NIALL SCULLY – 30 APRIL 2013 02:00 PM
THEY were calling it ‘The Posh Final’. Kilmacud Crokes against Cuala in last year’s Dublin Senior Hurling Championship decider. But that Sunday appointment between the southside giants in Parnell Park didn’t much resemble an afternoon tea party.
It was less private school and more hardy boys. And it was Kilmacud who took the prize, their first county SHC in 27 years.
And now hurling’s wheel of fortune is about to turn again. The 2013 championship throws in this week.
And for the champions, they face St Brigid’s in a repeat of their quarter-final at O’Toole Park last term.
Brigid’s played with spirit on that Sunday morning, but eventually Crokes prevailed, as they did against Lucan in the semi-final.
Seán McGrath added a parcel of panache to Kilmacud during the campaign.
A gifted, silky forward, he made a handsome contribution to the success that brought a tear to many of the faithful in Páirc de Burca.
“It was such a big thing for the club to win the championship after all those years,” reflected Seán.
“It meant so much to the club, and especially to the members who have been there for years.
“It was a long time coming. It certainly wasn’t an overnight success or anything like it.
“Everybody put in such an effort. All those hours in the gym and at the hurling wall paid off in the end.”
It was Seán’s third championship campaign with the Kilmacud seniors. “The first couple of years were tough enough.
“I remember getting beaten in the semi-final by St Vincent’s the first season and then O’Toole’s in the 2011 quarter-final.
“We just weren’t doing ourselves justice. We knew we were capable of better.
“Then last season everything just clicked. But, as I say, it was a long process.”
Kilmacud didn’t lose a game in the group or in the knock-out stage, and their excellence was a tribute to the focus of the squad and their management team and backroom crew of Gearóid ó Riain, Pat Halpin, Billy Noctor, Robbie Leahy, Sean Allen, Chris Thompson and Brid O’Higgins.
Some people had been quietly tipping Crokes to take the chalice, but the vast majority couldn’t see beyond Ballyboden St Enda’s securing the six-in-a-row.
Ballyboden’s brilliance lifted the capital’s roof. Seán can appreciate the echo of their endeavours. I have seen the standard of the club championship increasing all the time.
“There’s more and more clubs in contention now. There’s a serious amount of talent in Dublin.
“Take last season, you had the likes of Crumlin reaching the semi-final. They have improved a lot.
“And then Cuala getting to the final. They haven’t made much of an impact for years but now here they are back at the top.
“And regarding ourselves, we have terrific hurlers with the O’Carrolls, the O’Loughlins, the O’Rorkes and so forth.”
Seán also highly rates his Crokes and county colleague, Niall Corcoran. And he’s also a fan of another piece of Galway Crystal, Joe Canning.
Joe didn’t develop his velvet touch by sitting on the couch watching Coronation Street, and how well Sean knows it.
“It’s tremendous to watch a player like Joe Canning. His touch is just super. He works so hard on his game, and it shows.”
Seán knows, from first-hand experience, what it takes to reach the summit. This is his first year with Dalo’s Dublin.
He has been made to feel very much at home. He is comfortable amid the blue furniture.
“It’s very enjoyable. I have been with the Dublin U-21s, but to be involved in the senior set-up is just unreal.
“Having somebody like Anthony Daly as your manager is a big plus. He has done it all.
“You can only learn from listening to him and his management team. They all bring such huge experience to it.”
Seán is hoping that Kilmacud’s experience will get them out of Group C, which includes Na Fianna, St Jude’s and Brigid’s.
Last year’s runners-up Cuala, just like last season, have been placed in the group of death alongside Lucan Sarsfields, O’Toole’s and Craobh Chiaráin. It was the Cuala defeat that delivered the big knock-out to Ballyboden, who, remarkably, didn’t advance to the quarter-final.
That result in Parnell Park sent the text messaging service into overdrive. People couldn’t believe that Boden were gone.
Despite their slow start in the group, most fancied that they’d come good eventually. But not this time. Cuala were chuffed with that win, but they wanted to park it as quickly as possible. “There is no point in beating the champions if you are going to lose your next game,” insisted manager, Harry Roberts.
Harry did a superb job with Cuala. He sparked the Dalkey revolution. It was 19 years since they last won the trophy, and they hadn’t been back to the final since then.
Harry saluted the honesty and industry of the squad.
They managed to get over Chiaráins in the quarter-final. That was a huge result. And then they overcame Crumlin in the semi-final.
Crumlin now find themselves residing in Group B with Faughs, St Oliver Plunkett’s/ER and Ballinteer St John’s. Ballyboden will be keen to get back on the bike against Naomh Fionnbarra tonight. They share Group D with St Patrick’s (P) and St Vincent’s.
It was against Vins in 2007, under the Parnell Park lights, that Boden won their first title.
It began the march of ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ and the golden days on the Firhouse Road.
They’d love to sample them again. New manager Johnny Kenny steps into the championship cockpit against the Bars. In the modern era, no club did more to raise the bar in Dublin hurling than Boden. And this season, more than ever, the Dublin Senior Hurling Championship is packed with more intrigue and drama than you’d get on the BBC.