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true blue 'I have no intentions of walking away' - Niall Scully's motivation after slow ascent to the top

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Dublin footballer Niall Scully at the launch of the new virtual AIG Health Plus portal which offers free membership at www.aig.ie/dubgym for all Dublin GAA club players. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Dublin footballer Niall Scully at the launch of the new virtual AIG Health Plus portal which offers free membership at www.aig.ie/dubgym for all Dublin GAA club players. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Dublin footballer Niall Scully at the launch of the new virtual AIG Health Plus portal which offers free membership at www.aig.ie/dubgym for all Dublin GAA club players. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

The 2011 All-Ireland minor football final was in its dying minutes when Niall Scully was thrown into the tumult. Colman Kennedy had goaled for Tipperary just minutes earlier and there would be no way back for Dessie Farrell’s scorching favourites.

That Dublin team of all talents included Ciarán Kilkenny, Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion who, within two years, were starting an All-Ireland senior final.

But even though the younger Scully savoured delayed minor gratification in 2012, his senior ascent was far less certain. Which may explain why, four Celtic Crosses and now one All Star later, he has no intention of abandoning his Dublin dream any year soon.

McCaffrey and Mannion have opted out for now at least. Scully, 27 next month, is going nowhere.

“After finishing minor and finishing U-21, it probably took me three or four years to get on the panel, along with getting dropped two or three times. So, it probably helps to where I am mentally in the game now, and where I will be over the next two or three years,” he explained, speaking at the launch of the new virtual AIG Health & Wellness portal.

“I have no intentions of walking away any time soon. We’re here to win All-Irelands and we’re here to enjoy the company of the Dublin players, and that’s the main thing. It’s a big part of my life now – and hopefully it will remain to be over the next three, four years with a bit of luck.”

Asked if he ever wondered that he might not make the step up, Scully admits: “Plenty of times that would have crossed my mind – mostly in 2016 and then coming into the 2017 season. Playing in that O’Byrne Cup, probably mentally I knew – not knew it was my last opportunity, but knew it was time to give it a good crack and do my best to get on the panel. That was the main focus, just get on the panel, don’t mind getting on starting teams or playing in All-Ireland finals.”

For the first two summers of the ‘search for six’, the Templeogue Synge St clubman was in Chicago. January 2017 was his watershed month: he has been a regular more or less ever since, albeit not starting that year’s epic decider with Mayo.

All the while, his team have kept on winning. If Scully has strong views on the increasingly polarised debate over Dublin’s dominance, he isn’t inclined to reveal too much in public.

“I’ve been waiting for that one!” he says. “When we were going for five consecutive All-Irelands, there was hype being built around us and that conversation was one we all avoided. Look, people are going to say what they want to say or write that stuff but our mindset is ‘control the controllables’ and that (talk) is something we can’t. It definitely doesn’t hurt me.”

He can't explain “the dominance bit” other than “it’s just the mindset of all the individuals that have come together over the last five or six years and, when you think about the leaders in the squad, there’s never a time when you’re not thinking or being challenged. Jonny Cooper, Stephen Cluxton – they’re always at you, making you improve and that’s probably why standards haven’t dropped.”

To Scully, last year was not about six-in-a-row titles and far more about “I felt I owed it” to Farrell for all he had given him at minor and U-21.

“After the final I took three or four weeks off exercise. If you were around you’d have seen the mood drop a good bit. We’re all feeling it, we’re all nearly exhausted,” he says.

"That’s the incentive AIG are offering here, an opportunity for clubs and members to get the mind and body active again. The cases are going down. We’re looking like we’re coming to a bit of action soon. No better time to be getting prepared for that.”

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