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tower of strength

IT'S mid-morning on the Monastery Road. No sign of a bell to signal a break for Paddy Delaney.

He's at the home of Clondalkin's Round Tower, and there's work to be done.

A big hedge needs cutting, and the former Dublin footballer is putting in the hard yards in the heat.

He wipes the sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his shirt. No Wimbledon ball-boys with towels in the heart of Clondalkin.

The club's new home is looking a treat. The pitch is treated with all the care of the centre court.

On their way to the Leinster Senior Football Championship semi-final in Croke Park, Westmeath had a run out here.

"We helped them get to the Leinster final," smiles Paddy.

He watched the game from the Hogan Stand.

"When Meath were leading by ten points, I'd said I'd go and get something to eat and come back for the Dublin game," he recalls.

"But then I met a fella I hadn't seen in years. We had a long chat. And the next thing, the teams were coming out for the second half, so I said I might as well stay now.


"And I'm glad I did. Sitting beside me were a few Westmeath lads. They were saying that they were hoping the team could put on a bit of a show in the second half.

"They began the comeback. The lads were on their feet.

"And then the ball was in the net. It was great goal, but the old Meath defence wouldn't have conceded a goal like that."

Paddy offers his own analysis on why the Royals crumbled like a Cadbury's Flake.

"They took off a midfielder (Harry Rooney) and a half-back (Mickey Burke) together. Then Graham Reilly got a black card a few minutes later.

"So that was three influential players gone within five minutes. Meath lost their composure, and they weren't able to get it back."

So now for Sunday. A Leinster final date with the Dubs.

The Blues will be hotter favourites than a Turkish Steam Room.

And if the request comes again from the Lake County, the gates of the Monastery will be open.

Paddy feels that the sensational win against Meath will fill the lungs of Tom Cribbin's men with confidence.

It was their third successive victory in this season's Leinster Championship, having overcome Louth and Wexford.

"They'll certainly take a lot of belief from beating Meath. It was a huge result.

"Westmeath beat Dublin a few years ago, so you never take anything for granted."

And taking nothing for granted is Jim Gavin's favourite hymn.

Paddy has known the Dublin manager since he was a child, coming up through the ranks at Tower's.

"He was such as easy player to manage," recalls Paddy. "You only had to tell him something once. And that was it.

"He was very versatile. He could play anywhere. He could play in the half-backs or in the half-forwards.

"He was a super player. He was very committed, and and he was tough.

"He is doing a great job with Dublin. He's so meticulous. We are all proud of him here."

Paddy also had a memorable encounter with another future managerial icon.

It was just after Dublin had won the 1958 All-Ireland when he got the phone call.

Dublin were due to play Kerry in Killarney, and Paddy was on board the Dublin Express.

"I couldn't believe it. I was shocked.

"It was my first time to wear the senior shirt. And Mick O'Dwyer was marking me.

"But things went well enough. I managed to score three points off him," chuckles Paddy.


He enjoyed his Dublin days. "Lovely memories. The years slip in so quickly. But you make marvellous friends."

Jim Crowley features prominently in Paddy's Hall of Fame.

He was the accomplished St Vincent's and Dublin centre half-back.

"He was one of my idols when I was a young fella," explains Paddy.

"I was in Bolton Street Tech at the time, and I'd meet Jim in the mornings.

"He would be cycling down Capel Street on his way to work and he'd never pass you. He'd always stop for a chat.

"He was a first-class footballer. And what a gentleman."

Jim was on that 1958 Dublin All-Ireland winning team that beat Derry, and Paddy got to play with many more of his heroes.

Revered names like Paddy O'Flaherty, Lar Foley, John Timmons, Seán 'Yank' Murray, Ollie Freaney, Des Ferguson and the great Heffo himself.

'Yank' Murray got his nickname because he had spent some time in America. He could out-jump Aer Lingus. They say the football was less complicated back then. Kick and catch. And the game graced by spectacular fielding.

There are a hundred more gears on the ball nowadays.

"Oh yes. The game has changed so much," says Paddy.

And this Dublin side have moved with the times.


He rates them as one of the best Dublin teams of them all.

"I have a lot of confidence in them. There is a big hunger there.

"They bring such a work ethic into the matches, and that's the attitude that is paying off.

"The forwards are very good. And I think the defence has tightened up this season.

"And then you have different players to come in and out, which is another major asset."

Paddy was impressed with Dublin's power and polish against Longford and Kildare.

"They were two comfortable wins, but I was disappointed with Kildare," adds Paddy

"I thought they'd give Dublin a bigger challenge. I felt we'd win it ok, but I was expecting Kildare to put it up to us more. But they never got into it.

"Hopefully we'll have a long summer ahead supporting Dublin. And that we'll have a problem scrambling for tickets. That's one problem we can live with!"

And with that, Paddy goes back to the hedge. Westmeath could be calling for tea.

Or indeed Clondalkin's own Gentleman Jim . . . with the Delaney Cup, or SamMaguire himself.