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Dubs must step up effort in '14


HERE'S a crisp admission from Philly McMahon.

"The only time I've experienced retaining something or winning it year after year was with Ballymun Kickhams when we won the U21 Championship," he observes. "So I don't know what it takes."

Few do. And that's precisely the reason consecutive All-Ireland football titles are such a rare phenomenon.

Yet most are probably disinclined to articulate it as honestly and sharply as McMahon for whom winning back to back – or not, as the case may be – isn't solely an inter-county issue.

Remember, McMahon suffered and celebrated last year in equal measure, losing an All-Ireland Club SFC final with Ballymun on St Patrick's Day before winning a second with Dublin that September.

A joyous achievement, certainly. But not one, he has always contended, which entirely banished the trauma of the aforementioned club near miss.

Duly, the 'Mun went at it again, seemingly spurred, and vigorously so, by their Paddy's Day loss but ultimately came up just shy of St Vincent's in the Dublin decider after a replay.

Throw in Dublin's thwarted quest to stitch Sam Maguire triumphs back to back in 2012 and McMahon is speaking from a broad base of experience of the subject.

"I'm sure the standards have to be higher," he predicts of the year just begun. "And it's going to be interesting for me to see what way the manager will do it this year. I'm sure the players will buy into that and we'll see what the outcome is."

Thus far, McMahon has been something of a guinea pig in the Dublin team, lining out in successive O'Byrne Cup matches against Louth and DCU at centre-forward.

He was, admittedly, "surprised," by this posting, noting how, in equal measure, he found it "a bit unusual," and "a good experience".

"It helps being a defender (playing up front) because you know where to run and what moves you don't like as a defender."

Equally, McMahon is wary of the burgeoning competition about to commence for Dublin jerseys numbered two, three and four – his natural home – and admits: "If (Jim Gavin) wants me to play centre-forward and I don't play well there, it's going to be hard to get back in in the backs."

For all that, McMahon is acutely aware that his summer prospects are only embellished by Ballymun Kickhams' failure to retain Dublin and subsequently Leinster titles, an achievement which resulted in his sequestering from the county panel until the final two rounds of last year's League.

Consequentially, the first time McMahon started a Championship game in 2013 was the All-Ireland final.

"Even Jim said it last year, it's hard to get back into the team after being out for so long," he notes. "You can understand where the management team are coming from.

"If players are playing well how can you take them out of the team?"


For Dublin, this week must have felt like a wave of unwanted déjà vu, given the proximity of Pádraic Duffy's rebuke over last year's biting incident and the Leinster Council investigation into allegations of a fresh one, which concluded last night.

According to McMahon, it simply isn't a topic of discussion within the camp.

He stresses: "It doesn't have to be said.

"It's not something that we look at and focus on because we don't need to. We need to focus on training and football."

Outside of the parameters of football, McMahon's personal interest in fitness and exercise has seen him forge a career as a strength and conditioning coach.

Owner of 'BK Strength and Conditioning' McMahon also works with Shamrock Rovers, has a client list of professional soccer players who have either already embarked or are embarking on a career in England, and has recently inducted a couple of boxing hopefuls.

He also admits to spending the little time he has off inter-county training in deepest, darkest winter "doing the kind of training I like doing – a bit of mixed martial arts, my own weights training". So clearly, he has authority on the escalating issue of serious injury and the requirement for surgery of so many elite GAA players.

"At one stage I was involved in club, county and college at the latter ends of competitions so it was tough going but it depends how well you look after your body," McMahon insists.

"I haven't had a break in terms of football in two years and I haven't had any injuries," he points out.

"The only injuries I have got have been from contact. Non-contact injuries are the ones you worry about.

"Everybody wants a piece of the player and that is the problem," he concludes.

"There's not one manager with priority over another. That's probably the problem. If you can sort that out, you'll be alright."