| 9.4°C Dublin

blues eyes on the job

CORNELSCOURT is busy. It's lunch-time. Ciarán Walsh is working away at Keensight Opticians, the best opticians in the South County.

He was one of the finest defenders of his generation. These days he keeps fit by cycling and walking.

He has All-Ireland and National League medals. He shared his defensive duties with some celebrated names - the likes of Deegan, Kennedy, Carr, Barr, Heery, Moran and Keith Galvin.

He was a team-mate of Jim Gavin. And when the Dubs run out, Ciarán is always at ringside. "Ah sure, you'd have to!"

He was there again on Sunday, wearing the blue jersey, to welcome back the Delaney Cup for another summer in Dublin.

"It's just a pity the games are not as close as they used to be in Leinster. We used to have some great matches in Leinster," he recalls.


"The clashes with Meath were especially memorable. All you had to do was to show a Dub a green jersey! And it was the same in Meath with the blue one.

"There was a tremendous rivalry there. But the banter among the fans was always friendly. Everybody hated to lose.They were special days.

"People always remember the four games with Meath in 1991. We played four matches that season and never got beyond the first round!

"There was no back-door then. It was an amazing time. You had the good weather. Everything just fitted in.

"I had buddies living in London and they used to come over on a Ryanair flight for the game and fly home again after. That summed up the buzz that those games generated.

"Then you had Kildare under Mick O'Dwyer reaching the All-Ireland final against Galway (1998). Kildare had some super footballers.

"I expected Kildare to put up a bigger fight against Dublin in the semi-final this year, but it didn't happen.

"I don't really know the reason why the big gap between Dublin and the rest of the province is getting bigger.

"I know Dublin put in the good structures, but is it a case that we have stepped so far ahead of them, and that they have fallen so far behind.

"I thought that the likes of Meath and Kildare would have benefited from the boom, with people moving to the countryside and the satellite towns. But there's no sign of that."

Ciarán's own concerns revolve around the St Anne's Adult Football Division 7 side.

"I'm part of the selection committee there. We are dealing with players from 18 to 36. It's good fun.

"I was on the management of the senior side for a few years. I enjoyed that. But there's a lot of commitment involved at that level."

As a player, Ciarán came close to Dublin Senior Football Championship gold with St Anne's.

"The nearest we got was reaching the (1987) final against Parnell's who had the likes of Brian Talty. They were a very good side.

"It was one of my biggest regrets in football that we never won the Dublin title. We had an excellent team. Clubs didn't look forward to coming to Bohernabreena, and even when we travelled, clubs knew they'd get nothing easy.

"Even for the League matches, there would be big crowds. That seems to have fallen off a bit. The respect for the Dublin Senior League is not there as much any more. The big focus now is on the Championship.

"When I was playing, you'd be out with the Dubs on the Sunday, but then you'd be back playing with the club the following week.

"Running out in the St Anne's jersey was such a tremendous feeling.

"Nowadays, I don't think the Dublin lads are around till the Championship. That's just the nature of it now."

During his Dublin days, he liked to keep a low profile.

"Players get nervous leading into games, but everybody deals with it differently.

"Players say they don't read the papers and all that kind of stuff, but I would be looking at the papers in the build-up to matches.

"Sometimes, I might end up cursing the reporters because of what they wrote, but I realised they had a job to do too.

"In general, I learned to take the positive points out of it rather than the bad ones.

"I lived the quiet life in the week of a game. I'd just do my work and do my training.

"You are just looking to get to the throw-in time. You want to get the jersey and the boots and burst out onto the field.

"You know then, there's no turning back."

Ciarán faced many fabulous forwards. His top three are Mickey Linden, Dessie Farrell and Joe McNally.

"You wouldn't like to be marking those three too often. You'd have your hands full, that's for sure.

"I felt privileged to have played for Dublin. It was such a huge honour. I was lucky enough to win the All-Ireland in '95.

"There were a lot of Dublin footballers, better than me, who weren't fortunate enough to get the Holy Grail.

"It's a big achievement for any young lad to progress and wear the senior shirt."

And he's a big fan of the modern-day Dubs.

He loves their pace and swashbuckling style. And the industry.

Ciarán commends the modesty of Jim Gavin, his management, and the players.

"Jim is very grounded. Himself, his management and the players would have learned much from last season's defeat to Donegal.

"I think we had one plan, and we just didn't have a second get out clause. Jim's biggest problem now is picking his strongest 15. It's a nice headache for any manager.

"You have 30 or 40 guys, and any of them can slot in for an injured player. You don't have to be moving somebody out of another position. It's a big plus to have such strength in depth.

"The word all the time is the A v B games in training are highly competitive, and that's what you want.

"Dublin are up there with any team in the country. And football is enjoying a wonderful spell in the county," adds Ciarán.

Ciarán feels that Donegal will provide the biggest fence for any county on the road to Sam.

"I'd be very wary of Donegal. They have this blanket defence style and then they can burst out suddenly into attack.

"They have Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty, who are two class footballers. It's just terrible to see the blanket defence. If they went 15 on 15, they'd be a super team to watch. But they would be my biggest fear."

He says that Saturday's Kerry-Cork replay in Killarney is also full of intrigue.

"That was the best game of the Championship. Cork certainly put it up to them.

"Kerry came under the radar to win last year's All-Ireland. That's Kerry."

And Ciarán hopes the genius they call 'The Gooch' comes back to his best.

"We all have our heroes - in Dublin it's the Brogans, Diarmuid Connolly, etc. And Kerry have 'The Gooch'. Players like that light up the sport."

But as he goes back to his desk, even the feet of the Kerry Dancer wouldn't have enjoyed a picnic against Ciarán's focus and x-ray vision.