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Dardis: Dubs close to Cork

DIFFERENT times. Brendan Dardis was due to play in a Dublin Colleges Football final in Croke Park.

He was the free-taker. On the week of the game he got a call.

"Would you like to go into Croke Park and practise your frees?"

A friend of a friend knew somebody in HQ. So off the duo went.

Arrived at the big house and walked straight out onto the turf. Nobody said a word.

"It wouldn't happen today," smiles Brendan. "It's a changed place now."

Brendan's practice round didn't bring glory, but it brought him up against one of the best footballers he has ever seen -- Kieran Duff.

"Kieran was playing for the opposition school from Swords. I was marking him, and it was no easy job.


"I was a cross-country runner at the time, but even so I just couldn't keep up to Kieran. He was so fit.

"I was only around 16 at the time but I remember saying to someone after the game that he's a class act."

These days Brendan is managing the Meath lady footballers. He's enjoying the gig as much as ever.

He's one of the most experienced managers around. He's managed four counties -- Dublin, Tyrone, Wexford and the Royals.

"Ah, it gets me out of the house and stops me arguing with the missus!" he quips.

Brendan has had success along the way. He has also managed teams in the men's Dublin senior football department. He's enjoyed the journey.

Yet the time he spent with the UCD Sigerson Cup squad is hard to beat.

"I was five years with UCD. I worked with Davy Billings. He's an incredible character.

"Where would the GAA, and indeed sport, be without the likes of Davy. He's one of the most genuine people you could meet. It was a marvellous five years at Belfield."

Brendan also has fond memories of the time he spent with the Dubs and he's a big fan of the current Jackies.

"Dublin have an exceptional team. Gerry McGill has done a great job with them.

"They have a lot of good footballers. Reaching the All-Ireland final was the confirmation of Gerry's work.

"He has the team on the right road. And they'll be hard stopped again this year. They have been knocking on the door for a while, and I was surprised it took them a few years to get back into the final."

The Blues beat Brendan's Royals in the Championship last summer. "We gave them a bit of a run that day in Navan, but once we began to leak goals, we were in trouble. You can't do that against a side like Dublin.

"We had a lot of new players in the starting 15 that day.

"Eight of them were making their debut, so that was a telling factor.

"We have gained a bit more experience now and we hope to go forward. It mightn't be this year, but you never know.

"You get a bit of a run on teams, and things just take off.

"But the main thing is that we get in some good performances and we progress as a team. That's what it's all about."

And looking ahead to who will be popping the points over the new Croke Park bar next September, Brendan has his eyes firmly fixed on the Dubs.

"Dublin are very close to Cork now. If any team is going to stop Cork, it's Dublin."