Sunday 23 September 2018

allen has pedigree

St Vincent's manager is pleased with team's form in Hurling Championship

BUSY days for Damien Allen. Enjoyable ones too.

He's managing the St Vincent's senior hurlers.

He also goes out with the club's U13's. "Keeping an eye on the future seniors!"

His son, Tom, plays for the 13's. He's an accomplished half-forward.

The pedigree in the timber runs deep. Tom's grand-father, the great Norman Allen, achieved legendary status at St Vincent's and for Dublin.

He captained the Dublin side that reached the 1952 All-Ireland Hurling final.

A year later, Norman was the skipper of the first Vincent's team to win the Dublin Senior hurling Championship.

Forty years on, 1993, his son, Damien, led Vincent's to their last county hurling crown.

They beat Crumlin in the final.

Now Damien has the big job at Pairc Naomh Uinsionn.

"We are doing our best to hang onto the coat-tails of our footballers. And that's not easy," he smiles.

But they are making a fair fist of it.

The Marino stick-men have been at the coal-face since last October.

They are in Group 4 of the Dublin Senior Hurling Championship.

They opened with a defeat to the champions, Kilmacud Crokes. There wasn't a lot in it.

And last week they overcame Setanta with something to spare.

"It was a result we needed to get," reflects Damien. "Setanta had beaten Parnell's and we were very conscious of that.

"In the Championship these days, you have to deliver a performance. Nothing comes cheaply.

"And in fairness to the lads, they hurled well from start to finish."

The return of Ronan Fallon from Australia has been a major plus. A Dublin centre half-back of the highest calibre.

"A class act, that's for sure. And he brings such a wealth of experience back into the squad.

"Ronan coming back has released Cathal Billings up into the forwards and he brings plenty of qualities to that role.

"Ruairi Trainor has also decided to focus on club this year, so that is another big help to us.

"Then many of the young lads are starting to mature. They have come out of minor in the last two or three years and they are growing in confidence.

"So between Ronan's return, moving Cathal up-front, Ruairi's concentration on club and the emergence of the young lads, things are going well. So hopefully we are moving in the right direction."

Damien's managerial colleagues include Ciarán Barr, the former Antrim and Dublin player. And Sunday Game analyst.

Then there's Pat McGrane, Colm Rooke and Paul O'Meara. Mick Slattery is on admin, and the medical matters are looked after by Derek and Alex Horgan.

They were happy enough with the offering against Crokes the first day.

"The goal that Ryan O'Dwyer got proved the difference.

"It wasn't like other years when we'd come up against the more fancied teams and they'd pull away from us.

"In those situations, we'd find it hard to get back into the match and make an impact. But against Kilmacud, the lads stuck at it right till the end. We were always competitive."

Getting worthy matches in Division 1 of the Leinster League has also sharpened the touch.

"We have got some very good games in that against Buffer's Alley, Ballinkillen and Clara of Kilkenny.

"The team has done well and we are now in the final against Tullaroan. It's a good competition to be in."

The Dublin Championship will now go into hibernation.

Like everybody else, Damien doesn't want it to return too quickly.

"We'd all love to be in Croke Park supporting the Dublin hurlers on the first Sunday in September. That would be something."

He praises the sterling work of Anthony Daly. "He did a fantastic job. It was wonderful what he achieved." Ger Cunningham is carrying the baton with aplomb. "It's a new voice. Fellas react differently to a change of manager. It freshens things up."


And the Dubs doing well brightens the mood across the city.

"When the county team is doing well, it lifts the profile for hurling in the county.

"It brings up the standards, and everybody has to work harder to keep up with those standards. So that's beneficial for the game."

Damien feels that the blue riband of Dublin hurling could rest with one of the giants.

"You only have to look at the Dublin panel to see where the perceived strength is in the county at the moment.

"The squad is mostly made up of players from Ballyboden, Cuala, Crokes, with a sprinkling of Lucan lads. And a few of the other clubs.

"But we'll do our best to get the Northside well represented in the future!"

After two rounds of the Championship, Craobh Chiarain lead Group 1 from O'Toole's.

In Group 2, Cuala are top of the tree with two wins from two. Ballinteer are in second place.

Group 3 sees Ballyboden St Enda's and St Jude's heading the poll with two wins apiece.

The champions, Kilmacud, lead the Group 4 table on four points, with Setanta and Vincent's both on two points.

Vincent's aim to keep up the momentum in the coming months.

"We have the Leinster final. And the League will keep us ticking over. We'll also try and play in the odd tournament down the country.

"The lads are working hard. Everytime they put on the shirt, they give it their best. That's all you can ask."

At St Vincent's, wearing the jersey is the biggest privilege of all.

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