Sunday 24 September 2017

All-black Cullen's successful conversion

From the Stands

Fergus McDonnell and Seán Ryan

STEPHEN CLUXTON'S heroics for Dublin brought to mind one of his predecessors, Paddy Cullen.

The story of how Cullen became a goalkeeper is told in Charlie Walker's book In My Lifetime (5to50 Books), which was launched last week.

Walker was in charge of McNaughton's, a factory team which played in the AUL, and he enlisted Cullen, an apprentice electrician who was then playing midfield for O'Connell Boys. He dressed him in an all-black kit and called him 'Yashin' after the famous Soviet 'keeper.

Cullen left Walker with some great memories but none could compare with his first match in the AUL, away to Swords Celtic. Against more experienced opponents, it was a backs-to-the-wall job for McNaughton's and, under fierce pressure, they conceded three penalties, but Cullen made a hat-trick of penalty saves to earn a 0-0 draw.

Walker concludes: "Paddy was not only a fantastic 'keeper, he was a very good centre-forward and scored many a good goal when I played him up front. How lucky the GAA were to get him; he is a legend."

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WE have often noted in this column how the Irish, as a people, have an historic disregard for authority. That may have been all very well when we were under foreign rule, but now that we govern ourselves (in theory anyway) we really should consider obeying the rules that we set for ourselves, and yes this does include the ones we don't like, even if that appears to be nearly all of them.

The GAA is a classic example. How often have elements of this great Association voted to introduce a rule, only to cry 'foul' when they realise what that rule actually means.

We had it in football with Division 4 teams not being allowed to compete for the Sam Maguire, with the proposed introduction of the sin-bin and now the black-card system. We also saw it in hurling when two teams were relegated from Division 1, a situation which everyone seemed comfortable with until two teams were relegated from Division 1.

And now the Munster counties, well four of them, are agonising over a decision they made to seed the draw for the 2014 football championship. Ironically, they now seem unable to change that decision because of Rule 3.31 (e) which seems to be that rarest of beasts, a GAA rule that can't be broken.

* * * * *

IS it possible for a part-time footballer to be fitter than a full-timer? According to Richie Towell, the Dundalk midfielder who was a deserving winner of the September Player of the Month award in the Airtricity League, the answer is a resounding Yes.

The former Celtic, Hibernian and Ireland under 21 cap claims that his good form with Dundalk is due to the fact that he is fitter "than I have ever been," and for this he thanks his strength and conditioning coach, Graham Byrne.

He also credits manager Stephen Kenny with the turnaround in his fortunes. "He put his faith in me and has built the team around me. People don't realise how good he is until they work for him. He is the most passionate manager I ever played for. You go out wanting to win the game for him."

* * * * *

THE legendary American coach Vince Lombardi is famously quoted as saying: "Winning isn't all-important, it's the only thing". But is it? And if it is, what does that tell us about where we are heading as a society?

These are the type of questions that will be addressed at a one-day conference on ethics and sport, which is being organised by the Department of Religions and Theology in Trinity College on Saturday, October 19.

Speakers at the conference will include former Dublin manager Pat Gilroy, former Dublin footballer Jason Sherlock and former Galway hurler Alan Kerins. The day will also see the introduction of a Fair Play Hall of Fame, with the first inductee the late Nevin Spence.

Further details are available from John Scally at jscally@tcd.ie

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