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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Mark McCadden

Castleknock Celtic, sleepovers and Italian football on Channel 4 - growing up with Colin Farrell

Before Hollywood and Oscar nominations there were sleepovers, regular trips to the cinema and Football Italia on Channel 4 every Sunday afternoon.

For David ‘Dickie’ Byrne, a defender who went on to play briefly in the League of Ireland with Home Farm Everton, Dublin City and Monaghan United, it was all about AC Milan and their defence built around Franco Baresi and a young Paolo Maldini.

Colin Farrell, Byrne’s closest childhood pal and teammate at Castleknock Celtic was taken by the attacking play of Sampdoria’s brilliant and bald star, Attilio Lombardo.

Byrne was involved in a couple of Under-15 and 16 international squads, alongside Shay Given, Mark Kennedy, Gareth Farrelly and Keith O’Neill, but didn’t win a cap.

He played with Owen Heary and Stephen McGuinness at Home Farm - and now has a daughter playing for Bohemians’ Under-14s.

Farrell’s dream at the time was to be a professional footballer, to follow in the footsteps of his FAI Cup winning dad Eamon and uncle Tommy.

He was called for international trials but didn’t make the cut, and soon after he turned to acting.

“I played until I was about 15 and I thought it was what I wanted to do. And then I realised I'd do something less meaningful, like acting,” he once told late night US television legend David Letterman.

“I thought I might have been (good enough), but I had a can of beer when I was 14 and that was the end of that. I didn't want it enough.”

‘Dickie’ Byrne remembers a time when Farrell did want it, when they lined out together for a Castleknock Celtic side managed by Shamrock Rovers’ 1962 Cup winner Eamon.

“He was a good player. He went for international trials, I remember Eamon dropping us out for international trials together,” Byrne tells the Irish Daily Star.

“There were loads of players asked to go out. Barry Maguire was another lad we played with at Castleknock and he was capped against Wales.

“Colin was there for a few of them. It wasn’t a case of him being told ‘thanks but no thanks’ after the first one.

“He had a good touch, a good strike and he could put a challenge in every now and again.

“He could definitely play. His dad was always emphasising that we should be composed on the ball and that we should believe in our own ability, and take players on when needs be.

“Eamon was never one for screaming on the sideline, he’d be one for always being positive and getting the ball under pressure, and believing in yourself.

“If mistakes happened, they happened. He’d just tell us to get the ball back and not to shy away from the game.

“His brother Tommy would have been at a few of our games as well and they’d be chatting together, watching and giving their input and guidance.”

That pedigree of coaching was ahead of what many kids were receiving in the early 90s.

Eamon was a one-time Cup winner, who played in the European Cup Winners’ Cup against Bulgarian side Botev Plovdiv, while uncle Tommy was involved in three of Rovers’ famous six-in-a-row wins in the 1960s.

Former Ireland international Frank O’Neill was involved in ‘62, as well as the historic run from ‘64 to ‘69.

O’Neill recalls: “Eamon played for Home Farm when I was there. He was two years beneath me in underage football. He was quite a useful player.

“I think he got a League of Ireland cap. We were in Italy somewhere around about the time of the ‘62 Cup final. I’m certain he got a league cap playing against the Italians.

“Eamon played left-half and Tommy played centre-half. Tommy wasn’t one of these rough centre-halves. He probably should have been a little more rough than he was.”

Paddy Mulligan, who went on to play for Chelsea and Ireland, has similar memories of Colin Farrell’s uncle.

According to Mulligan: “Tommy was a decent centre-half. He liked to play on the ball, which was unusual in those days.

“Tommy wasn’t an old-school centre-half, where you’d just kick the ball any place. He thought about where it was going. He was a real footballing centre-half.

“The only other centre-halves that I’d have seen play like Tommy were Charlie Hurley playing for Sunderland - he was a magnificent player - and Billy Wright playing for Wolves.

“You are scratching your head after that in regards to who’d be cultured.

“Tommy was quiet, he was very quiet actually, not nearly as outgoing as Eamon. But in his own way he was a good fellow.”

Colin Farrell wasn’t just an aspiring footballer growing up.

“He did cricket as well,” says Byrne.

He was a decent sprinter too, winning gold in the summer of 1992 in the 4x100m relay at the Dublin Community Games Athletics Finals in Santry.

As for his life outside of sport, things were good in Castleknock.

“Col and I would have been best friends. I used to stay over in his house nearly every Friday or Saturday night. Then he’d always come up to my own house,” recalls Byrne.

“We would go to The Square in Tallaght, the cinema there, his mam would bring us to the pictures.

“We’d always be back in time on Sunday afternoon to my house to have dinner and watch Italian football, when that was on the telly on Channel 4.

“It was always AC Milan, with Baresi and Maldini, and Sampdoria with Lombardo as well, we liked them too.

“We would watch football on a Sunday afternoon, that was basically it, and then my mam would call us in for dinner.

“He was always saying to my mother that he didn’t like peas, so mam made sure at Sunday dinner that there were no peas on his plate!”

Byrne continues: “Colin’s dad would drop us up to League of Ireland matches, up to Dundalk, because one of his close friends’ son (Brian Irwin) was playing for Dundalk at the time.

“We’d go to Oriel Park just to take a game or two in.

“Then as I moved on with Home Farm after Castleknock, we sort of caught up with each other every now and again.

“But he was getting more into the acting. He was busy with Ballykissangel, but every now and again we’d bump into each other and say hello and have a chat.

“We just didn’t see each other much after his film Tigerland (2000) kicked off.

“But when we were younger, we were very close.”

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