honours list that had foundations as early as the 1950s, when the new Corporation estates of Drimnagh were being built. From lads like Jimmy O'Neill, a goalkeeper who started out with Bulfin United on a career which would see him become Everton's first-choice keeper in 1950 and win 17 Ireland caps, the lineage has carried on to current stars like Joey O'Brien and Enda Stevens.

Clogher Road produced Andy Reid, Kilworth Road had a European Cup winner (Tony Dunne), Keeper Road was home, at times, to Paul McGrath as well as future Shelbourne legend and Ireland cap Eric Barber; Cooley Road was Brian Kerr's home. Enda Stevens' family settled down in Mangerton Road.

The area, not strictly defined by borders, spread out, edging to places like Perrystown (Niall Quinn's home place) and down to Inchicore, St Patrick's Athletic's heartland, touching the south inner city.

It's a background that Reid, now retired from playing but working as an U23 team coach at Nottingham Forest and managing the Ireland U18s, is proud of.

"You look at Crumlin and Drimnagh over the last ten or 15 years and the amount of bad press it's had, for the different things that were going on, but I know there are some really great people in the area. There's a great community spirit and football is at the heart of all that," says Reid.

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Niall Quinn. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Niall Quinn. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Niall Quinn. Photo: SPORTSFILE

"People know Crumlin's had its problems and has made headlines but it's a great place. Even now, I remember going on summer projects when I was a kid, that really helped me get to the places I reached in my career and my life."

Reid even sees a south Dublin stamp on players. "I always felt that the lads from that part of Dublin had this streetwise side to them, they didn't have the naivety that some players would have," he says. "And that showed in their football and the way you played, you were streetwise as you learned on the streets.

"That's where you learned. Your ball manipulation, your skills, picking yourself up when you lose the ball and are knocked down."

The Crumlin/Drimnagh/Kimmage area is not easy to define. Most people in the area know that Crumlin Hospital is actually in Drimnagh and people drifted there from a start in life in the inner city like the Reids, whose base was in Fatima Mansions before settling in Crumlin.

"I still judge places in relation to where I played matches back in the day," says Reid, who still has his Dublin accent despite leaving for England 22 years ago. "There's Brickfields (near Crumlin Shopping Centre), there's Stanaway Park. I still remember getting the No. 18 bus from Stanaway Park up to Ballyfermot two nights a week when I was at Cherry Orchard."

Reid's early memories of football were of watching his late father and uncles play for Fatima in Brickfield Park and discovering the city by following his dad around for the five-a-side tournaments which were legendary. "They'd go off and play in Pearse Street, Sheriff Street," says Reid.

Needle

"There was always needle in their matches against St Theresa's Gardens as my mam was from there, a real edge to it. You'd have hundreds of people watching from the flats. That was football in Dublin back then, there was real quality in the football around then."

Paul McGrath had a number of homes across Dublin in his youth, but Drimnagh was probably his home place, Inchicore his first real stage with St Patrick's Athletic. "Charlie Walker signed Paul McGrath and my dad for St Pat's on the same day, and my dad would have known Paul from Keeper Road, that's a nice memory to have," says Reid.

Footballers often found their way to the area with hopes of progressing their careers. Alan Mahon, who would go on to win Ireland caps and play in the Champions League for Sporting Lisbon, was from Rialto but landed at Crumlin United, that schoolboy club also a key staging post for Robbie Keane, who was from Tallaght.

Others moved around a lot. Kevin Moran was born in Rialto but moved south in 1968 when his family bought a shop on the Long Mile Road, The Kokonut (and it's still there).

He travelled to two World Cups, played in Spain's top flight, was a star in two codes and made (unwanted) Wembley history as the first man sent off in an FA Cup final. But as a young boy, a tiny part of Dublin 12 really was Moran's world, as the family lived above the shop. He went to school in Drimnagh Castle next door, and Kevin and his seven siblings even had to work in the shop at times.

''I was only 12 when my father (Jim) died and it was tough for my mother, but we all helped out in the shop, which was open from 7.0am to 9.0pm seven days a week," Moran once recalled.

Jimmy Holmes was another emigrant to the area. Born in the Liberties (Hanbury Square) and raised in a one-bedroom house on Meath Square, he first kicked a ball for St Francis but once he joined Drimnagh outfit St John Bosco as a 12-year-old things got more serious.

At 15, he went back on a promise to sign for Manchester United, persuaded to go to Coventry City by their Irish manager Noel Cantwell, as the signing-on fee of £4,000 was enough for the Holmes family to buy their house from Dublin Corporation.

Niall Quinn came from Hillsbrook Drive in the independent republic of Perrystown and had a lengthy career, while a decade earlier, Noel Campbell came from Kimmage, got his first cap while playing for St Pat's and would become the first Irishman to play in the Bundesliga.

Strut his stuff

Of course, not everyone from the area could go on and play for Ireland, as locals like John Delamere and Tony Sheridan (Shelbourne) and Neville Steedman (Shamrock Rovers) carved out good League of Ireland careers. Andy Reid recalls seeing Sheridan, from nearby Rutland Grove, strut his stuff in the local parks and realised the talent that was 'Shero'.

And on it went as the area's nurseries, in the form of schoolboy clubs like Crumlin United and Lourdes Celtic, where Sheridan now coaches, or schools such as Drimnagh Castle and Synge Street hothoused those talents.

The older generation revered local heroes of the '50s, the internationals like Jimmy O'Neill and George Cummins and then the megastars like European Cup winner Tony Dunne.

A new generation saw lads like Paul McGrath and Niall Quinn achieve what they did, and now with the guidance of clever coaches from the likes of Crumlin United, locals can see someone like Enda Stevens emerge from an ordinary house on Mangerton Road, a goal kick away from the birthplace of Manchester United great Tony Dunne, and carve out a Premier League and international career.

"Seeing people from the same background as me succeed gave me that bit of belief," says Reid. "If someone from the same area as you can play for Ireland you think 'if he can do it, I can do it'. So much of football is about belief, I tell the young players at Forest, and in the Ireland U18 squad, that they should never feel inferior because of where they are from."