Crokes brace for Boden tie
Southside giants clash as Dublin SHC restarts
THE summer breeze is beginning to fade. The kids are back at school.
The pace starts to quicken for Kilmacud Crokes coach, Niall Corcoran.
The Dublin Senior Hurling Championship has also returned. The opening chapters seem like a distant memory now.
"In a way, it's like two separate seasons," reflects Niall, the Dublin defender. "There's no championship action in the summer and here we are ready to go again."
Still, Niall has no bother in recalling Kilmacud's opening assignments - a handsome win against St Oliver Plunkett's/ER and a second victory over St Patrick's of Palmerstown.
"That Pat's game was sticky enough. At times, it looked like we were in trouble. Pat's are a good side. That gave us a big test. We just managed to pull away late on."
Now, the southside derby awaits - Ballyboden St Enda's this Thursday night.
Last year, Boden beat Crokes, the then-champions, at the quarter-final stage before overcoming St Brigid's in the semi-final and Lucan Sarsfields in the final.
It was Boden's sixth crown, and their first since completing the five-in-a-row in 2011.
The following season, Kilmacud took the prize for the first time in a quarter-of-a-century.
Gearóid Ó Riain was the manager. He was with the club since U10 days. He played for the Dubs at minor and U21 level. Lar Foley then gave him the call.
He assembled at solid management structure at Páirc de Burca - Robbie Leahy, Pat Halpin, Billy Noctor, Sean Allen and Chris Thompson.
"I remember when Gearóid came in and we were beaten badly by O'Toole's on a Friday night in Parnell Park. We have come a long way since," offers Niall.
"We finally got to the Promised Land in 2012 and we were then very unlucky against Oulart-The Ballagh in the Leinster Championship."
When Gearóid stepped away, Ollie Baker (pictured, below) was the new name on the manager's door. And he quickly settled at his desk.
"It's a massive boost to get somebody of his stature. He came in and you could sense straight away that he was eager to do well.
"We had a meeting at the start of the year and he laid out his ideas. Ollie has left no stone unturned. His preparation is first-class. The set-up is excellent."
Yet, as ever, it all comes down to performing on the day.
"We have to make sure that we are at our best if we want to go places.
"It starts with Boden. That's going to be a tough one. We don't look beyond that. Boden will be there or there-abouts. They'll be raring to go."
Niall feels that "there are four or five clubs who could win the Dublin Championship".
"Look at Cuala, who we beat in the 2012 final," he said.
"They are very strong. They have seven players on the county panel.
"The quality has gone up so much in Dublin. Teams are improving every year. You can't take anything for granted. On any given day, you could be caught out.
"We were very lucky to beat Na Fianna at home in the league recently. There was only a point in it. They have so many good minors coming through. That's what you want to see.
"The more competitive the Dublin Championship is the better. That's what will reflect on the county team in the years to come."
Niall embraced the Dalo years. The Dublin hurling revolution cheered the city. And he feels Kilmacud's own man from Clare, Mr Baker, is also inspiring bright deeds in Stillorgan.
Ideally, the Dublin County Board want the new Dublin manager in place for the knock-out stages of the championship.
Crokes are determined to stay in the ring. "It all depends on getting the performance on the big days. That is what we are focused on.
"We have the work done, so, hopefully, that will carry us through."
Crokes and Boden are already into the quarter-finals. As are Cuala and St Jude's. St Brigid's and O'Toole's are in pole position in Group 3, while last year's finalists, Lucan Sarsfields, are well positioned in Group 4.
In Group 1, Parnell's, Craobh and Vincent's are still in the mix.
Parnell Park (6.45) - Group 4: St Jude's v Lucan Sarsfields
Parnell Park (8.15) - Group 2: Kilmacud Crokes v Ballyboden St Enda's
Kiltipper Road (6.45) - Group 4: Crumlin v Ballinteer St John's.
Parnell Park (4.0) - Group 3: Na Fianna v O'Toole's
Parnell Park (5.45) - Group 1: St Vincent's v Parnell's
O'Toole Park (4.0) - Group 3: Faughs v St Brigid's
O'Toole Park (5.45) - Group 1: Craobh Chiaráin v Cuala
Blakestown (4.0) - Group 2: St Oliver Plunkett's/ER v St Patrick's (P).