Dias determined to help lead Kilmacud to more glory

Crokes stalwart missed out on the glory years with Dublin but focuses his efforts instead on his club ambitions

 Craig Dias:  ‘I’m happy enough with the situation I’m in with Kilmacud Crokes, we’re having some success, that feeds my hunger.’ Photograph: ”    Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Craig Dias: ‘I’m happy enough with the situation I’m in with Kilmacud Crokes, we’re having some success, that feeds my hunger.’ Photograph: ” Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

 

Regrets, he has a few, and enough to mention.

One of the youngest panel members of Dublin’s breakthrough All-Ireland football success in 2011, Craig Dias also has the distinction of being let go not once but twice, seven years apart, on both occasions when he might have thought things were only getting going.

Instead of a career that might have served up multiple All-Irelands, like many players around him, Dias is left wondering what might have been. Not that this haunts him, Dias primed it seems to get back to Croke Park for another AIB Club Championship final with Kilmacud Crokes, who face Pádraig Pearses of Roscommon in Saturday’s semi-final.

It’s not yet two years since Dias last appeared for Dublin, newly installed manager Dessie Farrell impressed by his showing at midfield in a challenge match a week before playing Donegal in the league; so, he gave him a start, in place of James McCarthy, only by half-time Dias was done, and hasn’t got a look in since.

“After the challenge game, where I marked Brian Fenton, I was called into training on the Tuesday, and asked by Dessie could I contribute over the weekend,” Dias recalls.

“And I said yes. Even though I had potential question marks over fitness, because it was the start of the season, only my second game.

“In Croke Park, against Donegal, a team of seasoned footballers, if you’re not on your game, you will be exploited. And that’s what happened. So I was in and out within a week. If I was in earlier in the campaign, things might have been different.”

He was let go with similar swiftness after the 2013 league, when Jim Gavin had taken over from Pat Gilroy, and found himself part of a development squad.

“At age 29, 30, I don’t think there’s more development . . . That’s more about long-term development. I knew that was my shot, and it probably falls on myself how I communicated it to Dessie, I could have been a bit more open. But most people will grasp those opportunities, try to take them.”

Dias was only 20 when Gilroy called him into his 2011 All-Ireland winning panel, and admits now things happened so fast.

“I’d only been on the Crokes senior team a year, Pat probably wanted to develop me as a footballer, and there was a bit of work I needed to do, should have done, to get to a higher physical level. Jim cutting me, he had his vision of what way he wanted to play. So I just went back to the club, got stuck into that.

Never transpired

“Every manager I had was saying it, that I had the ability to get back in there, some even approached Jim to have another look at me. It never transpired, for whatever reason. That’s a question you’d have to ask Jim. Life is fickle like that, you have to just concentrate on what’s in front of you. I potentially could have knocked on Jim’s door a bit more, saying I’m hungry, I want to get back in there.

And potentially his last shot? “I honestly don’t know, I’m happy enough with the situation I’m in with Kilmacud Crokes, we’re having some success, that feeds my hunger.”

For that he credits Kilmacud manager Robbie Brennan, who had him “falling in love with football again”, thanks to a more expansive style of play.

There are other potential reasons why his Dublin career never took off, as Dias began to focus on his career with Lindkin, taking to him to the US in 2018, when he missed some trial games with Dublin; with a nine-month old daughter Lola, family has taken some focus too.

When still trying to break into the Dublin panel, he can “completely understand” why the likes of his club mate Paul Mannion, or Jack McCaffrey, would opt out completely. Nor does he hold any grudge against all the success of Dublin while he looked on.

“Who’s to say I deserved to be there? I’m not saying I deserved to be there, some of my performance in campaigns wouldn’t warrant me getting called up. Was I doing the work off it, at times, as well? So there’s questions that need to be put to myself too. But there were campaigns [when] I was performing well, and the hardest part was seeing players getting called up for challenge games, and not getting called up as well.

“But managers throughout history, whatever sport it is, make the decision on players, it’s all about relationships. I got a second chance, later in life, so there’s no real harsh heartache, I don’t look at the ‘what ifs’. I’ve had a good career with Kilmacud Crokes, captained a big community for four or five years, I can hold my head up about that.”

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