Collins duo will fly the flag for Haven dynasty

FEW families have contributed as much to the development of a GAA club as the Collins dynasty in Castlehaven.

When Castlehaven reached the final of the Cork SFC for the first time in 1979, six brothers from the Collins clan wore the famous blue and white colours of the beaten team.

Dinty was at full back, Bernard in the centre of defence, Christy played midfield, Francis was on the forty, Anthony on the wing, while dual star Donal filled the full forward position.

Ten years later when the Haven were crowned champions for the first time, after defeating St. Finbarr's, Francis again played in attack.

In 1994, when Castlehaven again triumphed, this time at the expense of next-door neighbours O'Donovan Rossa, Skibbereen, following a replay, Brian a son of Dinty's starred in defence. Three years later when Castlehaven lost to Beara, again after a replay, Brian was again in the thick of the action.

And when Castlehaven throw down the gauntlet to fellow west Cork club Clonakilty in Sunday's permanent tsb final showdown at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Liam and Bernie, sons of Christy, will keep the Collins flag flying. Liam will captain the side, with Bernie leading the attack.

However, at the start of the new Millennium it appeared distinctly unlikely that Bernie would be around to lend assistance to the Haven.

An outstanding Cork minor and under-21 player, Collins made his senior debut against Limerick in 2000. That brought him to the notice of Australian Rules scout Tom O'Donnell, a member of the staff at DCU.

He was invited to a trial at DCU with 14 other young hopefuls and was one of three chosen to sign professionally with the Western Bulldogs club in Melbourne.

"It was an exciting period in my life. Playing with the Bulldogs was a fabulous experience. I was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of Tony Liberatorie, who had just received the Brownlow medal as the most consistent player in the Australian rules game.

"From Tony, whose parents were Italian, I learned what mental toughness was all about and about setting new targets for myself. I trained exceptionally hard with the help of dieticians and other medical staff and I was really flying."

But then disaster struck. After nine first-team appearances Collins tore a quad when kicking a ball in practice.

It was the start of a series of injuries, including two hamstrings and a foot injury that were to lead to the end of his Australian Rules career.

"It was a very frustrating time for me and although I had already made up my mind to quit and come home in 2002, my departure was hastened when I received a phone call from Larry Tompkins asking me to re-join the Cork panel."

But things did not run smooth for Collins on his return. He again damaged a hamstring which ruled him out of the All-Ireland semi final against Kerry.

However, with the help of his friend Darren Fitzpatrick, a member of the Irish Compromise Rules back-room team, Collins has managed to stay injury-free this season and has played a pivotal role in Castlehaven's triumphant march to the final.

"After Australia, I am now enjoying my football greatly and it would be a wonderful climax if we win on Sunday."

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