August 21, 1992
Dublin's Mick Deegan
MICK DEEGAN OF THE DUBS
A real class act
It may be reckoned to be the most open All Ireland Senior Championship for some time, but there is an unavoidable sense throughout the country that Dublin are a class apart this year. The Dubs are the clear favourites. Sounds like a paradox? Well read on folks 'cause there's more where that came from.
Punters in reality, just cant make up their minds just how good the current Dublin squad really is and how potent on the other hand, the opposition is. Dublin's rearguard is immensely strong but their attack is deemed no more than fitful and workmanlike at best. Midfield for the Metropolitans has been a problem for a long time now and consistently requires buffeting from the trio just behind them. Yet, when all theories are teased out on paper, which team does the necessary in much the more impressive style?
Whatever about their overall strength as a unit, the Dublin team which will cross swords with the 'erstwhile minnows of Clare on Sunday next, have in their ranks arguably the most resolute and effective backline seen in gaelic football since Paud O'Shea and Sean Doherty teamed up with various partners to mix and match it with the best back some dozen years ago.
The tipsters suggest that if Dublin's forwards can convert forty percent of their supply and the team's midfield pairing can break even, then the Dublin defence can see to the rest. On the evidence on what we have seen, in recent years, but more especially in the season '92, it is hard to argue with the theory that Dublin's rearguard are the Sky Blues match winning-sector. In a crazy turn-around from what we have come to admire of Dublin teams containing the likes of O'Toole, Keaveney, Doyle, Rock and Duff, it's the sextet at the rear who have been credited, for the most part, with Dublin's recent resurgence.
Behind the highly vaulted trio of messrs. Paul Curran, Keith Barr and Eamon Heery in the half back line hovers a menacing and equally resilient quartet including John O'Leary in goal. Mick Deegan, football's equivalent of a workaholic, is one of that quartet and by Sunday next, his name should just about be carved on his second successive All Star Award.
Long-legged, amazingly mobile and with apparently more stamina than all three Marathon finishers in Barcelona's recently held carnival, Mick Deegan is a True Blue in every sense of the apt description. His extremely lean and superbly fit physique suits Dublin's effervescent style of play down to the ground. One could hardly imagine the Erin's Isle stalwart performing with such venom and sheer effectiveness on any other county team.
From the very start of the Deegan/Dubs amalgamation, the notions that medals were to be something for others to collect became a still-birth, almost immediately. At eighteen years of age, the then slight figure from the north side of the city was one of the stars on the Dublin assembly line of promising underage teams. 1982 saw the Finglas lad hit the jackpot with a mighty splash, winning an All-Ireland minor medal at the expense of a Sean Wight (later of Australian Rules fame) powered Kerry side.
Wight and his southern colleagues could hardly have foreseen the progression, which was to be made by the leading lights of the Dublin side. Deegan was one of a number of extremely talented minors of that era. More of them ought to have graduated to higher and more prestigious grades of football. Instead the Finglas footballer was joined by only two other likely lads, in the contrasting shapes of Eamonn Heery and Joe McNally, on the ladder of further success with the capital side.
Ironically, Dublin's greatest unsung hero should more likely have been playing hurling alongside his current club colleague John Twomey on the Dublin county side. Hurling might well have captured the heart of one Mick Deegan if he had followed the sport engrained in the psyche of his father and mother, the former a one-time senior player with Kinnity in Offaly and the latter from hurling country in Ballinasloe in Galway.
Three years of consistently impressive under 21 seasons in the Sky Blue augmented his desire to make a senior place his own. His under 21 days also made him acutely aware of the level of commitment and determination which would be needed to assume a position on Dublin's elite XV. There was, Deegan observed, a high fall-out between the grades but a passion for playing the game and a driving ambition to make the grade spurred him on with gusto.
Looking back, there was a sense within the man himself that he owed it to his family, to his 'erstwhile underage tutors and supporters to make the Dublin senior squad. He had made a conscious decision to "go with gaelic" and at the behest of mentors like Clare man Frank McNamara at Erin's Isle and Brother McDonald at Saint Kevin's Secondary school Mick worked hard to improve his skills and speed of the mark. He had seen older students at the school go through the system at St Kevin's and graduating with honours, both sporting and of course, academic. Former students like Barney Rock, Gerry Hargan, Anto McCaul and Declan Sheehan, had all gone the path that Mick Deegan now waned to go and in time did so.
His elevation to the Dublin senior panel in 1985 surprised nobody and was almost the case of the player progressing naturally from the ranks. Kevin Heffernan recognised very early the talents of the eager youngster and with typical dedication Mick carved out an ever-present place for himself on the county panel. A National League debut in'85 against Longford presented him with a winning start to his senior career and a "one-to-watch" tag.
Meath's domination of Leinster and a type of dog-eat-dog rivalry for places on the Dublin team meant that it wasn't until 1989 that Deegan claimed a place on the country's list of household G.A.A names. Ironically losing his place mid-way through the season with a disc problem, his services were dramatically called for in the Leinster final that year after Bernard Flynn threatened to do a D.I.Y job on demolishing Dublin's chances of a Leinster title. His achievements in putting the clamps on Flynn that day played a huge part in arresting Meath's charge and so land himself and his team mates a precious provincial medal at senior level.
Seen as a natural replacement on Dublin's half back line in the aftermath of the break up of the P.J Buckley, Pat Canavan and Tommy Drumm arrangement, Deegan's policing of Flynn in '89 showed him at his best. Containing without fouling, shadowing without committing, and staying composed at all times.
Now the chief bombardier at K.D.K Auto Services on Finglas's Jamestown Rd., the affable right full back is probably in the best shape of his life. A National League winner last year to add to his All-Star, collected in company with fellow Dubs Keith Barr and Tommy Carr, amazingly, he has yet to claim a Dublin senior championship medal. Not that, as an Erin's Isle player, he's on his own in that regard. Curiously the club have never won the Dublin Senior Football Championship.
Along with club mates Keith and John Barr plus Charlie Redmond, the pressure is on messr, Deegan to deliver on both fronts. Then again no better man to deliver when most needed. Ask Messrs. Farrell, Murphy and Galvin.
Having been part of Erin's Isle Championship final losing team in 1982, Mick Deegan is anxious to help the club break it's duck in that regard. As anxious, no doubt, as selectors Paddy Canning , Christy Cox and former Meath, and ironically Mick Downes, now trainer of the Erin's Isle side. With promising players such as Robbie Boyle and Terry Russell beginning to show county senior type form, the omens cannot be all that bad for the Finglas-based Dublin outfit. Such is the current football workload exerted on Mick's shoulders these days, he's not been able to play with his club for over four months now. In the interim, Erin's Isle have displayed their wares in the A.I.B and St. Vincent De Paul competitions without their centre back and club captain. These are the rules laid down for all club players involved with the county panel, a point which, for a loyal club servant like Deegan, is accepted fully, if not altogether wholeheartedly.
A veritable sweeper between his county half back line and comrades Hargan and Carr, Mick Deegan is as likely to get on the scoresheet as he to pop up at the other end of the pitch to pull off a crucial goal line clearance. His is a crowd pleasing style, and on the ball, there are few more able and skilful defenders in the game at present.
Conscious of the fact that it's now exactly ten years since he was a self declared All Ireland medal winner, Mick Deegan may hint at the fact that, Mick Kennedy and David Foran apart, the team is young enough to come again. However, deep down he knows and the whole country knows that Dublin need, with all capital letters aglow, to win this year's All Ireland outright. Mick Deegan looks set to play a key role in attempting to fulfil that urgent need.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
21st August 1992
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