GAA Football

Where are they now? Former Dublin wing-back Paul Casey looks back on his days in sky blue

Paul Casey (right) and Diarmuid Connolly get to grips with Tyrone's Ryan Mellon. Casey says Connolly was one of his toughest opponents, purely from their training encounters. Picture by Seamus Loughran

Age: 36

Club: Lucan Sarsfield’s

Position: Wing-back

When did you play for Dublin?

From 2002, and then 2012 was my last year

What do you do nowadays?

I’m working with a pharmaceutical company, Servier Laboratories. I’m working as a hospital rep, medical sales so I’m on the road all the time.

Are you still involved in Gaelic football?

I still play senior football with my club and then I’ve been doing a bit of coaching with Dublin development squads the last number of years, they’re U16 now. And this year I was asked to get involved with the Dublin senior ladies’ team so I’m working alongside Mick Bohan, the manager there.

What do you remember about your first game for Dublin?

It was an O’Byrne Cup game in January 2002 against Westmeath down in Mullingar. I was marking Joe Fallon, who was a fairly speedy guy at the time. It was a cold, typical O’Byrne Cup game.

That was when Tommy Lyons had just taken over Dublin so there were a lot of new faces, fellas that were keen to impress.

A number of us were brought in from my minor team in 1999, the likes of Stephen Cluxton played that day, Barry Cahill was in there, Alan Brogan, Darren Magee and then we were playing with fellas like Paul Curran, Jim Gavin was still in there.

It was the end of an era in one way but the start of something different as well. It all feels a long time ago now.

What is the best memory from your playing days?

It might seem fairly minor nowadays, but probably winning the Leinster title in 2005. We had won it in 2002 for the first time since 95 then in 2003 we were beaten by Laois, in 2004 by Westmeath and then winning it back in 2005 was a huge thing – 82,000 people in Croke Park.

We got over the line by a point that day against Laois and that was really special. Having tasted success in 2002 and then getting it back was the start of a decent period of dominance for Dublin in Leinster.

It was a good group, a good team, a very close team, and it was nice to get that win so that was one of the better days in a Dublin jersey. During the mid to late Noughties we played against Wexford, Offaly, Laois in front of full houses and it was always very competitive at that time, and Dublin weren’t as far ahead of the crowd as they are now.

I think that team deserved to get to an All-Ireland final, for the likes of Shane Ryan, Ciaran Whelan, Darren Homan, Conal Goggins, fellas who played a long, long time for Dublin.

I always felt that if Dublin did get to an All-Ireland final we’d really take our chance, and a lot of the current Dublin team have never been beaten in a final, and thankfully we got there in 2011 and got over the line.

And the worst?

The All-Ireland minor semi-final replay defeat to Down in 1999. They would’ve had the likes of Benny Coulter, Michael Walsh, but we had some handy players too. That was a low point.

And then Mayo in the 2006 All-Ireland semi-final. We were in a great position, seven points up during the second half and they came back to pip us at the end. That was the biggest opportunity for that team to get to an All-Ireland final.

Who is the biggest character you have played with?

Shane Ryan was always great craic in the dressing room, Mark Vaughan was one of a kind, Eamon Fennell, Tom Mulligan who has sadly passed away - Tom was a good character. Those are just a few of the names that spring to mind. We were a close group and there was a lot of fellas there for the whole 10 years I was there.

Are you glad you played in your era rather than the modern day?

I read Alan Brogan saying that when Dublin would’ve played in the likes of 2005 and 2008, it was the type of game where when you were in possession of the ball, you tried to engineer a score, whereas nowadays that has changed a little bit. It’s more tactical.

You look back at the highs, but maybe you were lucky to experience the lows because they made the good days all the better. This Dublin team has experienced very few lows but we were in a transition period from the early 2000s, and I wouldn’t change any part of my playing career for the world.

Brian Dooher skips away from Dublin's Ciaran Whelan

Toughest opponent?

Brian Dooher. He was instrumental for that Tyrone team in terms of the All-Irelands they delivered. The likes of Dooher and Paul Galvin would have tested you and you’d have loved the chance to rise to that challenge.

In later years I was probably unlucky enough to mark Diarmuid Connolly in a lot of training games – he’s one of a kind. You could always see he had that bit of an X-factor to his game. He just glided over the ground.

A super footballer, and you just hope that Dublin won’t rue the fact he’s in America come the All-Ireland final.

Can Tyrone upset the odds and beat Dublin on Sunday?

I think if you gave Mickey Harte the choice of one game he could have this year, it would be to play Dublin in an All-Ireland final. The League game, the Super 8s, they won’t count for too much come All-Ireland final day.

Tyrone will come down with massive support, there’s probably a degree of expectation from people that Dublin will walk to their fourth title in-a-row, but Tyrone will leave every last drop of blood and sweat on that pitch. I can see them keeping Dublin to a low score but I struggle to see how they can do that and outscore Dublin.

I’d love to see it close going into the last five minutes – the football Championship needs it, especially with how good the hurling has been.

I think Dublin will do it, but it won’t be as easy as some people are predicting. Tyrone will have a trick or two up their sleeves.

Interview by Neil Loughran

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