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I'm a Vincent's man first and foremost

Brian Mullins WHEN St Vincent's took their first All-Ireland Club title, Brian Mullins had already been a feature of the senior team for three years - and a rising Dublin star.

Brian Mullins WHEN St Vincent's took their first All-Ireland Club title, Brian Mullins had already been a feature of the senior team for three years - and a rising Dublin star.

He had joined the club as a 16-year-old in 1970, transferring from Clontarf when the GAA club there couldn't field a team at the grade.

It wasn't exactly strange surrounds for the youngster - though he was schooled in Marlbrough Street and not Marino - as three of his brothers were already players with St Vincent's. The family had originally lived on Collins Avenue and when they moved to Clontarf his older brothers remained in Marino schools - and on St Vincent's conveyor belt.

Still, Mullins enjoyed a different experience to a lot of his new club-mates, with Gaelic football only one of several sports he was exposed to growing up.

"Clontarf was an oasis of sports because you had the Promenade, St Anne's Park, Clontarf Cricket and Rugby club, and Clontarf Football and Hurling club. We didn't care about any ban' and just played away at whatever took our fancy."

With his imposing build, it's no surprise he was eyed as a promising rugby player. In 1971 he made his competitive debut playing for Blackrock U19s in the McCorry Cup and the following year he graduated to the Leinster U19 team. The ban was nearing its end by then but Mullins was already used to dodging the regulation, keeping his face out of photographs and using false names when playing soccer.

But the lure of the St Vincent's family had taken hold of him. He was already a minor for club and county, graduated to the senior squad in Vincent's in 1972 and made the starting line-up for the All-Ireland Club final replay defeat to Nemo Rangers in Thurles on June 24 the following year.

This was a time of change in Dublin football and Kevin Heffernan's arrival as senior county manager, with his new ideas on training, was a key influence on Mullins as much as the county team.

"The new training came as a result of Dublin's defeat by Louth in the first round of the championship in '73 and that caused a revolution in Dublin football circles. Kevin was appointed and when I joined the panel in April 1974, the team was already doing twice-a-week serious training."

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The effect was almost miraculous. Having failed to reach an All-Ireland final since 1963, Dublin suddenly made finals a regular event. Their victory over Galway in 1974 was the first of six consecutive final appearances, kick-starting the county's most celebrated era and cultivating the type of success St Vincent's were used to.

But as the eighties took hold, fortunes changed for both. Offaly and Meath began to spoil the Dubs' party in Leinster and 1983 would prove to be their last All-Ireland win for 12 years. For Vincent's, clubs like Na Fianna and Ballymun Kickhams began to make waves and 1984 proved to be their last championship success.

Mullins's fortunes also suffered. He was involved in a serious car accident in 1980, which took two years out of his playing career, and within a few years of his return, broke three ribs in a club game against Thomas Davis.

His final year as a player was 1991, when he won an intermediate title with St Vincent's before he moved to a teaching post in Donegal, where he played with the local club, Carndonagh.

"I never let my membership run out. I would regard myself as a Vincent's man first and foremost," enthused Mullins, who returned to the club in 2000 and was selector with the senior team this year.

"I'd like to think I took representing the club seriously - though there was great fun involved in playing with a club for so many years. There were other serious things, too, like listening to Lar Foley tell what the club meant to him (but) life is for living and for living as best you can - Vincent's means that to me."

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