Thursday, August 24, 2006

Paddy Cullen waves good bye to the old Hill

From the archive an extract from the Dublin Yearbook of 1989 an interview by John Brennan of the Irish Press with Paddy Cullen.

No Dublin player stood closer to the ranks of the loyal supporters on Hill 16 than Paddy Cullen, goalkeeper for six glory years in the Blue and for many more years, when times weren't so good. But his head rules his heart as he surveys the New Hill 16, yet to be tested by Dublin supporters.
"It was a great place, no doubt about it. There was an atmosphere all its own, that no other terrace could match. When you ran onto Croke Park from the old dressing-rooms under the Cusack Stand, the noise hit you like a blast of wind. It was always good to know they were with you, not against you", says Paddy, now tending to business in his Dublin pub.
But he feels nostalgia is only experienced because the Dubs supporters haven't `christened' the Hill with blue yet. "From what I saw of the new terrace at the All-Ireland finals, it seems to be much neater and safer. There are better access and exit facilities. There are more toilets and more room to move and the heaving and crushing that was a dangerous feature of the old Hill isn't possible now with the steeper steps".
Those steps may have been introduced so that, one day in the future, seats might be put on the Hill. That would change its character completely, but for the moment Cullen's memories are only of the good times.
"The fans were always very fair to me. I was standing so close you could hear all the wise cracks and the remarks. But, in all the years I guarded the goal at that end, you never heard any barbed comments or unfair criticism. You were fully informed if you made a mistake and that was that. Then it was back to solid support all the way. It was a special breed of supporter who stood on that Hill and that won't change because there's new concrete in there", he says.
The irony of Cullen's love affair with the folk on the Hill is that his two most memorable incidents in a Dublin jersey took place at the other end of the pitch, in front of the Canal End terrace. The penalty save from Liam Sammon in the second half of the 1974 All-Ireland final which turned the game towards Dublin and Mikey Sheehy's infamous goal in the
1978 decider against Kerry, which helped swing a final away from the Metropolitans.
"I suppose I should be grateful for that", he laughs, "I'd probably have been canonised after one and lynched after the other. But there were always good times playing for Dublin. It was something special, and I'm sure the players now would tell you it still is".
When the old Hill was finally closed with a Dublin win, fittingly enough, in a challenge game over Armagh, Cullen got a last chance to play in front of the terracing when he stepped up to attempt to save a few half-time penalties for the sports charity GOAL. "I didn't stop too many of them, but what can you expect at my age?"

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