Crokes classy Corcoran primed for defence of Dublin crown
NIALL CORCORAN is in the tracksuit. His day-time clobber. He's over at the Dublin Senior Club Championship launch in Parnell Park.
Plenty of tea and coffee. And a tray full of scones. The mood is light. "Why are you not playing for Galway," quips a voice.
Niall laughs it off. He has firmly settled amid the Stillorgan scenery.
His gentle coaching ways have won him a huge Fan Club. The kids adore him. He puts a smile on their faces, and hope in their heart.
They also see how hard he works at enhancing his own game.
That effort is worth a thousand pep talks.
This is his favourite time of the year. There's a bounce in the turf. "Yes, spring-time is here," he says.
He casts his mind back to last Autumn and the bright lights of Parnell Park.
Kilmacud's second Dublin Senior Hurling Championship title in three seasons.
It was their sixth crown in all. The 2012 triumph bridged a gap of over a quarter-of-a-century.
Boden took the prize in 2013, and in last year's sizzling south side semi-final, Crokes toppled Boden.
Ollie Baker was in charge, and Kilmacud were the big pre-final favourites.
St Jude's stood on the threshold of history. Crokes, by the skin of the sliotar, managed to bring the game to extra-time.
"We were lucky. It looked like it was gone from us," he admits.
"But in fairness, the lads held their nerve, stuck to the game-plan, and we got the result in the end.
"We'll take on board the lessons of last year and we'll try to make improvements as we try and retain the title."
He says that won't be easy. First up is St Vincent's this Saturday.
"That will really focus the mind. We played them in the quarter-final last year and we just got over them.
"They are a good, strong side, and it's never easy beating Vincent's."
Then there's the newer arrivals, Parnell's and Setanta. "I watched Setanta in the Senior 'B' Championship final last year. I was impressed, and they'll now want to make an impact at this level.
"Parnell's can be very good on the day. They proved that last year with some excellent displays."
The changing landscape pleases him. It's good for the game.
"There's more teams than ever in contention. You have five, six or seven clubs that could be champions.
"You have to be at your best in every match now. Gone are the days when you could beat a team at half-mast. Any of the teams are capable of doing well on the day.
"There will be some nail-biting stuff. And I think it will be a very good Championship this year."