Stats and the Piano CarriersPosted on: Nov 24 2015
Former Dublin footballer Paul Casey is a little concerned ahead of this weekend's match-up between Dublin and Donegal.
It's not so much the game that has Casey under pressure but whether he will be returned to the capital in one piece to see it. Casey's stag is falling the same weekend as the much anticipated All Ireland semi-final and Casey's younger brother is in charge of proceedings in Killarney. The Lucan Sarsfields club man spent 11 seasons in a Dublin jersey, picking up 8 Leinster titles, 1 All Ireland senior title and minor and under 21 All Ireland medals. After taking the decision to step back from inter-county football at the end of 2012 Casey set his sights on completing the London marathon. He dropped a stone during the process and returned to his club a different animal in 2014. The Lucan club has experienced a resurgence this year having been relegated from division one in 2013. They secured a win in their first round of championship and are involved at the business-end of the league. Casey admits a change in mindset was required to bring the club back in to line. Although Casey is still waiting to win his first medal with the club the enjoyment he gets from playing hasn't diminished. “It's not for the want of trying, we have always been very competitive, we were beaten in three county semi-finals by a point, the last of them was 2010. We have had some big wins despite not getting over the line, beating the likes of Dr. Crokes, those were real shock results.” Casey will turn 33 in October and admits it's a shock that he is now suddenly the second eldest on the team. Unlike Casey his newer, younger team-mates have won two under 21A championships with the club. Fellow club man Al Curtis was joint manager for one of those victories and regards the win as one of his greatest achievements. Casey sees this year's resurgence as stemming from the interest of former players and mentors including Sean McCaffrey and Mick Kilduff in making a commitment to set a standard within the club. Casey feels being relegated in 2013 has actually been a blessing in disguise. “Coming back from the county set up last year was tough, numbers were poor at training, 10 or 12 turning up but this year on average its 22 or 23 at training.”
“I knew I had three or four good years to give to the club and I was used to things being a certain way in the county set-up. If training was half seven you were on the field before it but with the club lads would be strolling in to the dressing room at half seven.” “The week before the August bank holiday there was a break from club games and we went six days training in a row, every morning and evening, a pre-season in mid-season. We began on Sunday morning at half six at the pitch and completed the last pitch session on the Friday morning. We were in the gym every evening at half seven. It was treated like a county set-up with food laid on. In a couple of years I think we will look back on that as the turning point because no one shied away from it where in previous years excuses would have been given. “ “This is by far my most enjoyable year with the club because the set-up is what I would have wanted and needed coming away from the county set-up. “We are still miles off clubs like St Vincent's and Ballymun but we are definitely going in the right direction.” “When some of the younger players came through they assumed they could replicate their u21 success and it was a wake up call for them especially. I was with the county and hearing what other clubs were doing and I knew we were a mile off. I'd like to think that I have been able to influence the younger lads since coming back and that they now accept that this is now the minimum standard that is required, that this becomes the norm.” Talking about this weekends All Ireland semi final clash, Casey says “I see Dublin as having too much fire-power for Donegal and they will wear them down, they will be able to find holes and they will have the patience and self-confidence to wait. “The thing I've noticed is that despite Dublin winning games by a cricket score, people aren't begrudging the victories and it is because players like Paul Flynn bring so much pace to the game. The lads go out to play a stylish and entertaining brand of football and they succeed in doing that even when winning by such big margins.” There is an argument that there are essentially two types of gaelic footballer, the piano carrier and the piano player, the aforementioned Paul Flynn sits neatly in the second category while Casey admits to being more identifiable in the first category. The introduction of stats however made Casey's role a more enjoyable one because the work was being measured. Casey sees immense value in having the information to hand both in real-time and after games. “As an example you could look at the Cork and Kerry Munster final. It appeared that Michael Shields and Eoin Cadogan were being roasted but the question should have been where is the supply coming from and who is the weak link in the line outside or in midfield. There is a tendency for the defender to become a scapegoat but it is very hard to defend a consistent supply. “Playing as a defensive unit we always set targets for ourselves for the half, be it blocks or possessions to drive us. If the target for the half was 12 blocks and the lad along side you had three to your zero then you knew you had your work cut out to contribute.” Stepping back from inter-county football has also allowed Casey to give a hand out with the Lucan juvenile section. We asked Paul for his three to watch – no pressure lads.......Matthew Dunne, Mark Lavin and Henry Keogh! We’ll be watching…