Changing the Guard
'You feel comfortable with Evan in goal' - shades of Cluxton in Dublin's new keeper
Philly McMahon has praised his club-mate for the contribution he has made to the Dublin team.

DUBLIN DEFENDER PHILLY McMahon has praised the efforts of their new first-choice goalkeeper Evan Comerford who has come in to replace the legendary Stephen Cluxton.

gaa-all-ireland-senior-football-championship-launch David Fitzgerald / SPORTSFILE Dublin's Philly McMahon. David Fitzgerald / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

Comerford, who had been operating as Cluxton’s understudy on the panel, has made an impressive breakthrough to the starting 15 this season.

It was revealed last month that the veteran ‘keeper Cluxton had stepped away from the squad but hadn’t retired, a decision which paved the way for the Ballymun Kickhams youngster to make the step up.

Comerford has conceded just two goals in Dublin’s championship outings so far, and helped them to complete a Leinster 11-in-a-row which sends them straight into the All-Ireland semi-final.

McMahon, who is a club-mate of Comerford’s, says he sees a lot of Cluxton’s qualities in the Dubs’ new netminder.

“Just not to give you the cliché answer that you probably think I’m going to give you. So as a full back, how I would rate a goalkeeper is how you feel around him – when you are one v one and he’s behind you, or there’s a high ball coming in.

“And how comfortable you feel – I think that is one of the big things I would rate goalkeepers on. And over the years you would have sensed when there were other ‘keepers – let’s say at club or at county – he’s going to come out and take the ball and me, for the right reasons, you know.

“Or maybe his positioning, or how quick he is off his line, all those things that as a full back you want from your goalkeeper – I think Evan has that. Stephen would have had it obviously, you would have felt like he was nearly like another full back.

“Ev has that. You feel comfortable with Ev when he’s in goal. And do you know what, it’s credit to the goalkeeping coaches over the years, the management, the way they’ve developed our goalkeepers, not just Evan, Michael Shiel is there as well.

“Some people will say ‘Jeez, they are like carbon copies of Stephen.’ But it’s the coaching style, that’s the way we’ve done things over the years, we are able to have the quality in terms of the keepers we’ve had.

“Ev came in at the right time, he has obviously had one of the best ‘keepers in the game to learn from and that has shown in his performances up until now.”

McMahon is one of the more experienced members of Dessie Farrell’s Dublin outfit, and is heading for his 34th birthday next month.

The eight-time All-Ireland winner has been mostly fortunate with injuries over the years, although he did break a metacarpal in his hand as well as chip a bone in his toe back in 2011.

As he continues through the latter stages of his inter-county career, he’s learning to understand the different challenges his body is facing.

philip-mcmahon James Crombie / INPHO Philly McMahon in action for Dublin during last year's championship. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“I take the quote from Denis Bastick, time waits for nobody. So definitely, the area I’m in, in terms of strength and conditioning and the fitness industry, your body gets to a stage where you won’t become any faster. You might have fitness but ultimately the one thing you rely on is experience.

“Physiologically, your body changes but ultimately the mind gets a bit sharper and the other side of it is, something that you love so much is getting taken away from you as you get older because you’re getting close to retirement so your hunger increases massively and you get hungrier to get into better shape.

“I’m a strong believer that from pain and suffering there’ll eventually be opportunities so, for me, it’s difficult for me to say, ‘Ah well Philly, when you didn’t make that run or you made a mistake, it must be because of your age’. I don’t buy that. It’s because obviously you didn’t do something in training that week to help you.”

Dublin will take on Mayo this Saturday in a crunch final-four tie as part of a double-header with the Ladies All-Ireland semi-final between the same two counties.

A limited number of fans will be permitted to return to Hill 16 for these games as Dublin hope to continue their drive for an All-Ireland seven-in-a-row. And although McMahon is getting less game time on the Dublin team, he’s still excited to see faces back on the famous terrace again.

“It’s good news,” says McMahon. “When you look at the energy it gives to the game. Since we’ve had the situation with Covid, I’ve always said that it’s hugely important to have fans in the stadium to give the energy when it’s safe to do so.

“When you look across and see Hill 16 empty, you get that sense of, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have fans there and how much more energy it would give everybody?’ Not just us but the opposing teams as well.

“If you look at the European game that Bohs had, the Bohs fans made a huge difference to the players. I’ve no doubt that having some fans in Hill 16 will make a difference.”

Philly McMahon was speaking at the launch of the All-Ireland senior football championship.

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