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'I Had Some Troubles In My Later Teens. GAA Wasn't A Big Thing For Me'

'I Had Some Troubles In My Later Teens. GAA Wasn't A Big Thing For Me'
By PJ Browne

"It's funny, it's come full circle," says Wicklow footballer Dean Healy.

This weekend, Healy will line out for the county when they face Waterford in the preliminary round of the inaugural Tailteann Cup. Wicklow will do so with joint managers Gary Duffy and Alan Costello in charge. The duo took over from Colin Kelly in March after the Louth man unexpectedly stepped down, citing work commitments.

Healy knows Duffy well. They both hail from the St Patrick's club in Wicklow town. He also credits Duffy with helping turn his life in the right direction when other bumpier paths were open.

'GAA steered me in the right direction'

"I work in Dublin and my partner and her family are originally from Dublin," says Healy.
"Over the years there has been questions raised in terms of would you like to be from another county and get that bit more exposure. Listen, my family take great pride in me playing for Wicklow. GAA came along for me at a time for me in my life where it steered me in the right direction.

"I had some troubles throughout my later teens. GAA wasn't a big thing for me. I played on all the underage squads with the club but GAA was never really a big focus for me.

Dean Healy of Wicklow during the Tailteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"When I was 16 or 17-years-of-age, it was something that I put enormous energy into in terms of trying to make myself a better person. Gary Duffy, who took on the interim management role, he would have had a heavy influence on my in and around that period, along with a number of other lads in the club.

"It's just crazy how it's come full circle. He initially took me on at minor, and I was fortunate enough to play a year or two with him before he suffered a bad cruciate injury. Then he ended up coaching us to success back home in a number of championships. He took me under his wing when I was 17-years-of-age, and here I am 13 years later, and he's managing me at inter-county level.

"My club, to its credit, and then the county later on, put me on a path in life that's given me ample opportunity. It might not have given me much exposure, but exposure means very little to me. I take enormous pride in representing Wicklow. My family do too.

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"I have a young daughter who is 14 months old and she's travelling the length and breadth of the country and experiencing all these grounds. It means very little to her now and she won't remember it but it'll mean a lot to me in years to come when you're showing her pictures of all of that."

This is Healy's 12th season playing at senior level for Wicklow. Mick O'Dwyer gave him his league debut in 2011 during his last campaign in charge. He made his championship bow the following year.

Along with a few others in their 30s, Healy is one of the group's "elder statesmen". It is a young panel, with its bulk coming from minor teams who had decent results in recent years. Healy says that does help with motivation "until you hear what they are listening to on the boom box!"

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27 March 2022; Wicklow joint managers Gary Duffy, left, and Alan Costello during the Allianz Football League Division 3 match between Wicklow and Louth at County Grounds in Aughrim, Wicklow. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Healy accepts that considering Wicklow's population and strong club scene, the county is "punching well below our weight".

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"The work being done with the Garden County development squads, there are a lot of good lads coming through," he says.

"Minor this year, I know it didn't work out too well for them, Kildare gave them a bit of a clipping in the semi-final, but they were unfortunate with the draw, I think they ended up playing four away games throughout the course of the competition.

"We'd be hoping that two or three of those lads break into the U20s next year. The U20 team this year were unfortunate to be beaten by Westmeath in Baltinglass. I was over watching it. Looking at that, there's going to be four or five lads that are brought in off the back of that next year. You're just hoping for that continuity in terms of hoping the spine of this squad stays around to build next year."

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One of the carrots for many teams in the Tailteann Cup is that the semi-finals and finals will be played at Croke Park. Healy has only played there once. That was the 2012 National League Division 4 final in which Wicklow defeated Fermanagh.

"I haven't got many years left," says Healy. "It would mean the world to me."

See Also: Down's Barry O'Hagan Changes Tune On The Tailteann Cup

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