'On the pitch he sometimes goes beyond the line, you're not going to intimidate him'

Paddy Christie has followed the career of Ballymun Kickhams clubmate and Dublin star Philly McMahon at close quarters.

Philly McMahon with Sam Maguire.
Philly McMahon with Sam Maguire.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

HE’S NO ANGEL, Paddy Christie admits, but Philly McMahon is a good ‘un in his eyes.

Christie knows McMahon since he was eight or nine years of age, coached him from U10 right through to U21 at club level and will always stand in his corner.

In a recent Sunday newspaper article, McMahon paid tribute to Christie and the influence he’s had on his career.

He’s not the only one who’s referenced the impact of the former Dublin captain.

Alan Hubbard, a former Dublin senior panellist and Ballymun Kickhams clubmate, described Christie as one of the biggest influences on his career.

McMahon, Dean Rock, James McCarthy, John Small and Davey Byrne won All-Ireland medals with Dublin recently.

All are Ballymun Kickhams men. All have been coached by Christie.

Paddy Christie Paddy Christie was Dublin minor boss this year. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

McMahon, in some people’s eyes, is public enemy number one. If you’re from Dublin, you love him. If you’re not, you may have other opinions.

“Philly’s a very good role model for the area and any kids in the area,” Christie insists.

“He’s successful in business, gained a degree from DCU (Bachelor of Science, Education and Training).

“On the pitch he sometimes goes beyond the line but those things are a regular occurrence in sport, where fellas sometimes just go past the boundaries.

“I remember starting off in my own career and a lot of stuff went on. You either put up or shut up.

“You’d get smacks and stuff would be done to you but you took it.

Rory O'Carroll and Philly McMahon tackle Kieran Donaghy Philly McMahon's controversial tangle with Kerry's Kieran Donaghy in the All-Ireland final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“There’s still an edge to the game and a lot of the fellas who do very well play close to the edge.

“You’re not going to intimidate him (McMahon) too easy. He’s a good footballer but can play it any way, with football or by being more robust if needs be.

“But he’s a good footballer with a good attitude and he’s a decent bloke.

“Over the years he’s had to mix it as well. He’s managed to attract some attention and a bit of a name but things stick and you tend to get the blame for everything then.

“People automatically make assumptions but in the bigger scheme of things, he’s done very well for himself, he wants to win very badly and that’s part and parcel of the game.

“The Tyrone and Armagh teams that won All-Irelands, even look at the Kerry teams, it wasn’t long ago that Kerry played Cork (2009 All-Ireland final) and the Cork midfielder (Nicholas Murphy) was taken out by a very physical, heavy tackle (from Tadhg Kennelly).

Tadhg Kenneally and Nicholas Murphy Tadhg Kennelly clashed with Nicholas Murphy early in the 2009 All-Ireland final. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

“I think sometimes these things are forgotten about. If Philly did it, he’d be the worst in the world. When other teams do it, it’s part and parcel of the game.

“He’s no angel and I’m not going to portray him as being more sinned against than sinning but from what I’ve seen of him over the years, he’s very competitive and wants to win. He’s one of many fellas like that, I’ve played with many of them over the years.”

He’s coached many of them, too.

“Philly and Davey Byrne, I had them from eight or nine years of age,” Christie explains.

“James and Dean were different, a few years younger than those lads.

“They would have played on a completely separate team up until 16 or 17, when they joined my U21 team.

“Philly and those boys were on their first or second year at U21 and James and Dean would have come on as first year minors and joined our (U21) panel.

“John Small was younger again, he was U21 last year.”

Dublin captain Paddy Christie lifts the Leinster trophy Paddy Christie lifts the Delaney Cup for Dublin following the 2005 Leinster SFC final. Source: ©INPHO

The genesis for Christie’s coaching involvement at club level dates back to the mid-1990s and ever since, it’s been a remarkable tale of progression.

McMahon’s crop wasn’t successful until 2007 and 2008, at U21 level with Christie, when they won back to back county U21 titles after losing a minor decider to Kilmacud Crokes.

“What happened was, I started doing summer camps for the county board in 1996 and it led on from that,” Christie recalls.

“I started a bit of part-time coaching in the local schools and took a team around that time at U10, Philly McMahon’s team.

“Himself and Davy were on that and a lot of other fellas still heavily involved from that team, like Ted Furman, my own brother, Alan Hubbard, Sean Currie, sub goalkeeper for the Dublin panel until the summer, Jason Whelan, who played a couple of League matches this year.

Sean Currie Sean Currie was a member of the Dublin senior football panel earlier this year. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“I’m a teacher at Our Lady of Victories school on the Ballymun Road and there’s a real good link between the local schools and the club.

“I started teaching in that school in 2001, there wasn’t a huge tradition there.

“It was a school that would have been quiet enough on the sport front but thankfully between myself and a few other staff, we started to build up a bit of a tradition.

“Since then, we’ve always had some good footballers through the ranks.

“Sacred Heart, where James McCarthy went, is another feeder school and along with Our Lady of Victories, they’re two of the bigger schools in the catchment area.”

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Following the 2008 U21 success, Christie took over another crop of U10s.

James McCarthy celebrates at the final whistle James McCarthy is another key player for Ballymun Kickhams and Dublin. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

He’s now in the eighth year of that cycle and the ominous news for other would-be challengers in Dublin is that this group has swept the boards through the various grades.

Ten Ballymun players featured on this year’s Dublin minor panel, also managed by Christie, and he believes the potential is there to eclipse the achievements of the McMahon-led graduates he previously managed at club level.

When Christie’s minors progress to U21, and eventually to senior, merging them with McMahon and co. could make Ballymun an unstoppable force for a spell.

The immediate aim for the club is progression in the Dublin SFC and on Saturday, they pit their wits against St Vincents in a glamour Parnell Park encounter.

St Vincent's celebrate St Vincents celebrate their 2013 Dublin SFC final replay victory over Ballymun Kickhams. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

McMahon against Diarmuid Connolly is just one of the many brilliant potential head-to-heads on both teams, in what will be a repeat of the 2013 county decider.

“Vincents and Ballymun is a numbers game,” Christie reflects.

“Vincents would have less Dublin panellists but Connolly is worth more than one player, you would think.

“There are other (Vincents) fellas not that far behind, like Mossy Quinn and Ger Brennan, who’s basically a Dublin panellist bar the fact that he wasn’t there this year.

“But if Ger is injury-free and everything works out for him, he would probably be starting (for Dublin).

“Then we have the likes of Ted and Alan Hubbard, who played Dublin senior and Alan would have played a lot of championship under Pat Gilroy.

Diarmuid Connolly and Paddy Andrews celebrate Diarmuid Connolly is almost worth two players, says Paddy Christie. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“You’ve got a lot of guys with huge experience and if they were playing in any other county, they’d probably be playing with that county for ten or 15 years.

“There’s hardly a fella on their team (Vincents), or Ballymun who hasn’t been a county panellist at some stage.

“And there’s Sean George, who won an All-Ireland U21 with Dublin and a county championship (2012).

“He’s not featuring now because he’s abroad at the moment but again, if you look at their list of players and Ballymun’s, there just seems to be intercounty pedigree across the two panels.”

Should be something to savour.

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