Friday, August 24, 2007

Paul McGinley on Gaelic Games in Dublin

From the archive, an extract from the 1995 Dublin Year Book and an interview between Paul McGinley and Philip Reid of the Irish Press.

FROM the first time my dad Mick, a Donegal man, but don't hold that against him, took me to Croke Park to watch the Dubs in action, I was hooked.

I remember it well. It was the 1977 All-Ireland final when Dublin destroyed Armagh. For an 11 year-old kid, it was the stuff of dreams. Magical. I was seated in the Hogan Stand with my dad and I was mesmerised by the whole occasion. Gaelic Football was actually my first sporting love and, even now, I follow the fortunes of the Dubs. No matter what course I am playing, whether it be in Europe or even further afield, I will always try to find out how they are doing.

That team of the '70s, though, was something special. And, like a generation of schoolboys from that era, I also caught the bug. My own special hero was Jimmy Keaveney, something of a cult figure to everyone, especially those on Hill 16. Jimmy was the master of the free kick. I constantly look at the video Decade of the Dubs and, to this day, still marvel at him. The way he struck the ball was magnificent, straight and low. Deadly! But it wasn't just his free-taking that endeared him to the army of Dublin supporters. It was also his cuteness and positional play. He played entirely to his strengths and we all loved him for it.

I still have many special memories from the Dubs of that era, but the match that stands out for me is the All-Ireland semi-final win in 1977 over Kerry. I remember it vividly, watching the game on television up in Donegal. It was fantastic.

The other match which stands out for me is the All-Ireland semi-final win over Cork in Pairc Ui Chaoimh in 1983, the last time Dublin actually went on to win 'Sam'. I was on Hill 16 for the drawn game, but watched the replay on television. It was a great occasion; great football with some great goals.

They were great days and my love for Dublin is still very strong, although I can't really say that I would hold any of the present side in the same hero-worship bracket as I did Jimmy Keaveney. However, whenever I am home and Dublin are playing, you can be sure I'll be there.

From a personal point of view, it was nice to see Brian Stynes return from Australia and do so well with Dublin in 1995. I played alongside his brother Jim for five years with Ballyboden St. Enda's and I still retain an interest in the club's fortunes.

As I said, Gaelic was my first love - even before golf. My introduction, really, came at St. Mary's BNS in Rathfarnham where my teacher, Fintan Walsh, would have us banding hurleys and stuff in the clasroom and, each weekend, 15 or 20 of us would head off to watch Dublin playing. From those early days, I had aspirations of playing for the Dubs. Who knows what might have happened? But fate intervened when I smashed my knee cap. I was 20 then and had played senior hurling with Ballyboden and was just breaking into the club's senior football team.

That injury, however, finished my career. I was on crutches for nine months and couldn't play football again. It was only then that golf took over. I was a four-handicapper at the time of the injury and, after I recovered, I took to golf seriously and got down to scratch within a year and went off to San Diego on a golfing scholarship. In many ways, that injury opened up an entire new destiny for me because I wonder if I would have pursued a golfing career at all. Of course, I am happy now with the way things have worked out.

However, it is nice to know that Ballyboden St. Enda's and my old school, Colaiste Eanna, are following my career. After the Walker Cup in Portmarnock in 1991, both club and school presented me with mementos. As for the Dubs, I will follow them closely. And I hope that the Sam Maguire returns to the capital sooner rather than later.

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