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Mullins eyes vins win

THE Páirc Naomh Uinsionn floodlights were on. The car park was beginning to fill. It's training night.

Christy 'Sweets' is standing at the pavilion door. The sight of Christy, with his little transistor pressed to his ear waiting for the latest score, is one of the iconic images of the sporting city.

Brian Mullins (pictured left) appears. It's the season of Lent. The great man sips black tea.

Above his head are the two framed Foley jerseys from the Railway Cup finals on St Patrick's Day 1962.

Lar played hurling for Leinster on that afternoon with his brother Des. Des then played in the football game that followed, winning both. Des is the only man to have played in two Railway Cup finals on the same day.

Brian is footballing royalty. But everywhere you look on these walls, there's legends returning a smile. The trophy cabinet is a treasure chest gasping for air.

And, now, the famous club are hoping to once again bring home the Andy Merrigan Cup when they play Castlebar Mitchels next Monday.

Brian helped Vins to the prize in 1976. "It's a great sense of achievement to win an All-Ireland club title," he says.

"I remember talking to Charlie Nelligan after Castleisland Desmonds beat us in the final in 1985. And Charlie was saying that, even with all his medals for Kerry, he wouldn't have passed up the club medal."

Brian applauds senior football manager Tommy Conroy (right). "Tommy is typical of St Vincent's. He has been in the club since he was very young. He was a high quality dual player. He played for Dublin in both codes," he says.

"He has acquitted himself very well in management. He was a selector when we last won the All-Ireland in 2008.

"He would have learned a lot from manager Mickey (Whelan)."

At the end of the 2008 final against Nemo Rangers, there was that wonderful picture of Mickey Whelan looking up to the Heavens.

If the Vinnies do it again, the faithful will look skywards and doff their hats to the man that many say sparked this remarkable run.

Kevin Heffernan summed up what St Vincent's are all about. He was a legend of Irish sport and of Irish life, yet he was still happy to be back in the club running the U15s.

"The 2007 win was our first county senior title in 25 years and we went on to win the All-Ireland. Fellas who were between 10 and 15 then are now in their early 20s. That was the real benefit of that victory."

Inspiring young minds is very much central to the ethos.

"The senior players are very good at dropping in on juvenile training sessions. And, if a team is coming back to the club after achieving success, we try to build a sense of occasion around it."

And, like in 2008, Monday will see the St Vincent's Day Parade.

"That worked very well the last time. It made the day more special.

"We are fortunate that we are located in the shadow of Croke Park. The walk down all helps to build up a sense of support and togetherness."

It's the fifth final for Vincent's.

"Dublin clubs like Ballymun and Kilmacud have done well in recent times. It is a reflection of how competitive the Dublin club championship is."

Night after night, following another busy Belfield day, Brian arrives on the bike to take care of business. A business that has been his life's pleasure.

No milk in the tea, but when it came to the footballing Gods, the big man was the crème de la crème.


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