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Saturday 10 December 2016

Boland: We've been here since day one

Extraordinary rise of Castleknock will hasten regardless of the result in tomorrow's decider

Shane Boland has been a dynamic force for Castleknock on their run to tomorrow’s Dublin SFC final against St Vincent’s
Shane Boland has been a dynamic force for Castleknock on their run to tomorrow’s Dublin SFC final against St Vincent’s
Castleknock captains Daniel Murphy, left, and Alex Watson, lift the cup as their team-mates celebrate after the win against Termon in the All-Ireland Féile Peil na nÓg (U14) Division 1 Final at Tralee’s Austin Stack Park last June

You could view it exclusively through the sheer steepness of Castleknock's ascent.

As their most famous member gleefully pointed out recently: 'Division 10 of the Adult Football League in 1998. Dublin SFC finalists in 2016.'

But that doesn't tell it all, either.

And the story of the rise of Castleknock, the club, and the portrait of the team who will play St Vincent's tomorrow (Parnell Park, 3.0) are two different if obviously connected things.

Joint captain Shane Boland is one of what he calls "the 1993 age group", who were there on the pitch in the nursery they call Tir na nÓg, on day one of Castleknock GAA club in 1998.

Boland, Ciarán Kilkenny and a smattering of others who will play a part tomorrow in what would, regardless of the potency of their team, be the most unheralded Dublin SFC win in verifiable history.

They were there in year dot.

Creaked

The adult teams took shape and they moved their way up through the Divisions but that group were competing and winning at the sharper end of Dublin underage football and hurling.

That they dovetailed so spectacularly still takes some explaining.

"We have always been Division One at whatever age group and have always been there or thereabouts every single year," Boland explains.

"So when it came to adult, we had a mentality that we should be there or thereabouts. And that has stood to us as we progressed through the levels.

"Tir na nÓg, that is our nursery, it still is today. And that is where we all started.

"We have all been there from the first day that the club ever started. First training session - that is how long we have been around."

Though situated in the most rapidly expanding population belt in the country, Castleknock have had to vie with St Brigid's and St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh for members and players.

The 1993-born group have, however, become load-bearing agents in both codes.

"We were always there or thereabouts in both codes and when you have that winning mentality embedded in you, it kind of sticks to you as you move up the grades," Boland added.

Fund-raising is ongoing for a clubhouse.

"We just go wherever we can get. Sometimes one of the local pubs provides us with a room upstairs. The Castleknock Hotel, we go there a lot when we need to have meetings.

"Wherever we can, I suppose."

In 2007, Boland, Kilkenny et al won that All-Ireland Division 1 hurling féile title at Nowlan Park, an announcement of both Castleknock's arrival and the potential of that group in both codes.

Many of whom then went on to a Dublin 'A' minor football title in 2011. Their timing was immaculate.

And as the steps became steeper, Castleknock's pace quickened.

A year on, the club won the Dublin Junior Football 'A' Championship.

The following season, a JHC title followed.

In 2014, they claimed the Intermediate Football Championship, a feat matched by the hurlers a year later.

Last season, the footballers finally gained promotion to Division 1 of the Adult Football League in Dublin, just a year shy of this, most unexpected, first appearance in a senior championship final.

Just to show that wasn't a fluke, some unnatural batch of highly-functioning young athletes, the club beat Termon of Donegal to win in the final of this year's All-Ireland Football Féile in Tralee back in June.

The camaraderie that comes with building a GAA club is obvious.

"Our nursery at the weekend is absolutely booming and there seems to be a massive following for our adult team, I don't know where they come from," Boland points out.

"We had an away game against Sylvester's in Malahide, there would be loads of adults coming over from Castleknock and they seem to follow us around.

"There's just a really good spirit."

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