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Different times - 'I got the bus to Croke Park with my gear bag on All-Ireland final day'

Decades of the Dubs - The 50s/60s

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17 September 2016; Former Dublin footballers, who were team-mates on the 1958 All-Ireland winning team, Jim Crowley and Johnny Joyce at the GPA Former Players Event in Croke Park Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

17 September 2016; Former Dublin footballers, who were team-mates on the 1958 All-Ireland winning team, Jim Crowley and Johnny Joyce at the GPA Former Players Event in Croke Park Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

17 September 2016; Former Dublin footballers, who were team-mates on the 1958 All-Ireland winning team, Jim Crowley and Johnny Joyce at the GPA Former Players Event in Croke Park Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

A sunny Tuesday morning in July. A Tommy Drumm kick away from the new home of Whitehall Colmcille.

Jim Crowley answers the door. Tall and lean. His Dublin 1958 jersey would still be the perfect fit.

He leads the way into the front room. And his mind drifts back to another Tuesday - Black Tuesday.

"I was born in New York around the time of the Wall Street Crash," he explains.

"My parents were from Cork. Black Tuesday happened. The Depression hit America, so they went back to Ireland. I have been living in Dublin since I was four."

Jim went to school at St Patrick's, Drumcondra. Then the Irish-speaking school, Coláiste Mhuire.

"I played for the Coláiste Mhuire team in the Dublin Leagues, but they didn't go beyond minor."

Jim was on the Dublin minor team in 1947. The legendary Kevin Heffernan was on it too.

"Kevin asked me to join St Vincent's. It was a lucky day that I got that invitation.

"Back then, it was all soccer around this area. Subsequently, a few men started Whitehall, and the Brothers coming to St Aidan's CBS gave it a great impetus.

"People said to me over the years why don't your sons play for St Vincent's. I always told them they are playing with the fellas they went to school with."

Jim worked in the Dublin City Council. "It was the Corpo back then," he smiles.

He married Mary, the sister of his St Vincent's and Dublin team-mate Cathal O'Leary.

"Jack McCaffrey's grandfather, Mick, was our best man. He played for Monaghan and Clanna Gael. Noel was a great player himself."

Jim and Mary had seven children, Donal, Sheila, Helen, Gerard, Michéal, Conor and Clare.

Gerard, Michéal and Conor won All-Ireland minor medals with Dublin. Whitehall enjoyed Dublin minor and U21 Championship success.

At St Vincent's, Jim won ten Dublin Senior Football Championship titles. "We cycled everywhere in those days. We were fit.

"There was one period when we were unbeaten for six years. I think we had two draws during that spell. Football in Dublin was so strong then. Fellas didn't go home to the country.

"We played Seán McDermotts in one county final and they had three Railway Cup players on the bench.

"There were some great sides in Dublin, and there would be huge crowds at the games."

Jim came onto the Dublin senior squad in 1950.

"I was lucky enough to play on the first Dublin team to win the National Football League in 1953. Fourteen St Vincent's men and Tony O'Grady of the Air Corps in goal."

Defeat came in the 1955 All-Ireland final.

"For the semi-final against Mayo that year I arrived into the dressing-room to be told that Norman Allen wasn't playing.

"He was whipped off to hospital with appendicitis the day before. It was like a thunderbolt.

"Mark Wilson went in at centre half-back, but he got injured in the match. It was a draw. For the replay, they put me in at centre half-back."

The loss to Kerry had some consolation.

"John Kerry O'Donnell invited us to New York. We were thrilled. It was my first time back in New York. We got blazers with Baile Átha Cliath on them. I was walking down Broadway one day and a woman stopped me and said: 'Hey, you are from Ireland. I see the Baile Átha Cliath badge!'

"We were all so disappointed that we lost the All-Ireland to Kerry, but we made it in 1958 anyway.

"Some of us were coming near the end of our careers and I can remember Kevin Heffernan saying we'll give this a right go. We won everything that year."

The team trained twice a week, mainly in O'Toole Park. Peter O'Reilly was the trainer. He was on the Dublin 1942 All-Ireland winning team.

One of his fellow selectors in '58 was another man that won Sam in '42, Brendan Quinn of Parnells.

"Peter O'Reilly was what you'd now call our manager. He was a great footballer himself and such a pure gentleman. I never heard a bad word from him."

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Fans at the 1958 All-Ireland final between Dublin and Derry

Fans at the 1958 All-Ireland final between Dublin and Derry

Fans at the 1958 All-Ireland final between Dublin and Derry

Dublin played Derry in the 1958 final.

"The night before I was out walking my dog, about 11 o'clock, and this Dub shouted at me: 'Hey Jim, you should be in your bed!'

"I didn't want to tell him that I wasn't able to sleep!

"I was concerned going into the final. I had picked up an injury and I was getting treatment. I couldn't do much training, but it worked out ok. I played centre half-back that day."

Like all the other Dublin players, Jim made his own way to Croke Park.

"I got the bus down with my gear bag. It was a different world to today, when you see the team being driven in under the stand to the dressing-room door in a big coach."

On that All-Ireland day, Paddy Farnan was delayed.

"By the time he had arrived, we had all gone in and the crowds had gathered.

"He made his way to the gate and asked the man to let him in, explaining he was playing. 'Go away out of that and don't be annoying me,' was the answer of the gateman.

"Somebody else then came along and recognised Paddy and so he was let in.

"It was just as well because it was Paddy who scored the deciding goal in the game!

"The following day we paraded around Dublin in a big lorry. The win caused great excitement in the city because Dublin hadn't won the All-Ireland since 1942."

Jim says that the Heff was an integral part of the success.

"He was a great leader. He'd say to the forwards to start moving as soon as they'd see one of our outfield players in possession. And he'd tell the forwards to hold onto the ball for that extra second. To show composure."

All-Ireland SFC winning captain of 1983 Tommy Drumm was one of Heffo's Heroes.

"Tommy is a fellow parishioner of mine and he got the idea of having a get-together of all the players that won the All-Ireland playing for Dublin with the number 6 shirt.

"We had a great night, and then he organised another one over in the Merrion Hotel.

"John Costello picked me up. I have great time for John. I walked into the hotel and all my family were there.

"I was the guest of honour. I couldn't believe it. They presented me with a framed number 6 Dublin shirt. It was an amazing night."

Not so long ago, Jim met current Dubs boss Jim Gavin.

"We had a great chat. The present Dubs are fantastic. They have brought the standards up.

"Jim Gavin is superb. He's respectful of everybody. The players are enjoying it."

Jim looks back on his own days.

"It's the friends you make. I'm a great pal of Offaly's Peter Nolan. He emigrated to New York, but every time he comes back we meet up."

Jim played against the best of them.

"Seán Purcell was the greatest. There were no All-Ireland Club Championship then but St Vincent's played Tuam a few times in Croke Park and in Tuam in exhibition games. Big crowds.

"In the All-Ireland semi-final of 1958, as Ollie Freaney was about to kick over the winning free against Galway, Seán put his head on my shoulder. He couldn't look."

So winning big games with late frees is not just a recent Dublin phenomenon and, for that matter, neither is producing terrific centre-backs.

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