| 6.2°C Dublin

Mullins: Hard work the key for Vincents





WHEN St Vincent's broke a sequence of 23 years without a Dublin SFC title in 2007 and the following March, went on to become the first club from the county to win an All-Ireland club title in 13 years, everyone in the city of a football inclination said it.

Typical Vincent's.

Quite what 'typical Vincent's' means is impossible to fully articulate but that, most very definitely, was typical Vincent's.

That they hadn't won a Dublin title in 23 years, having won 24 of them in the previous 35 still ranks as something of an amusing oddity for those outside the club.

That since breaking the sequence, they've won three of the last eight, two Leinsters and two All-Irelands is, again, pretty typical of Vincent's.

"I don't think there was necessarily one particular thing that changed the sequence," Brian Mullins told the Herald in the prelude to Sunday's AIB Leinster club SFC final with Rhode (Navan, 2.0).

"Some people would attribute that to the fact that the club moved from its home in Raheny back to Marino and that the energies of the club membership were directed more on the move back to new grounds, our old stomping ground.


"I don't know whether that's true or not. But I think, what did happen to lead to the 2007 victory, to get us back as county champions in the first instance, we had a great coach in Mickey Whelan who succeeded in infusing the team with confidence."

And if Mullins' statement needed any verification, the job Whelan did under Pat Gilroy in the three years after the All-Ireland club title win of 2008 surely underpins his point.

But as always, there were intangibles

"They won a very close county final," Mullins recalls of the 2007 decider against St Brigid's.

"And you need luck. In the final that year, they had a little bit of luck at the end of the game where Kevin Bonner from St Brigid's had a chance to score a goal that would have won them the match but he failed to score (save by Michael Savage). So sometimes, it's luck. Maybe we were luckier.

"Last year, the first day against Ballymun, their corner-forward had a chance, an open goal nearly, in the dying minutes of that match, and he didn't score it. Again, it could have been lost because it was a very close game.

"So whether it's or whether it's better coaching, I don't know," Mullins add, before revisiting his earlier theme.

"But I think that we all hold Mickey Whelan in a certain high regard.

"And I think he may have been the difference in 2007 and his legacy still lives on in that Tommy Conroy was part of his management team and Tommy is now the coach of our team at the moment.

"And that's probably where the real extra bonus is in terms of winning Championships. But even people with Tommy will tell you that it could so easily have been another way."

There was, during the great Marino drought, near misses and instances of Vincent's enduring on the harsher side of the luck to which Mullins refers but nothing of the calibre of the current group.

Indeed it's hard not to visit their clubhouse in Páirc Naomh Uinsonn, see the volume of past glories and imagine various Vincent's teams being crippled by the weight of their own club's shadow.

"There probably was," Mullins admits.

"I wouldn't have been too aware of them. But there would be evidence to suggest that if legacies are presented in a certain format, they serve to inspire people, rather than burden them,

"At some stage maybe, it was the case that the current crop of players understood that the legacy really, of the victories of my era and the era before me was a simple message; hard work. Dedication.


"It doesn't change. That is the same mantra as you'll hear from the All Blacks, from Joe Schmidt and other sports. Achievement in sport is as a result of hard work and dedication."

Mirrored, surely, in the current bunch?

"As a club team they decided two years ago or more that they wanted to try and do this and they're still on that route," Mullins points out.

"I think they're good on a number of levels. They're very dedicated. They have a great sense of unity of purpose. And it is a unique competition and probably the most difficult All-Ireland to win.

"I think that it's the dedication, the commitment. Which is no different from other campaigns in other sports. That's what it is really. Maybe then on top of that," adds Mullins, returning to an earlier theme, "you need to be a bit luckier than some of the opposition."

Which precludes guarantees for Vincent's on Sunday against a Rhode team with provincial pedigree, having lost three Leinster deciders in the past decade.

"You're only as good as your last game," Mullins says.

"And the great thing about sport is that there is always opposition out there waiting to knock you off your pedestal, or who go against the grain in terms of expectation.

"So I have no doubt that Rhode are going to be within a hair's breadth of winning this match at every stage of the game. And I believe it will come down to the wire.

"And anybody who says opposite to that or who say it's going to be a cakewalk, they don't know their football."