| 14.1°C Dublin

Vinnie can see both sides now

PHIBSBORO is a busy spot. Vinnie Murphy works there. He's upstairs in his office at the Permanent TSB.

It's just behind the Tramway end of Dalymount Park. Vinnie's name is cemented on another famous terrace not far away – Hill 16.

He was adored up there. Still is. He was born with a football in his hand. And he became a first-class hurler too.

His father, Vincent senior, won an All- Ireland minor football medal with Dublin in 1955, and an All-Ireland junior football title five years later. He played with St Callion's. Vincent senior's brother, Noel, the Event Controller in Parnell Park, was a team-mate.

"We were reared with stories of St Callion's. They won an Intermediate Championship and went senior for a while. John McCarthy would have played a few games with them, starting off," recalls Vinnie.

His Dad was one of the founder members of Trinity Gaels. Vinnie was still playing minor for the club when he got the Dublin senior call.

He had 13 years with the Dubs. "It was in two parts. From 1988 to '96, I was probably known as a serious footballer, but for the last couple of years, 2000 and 2001, I was perhaps regarded as more of an 'enforcer' than a footballer," he smiles.

That's in reference to his springing off the bench to enter the action and administer a power-packed shoulder charge to his marker! It was a moment the Dubs fans loved. The roof used to lift.

He appreciated the acclaim of the Hill. "Things weren't going too well for Dublin in the late 90s and early 2000s, so when they saw me return, they probably remembered me as a decent player, so maybe they felt I could make a difference."

It was quite a jump coming from junior and intermediate level with Trinity Gaels to inter-county football. "It was a huge leap. It wasn't as bad for fellas who were playing Division 1 and 2, and senior championship."

He faced some formidable defenders. "Mick Lyons obviously stands out. I used to watch him before I came onto the Dublin squad.

"I don't think he was ever second best in any championship match he played in, and he came up against many top forwards. He had a reputation as a hard man. He was definitely a tough man.

"He was always fair with me. There were never any shenanigans off the ball or anything like that. I think he was underrated. He got more recognition for being a hard man, but he was actually a fine footballer, a great reader of the game.

"He was a seasoned full-back by the time I came on the scene. I was only a young fella, and when you are that age nerves don't really play a part."

Another resolute defender that Vinnie came face-to-face with was Páidi ó Sé, but this time it was in the Burlington Hotel.

It was in 1996. Vinnie's contract as a Dublin County Board coach had come to an end. That was expected. It was only to last for a certain period. But the real heart-break came when he was left off the Dublin squad.

"I had begun playing for Dublin when I was a teenager. It was a quick rise. But now all of a sudden I wasn't involved anymore. It was like falling off the side of a cliff. It was gut-wrenching.

 

Arguing

"I wasn't working for a few weeks. I was arguing with myself. Things were at a low ebb. I decided to go to America to get work and play football.

"I had arranged to meet a chap in the Burlington to set me up with a contact in America. And that's when I met Páidi.

"I got chatting to him and I was telling him of my plans. He said if I got work in Ireland, would I stay. He said there might be an opening in Kerry.

"And he was true to his word. Eoin 'Bomber' Liston rang me and it snow-balled from there. I became the full-time coach of Kerins O'Rahilly's."

Yet, initially, the green fields of Tralee didn't prove any more scenic. "I went down there very determined to do well, but for the first few months I didn't enjoy it at all.

"But then things gradually changed. I was around people who thought about football twenty-four seven. It meant so much to them. And it re-ignited my love of the game.

"And not only playing the game. Also how they prepared teams and how players themselves prepared. I think I played some of the best football of my career in Kerry. I have a lot to be grateful to them for.

"I have many wonderful memories of my time there."

One of his favourite images is of Maurice Fitzgerald. An in-house game was organised between the Kerry team and a Kerry selection. Vinnie was on the Kerry selection.

"Maurice was playing for Kerry at the time. He came over and said, 'I better say hello to you'. We would have known of each other.

"I went to school at Holy Trinity, Donaghmede. Jerry Grogan used to bring us down to Cahersiveen to play against the school team that Maurice was on.

"He was such a class act. He had lovely silken skills – right foot, left foot, fielding, just superb. He was a quiet lad. Shy.

"They always said in Kerry that it was a big mistake to try and roughen Maurice up. Sometimes in club games he might just go through the motions.

"But if you had a go at him and he'd wake up, the word they used in Kerry was that he would 'decorate' you. He'd put six, seven or eight points on you."

Vinnie got five points from play against Clondalkin's Round Towers to help St Monica's progress to the Junior A Football Championship final against Cuala.

He's the player-manager there. "I'm just delighted for the fellas that they have reached a county final. They have given this ten years.

"We have a small squad. We only had four on the bench against Towers. But the guys have so much heart. There's great honesty in the group."

Monica's achieved Junior championship glory 26 years ago. That squad have been invited to the final. "We are trying to marry the old and the new. I am a firm believer in that you have to embrace your past before you go forward."

 

Past

The links with the past are strong. Vinnie's managerial colleagues include Pat Finn, the manager 26 years ago, and two men who played back then, Rory Quinn, who was captain, and Tom Clancy.

"The squad really deserve their day out. And regardless of how it goes, it's a great achievement for them. The main focus now is to make sure we give a good account of ourselves."

Vinnie is certainly doing that. He's still climbing to the clouds in the high altitude of AFL 3 and emerging with the size five. He's sad to see the art of high-fielding on the wane.

"The game has changed so much. You rarely get a 50-50 situation anymore. It's so crowded. It's a shame.

"In my era if you were a good footballer, you trained to get fit. Now if you are not fit, it doesn't matter how good a footballer you are, you will just be over-run with the pace of the modern game."

The Junior A Championship final is on the eve of Sunday's Dublin v Kerry All-Ireland semi-final. Vinnie says the Kingdom will relish the fact that the Dubs are the hot fancy.

"Kerry people are so intelligent. They'll be talking to you and weighing you up at the same time. The present team have some of the best footballers that have played the game in the last twenty to thirty years. I have never seen a better footballer than the Gooch – pure quality.

"Yes, there might be a lot of miles in their legs, but they still have that Kerry know-how. Remember in 2009 when Dublin were tipped to win and Kerry pulled the plug. The game was over after ten minutes.

"They were the one county that were able to unlock the code of Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs. They were able to shut them down.

"That is the Kerry way. They'll concentrate on Dublin's strengths and address them. And they'll also zone in on the weaknesses."

Vinnie can't wait for Croke Park on Sunday. He'll look out at the green and gold jerseys and he'll throw an eye around his beloved Hill. And he'll feel blessed that he enjoyed the best of both worlds.


Privacy