Saturday 22 October 2016

Off The Ball: Community spirit the bedrock of Vins' glory

Marino men prove urban GAA clubs have as much to offer as small-town rural sides

Ger Gilroy

Published 19/03/2014 | 02:30

It has been a strange sensation these last few days, taking the 123 Dublin Bus into work. The journey snakes through the mazes of Marino around perfectly symmetrical greens, built largely by Germans between the wars, down Philipsburgh Avenue and Fairview Strand and eventually slithers on to the main road into town through Ballybough. Croke Park is omnipotent.

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Everywhere along the route flags still flicker and bunting still flies and it's all blue and white. St Patrick's Day frippery barely got a look-in until you hit the Ballybough Road.

It's a strange sensation because my usual experience of supporting teams is that they get beaten. I've grown up supporting the Antrim hurlers, the Kildare footballers, the Leinster rugby team who in fairness bucked the trend eventually but pre-2009 were afflicted by a generational case, Aston Villa as man and boy and Ireland in all its misbegotten, badly-refereed, hyped-up, overconfident, civil-war-having, underachieving guises.

Even Padraig Harrington's greatness proved to be ephemeral. The Antrim hurlers-Kildare footballers axis is the one that teaches you to endure all that life has to throw at you. You learn patience quickly.

By sheer fluke, I will not be passing these curses on to the next generation. We live in Marino and that means that our new local team is the Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Ferguson-era United of club football in Dublin and now Ireland. At least this week.

Clearly at the start of every season they'll realistically harbour ambitions of glory. Obviously I'll always be from Athy and want them to win first but at least when the time comes for my kids to support a team, it's going to be a winning team. I'm hopeful it won't ruin them.

There are Vincent's flags stretching from Clonliffe Road to Killester and from the Ballymun Road end of Griffith Avenue to the Howth Road with erratics deep into Clontarf and Glasnevin. It's not the traditional romantic notion of a small-hamlet-bound-together-through-three-families beating all-comers to become All-Ireland champions, but as the flags appeared last autumn on the roads and were constantly refreshed, it became clear that the urban GAA club has as much to offer as the small-town focal-point rural club.

Is the fairly obvious community spirit in Marino because there's an amazing GAA club there? Or is there an amazing GAA club there because there's community spirit? The local soccer club also do quality work underage despite very little local authority support so the argument would tend towards the community.

Last week before the final a club member, Mo Delaney, put a video on YouTube that had all the underage teams and local businesses and some emigrant club members wishing the team well. It was all the people who'd put up the flags and shown up along the journey. It was all the people in the community. It's trite to say it but they didn't actually need to win on St Patrick's Day. That they did is a pretty sweet bonus.

Irish Independent

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