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No talk of an All-Ireland title just yet, insists Curran

PAUL CURRAN has scaled the All-Ireland summit as a player, one of Dublin's supreme athletes of the modern era.

He also knows what it takes to win a Leinster club medal in the winter trenches - for his home club, Thomas Davis.

Now 'Curraner' has a new string to his bow: he has conquered Leinster as a manager, too.

Typically, though, the Ballymun boss was more inclined to heap the praise on his players after yesterday's richly deserved three-point success over Portlaoise in the AIB Leinster Club SFC final at Cusack Park, Mullingar.

"It's a difficult thing to do, first time, especially in this competition where there's a lot of great teams out there," he reflected.

"But we took it game by game this year. To win Dublin is a serious ask, and once we won that we got back on the road around three days later.

"We trained hard, forgot about the Dublin win, this was the goal ... and thankfully it came to pass," said the Kickhams manager.

That game-by-game mantra won't change now -- hardly surprising given the near-certainty that Dr Crokes of Killarney (they face London's Tír Chonaill Gaels in an All-Ireland quarter-final) will be blocking their path to the All-Ireland final.

"The Portlaoise manager came in there to the dressing-room and was talking about All-Irelands and that sort of thing - we're not talking about All-Irelands, we're talking about the next game," Curran protested.

"With all due respect to all the teams we've played, every match has been a step up and I think the next one - even though we won't be talking about it for the time being - is another step up.

"The Kerry champions are always going to bring a certain amount of class and talent. But when the time comes we'll knuckle down and prepare for that one."

First up, they deserve some down-time to recover from this long and attritional campaign.

Even though they led from the 16th minute until the final whistle yesterday, James McCarthy insisted it was anything but easy.

"One of the most physical games I've played in," gasped the Dublin wing-back turned club midfield dynamo. "There was some hitting going in there - very few times I've experienced the like of it. I'm knackered at the end of it but delighted to get over the line."

What ultimately made the difference?

McCarthy reckoned it was their enduring ability to win "those hard, 50-50 balls ... we always pride ourselves on trying to win the physical exchanges and I think we just about shaded it today."

His Dublin colleague, Philly McMahon, put their trailblazing triumph down to "hard work. Commitment. And the belief as well: we had a belief in the system and we stuck to it.



Tough

"It was tough towards the end of the game; they started coming back into the game. But we believed in what we've been taught through the whole year, and that's what helped us at the end."

McMahon cited Curran's experience as vital in helping instil that belief in a group of players, many of whom are 23, 24, and coming towards their peak.

Val Andrews - one of Ballymun's most high profile and devoted clubmen, whose son Fiach is in the 'Mun panel - also singled out the manager's influence.

"Tremendous young fellas, tremendous heart and tremendous organisation," he enthused.

"And huge credit to Paul Curran and Ken Robinson for all the work they've put in. Curraner has brought a calmness - he's a fabulous manager and we're delighted to have him."

For the former Cavan, Louth and Dublin minor manager, yesterday in Mullingar was a rollercoaster experience with the perfect ending.

"It was a very emotional day for our family, given my brother (Seán) passed away and he was the chairman. But it's great," Andrews declared.

"For GAA in the area it's a tremendous lift, a tremendous lift to all the people for all the hard work and dedication of unsung heroes down through the last 30 years, like Frank McCaffrey, Tom O'Donoghue, Andy McManus, all those fellas gave huge amounts of time.

"And to see the fruition of that - it took such a long journey," concluded Andrews.


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