Monday 18 November 2019

St Vincent's – continuing to produce heroes of renown


Having joined the club at 15, Brian Mullins is now adult games director at St Vincent's
Having joined the club at 15, Brian Mullins is now adult games director at St Vincent's

Liam Kelly

St Vincent's members will march en bloc from their Marino base down to Croke Park on Monday to support their team in the All-Ireland club final.

They last had the opportunity to throng the avenues of Dublin 3 waving their flags and bunting on the way to GAA headquarters in 2008, when Mossy Quinn was captain.

On that occasion, the day ended in celebration as the Andy Merrigan Cup returned to St Vincent's for the first time since 1976.

Given that the Marino club has such a proud history in Dublin GAA and has produced so many great players down the decades, it comes as something of a surprise to realise that they have won only two national senior titles in the last 38 years, and only three Dublin senior football championships in the last 30 years.

There is, however, an enduring legacy handed down through the generations that goes back to the club's founding in 1931.

It was established by two clerics, the Very Reverend Dr Fitzpatrick and Reverend Brother Fitzgerald.

Their motivation was to provide recreational outlets for boys in the Marino area, which was developing into the largest public housing scheme in the country.

Originally based in Raheny at the Oval, a site close to the present-day DART station, St Vincent's moved back to its spiritual home in the Marino area in 1981.

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By then, Vins' fame had spread far and wide as one of the greatest nurseries of football and hurling in Dublin through the '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s.


Kevin Heffernan emerged as a legendary figure within Dublin GAA, while Mickey Whelan, Des and Lar Foley, Paddy Donnelly, Norman Allen, Cyril Freaney, Mark Wilson, Tony Hanahoe, Gay O'Driscoll, Brian Mullins, Bobby Doyle and Tommy Conroy all played on Dublin All-Ireland-winning sides, as did Pat Gilroy.

Gilroy, son of former county player Jack, masterminded Dublin's 2011 Sam Maguire triumph as team manager.

Quinn, Diarmuid Connolly and Ger Brennan were all part of the Dublin revival under Gilroy's management and they hope to add to the club honours list on Monday.

That honours board is formidable. Since 1949, when the Vins won their first Dublin senior title, the club has 26 county championships, four Leinster club titles, two All-Ireland club championships, three Dublin intermediate titles, and – not to be overlooked – 13 Dublin senior hurling titles.

The '50s and '60s were decades in which St Vincent's dominated the Dublin club scene and provided the core of the county teams that won the All-Ireland in 1958 and 1963.

Between 1949 and 1955, Vincent's won a record seven Dublin football titles in a row. They did another six in a row ('57-62) and added three more ('64, '66 and '67) in the '60s.

The '70s was a fruitful era, too, with six county football wins, two Leinster club crowns and the All-Ireland club trophy added to the list.

In 1953, Dublin, with 14 St Vincent's players – the odd man out was goalkeeper Tony O'Grady (Air Corps) – won the National League, beating Cavan in the final.

Five years later the Dubs were All-Ireland senior and minor champions and St Vincent's had 18 players involved between the two teams. Des Foley captained the minors in '58.

Brian Mullins, a GAA legend, is now adult games director at the club. He joined St Vincent's when he was 15 and was schooled in the ethos of the club.

"You quickly learned that the simple facts of life were about effort, about commitment, about being the best you can be, about putting your best foot forward, about carrying the jersey and the spirit of the club with pride and distinction," he says.

"It was about doing your best and giving of your best and it was about blood sweat and tears in training and in matches."

That still holds true for the present generation of St Vincent's players.


Path to the final

St Vincent's 1-9 Ballymun Kickhams 1-8 (Dublin final replay)

St Vincent's 0-11 St Loman's (W'meath) 0-9 (Leinster quarter-final)

St Vincent's 1-14 Summerhill (Meath) 1-10 (Leinster semi-final)

St Vincent's 3-12 Portlaoise (Laois) 3-9 (Leinster final)

St Vincent's 2-14 Ballinderry (Derry) 1-13 (All-Ireland semi-final)

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