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Crokes plan to test the big cats

THE King is coming to Parnell Park next Sunday.

Damian Fox hopes that there's a big crowd to see him.

It's Kilmacud Crokes against Ballyhale Shamrocks in the AIB Leinster Senior Club Hurling Championship semi-final.

It will be the first game on the big Leinster double-bill which also features St Vincent's against Garrycastle.

Last season, Damian guided Lucan Sarsfields to their first Dublin Senior Hurling Championship final.

native

These days he's back in his native Offaly coaching the senior county hurlers.

A few weeks ago he was in Dublin. He decided to pop down to Parnell Park to see the two Dublin Senior Football Championship semi-finals.

"You get much bigger crowds at championship matches down the country," he reflects.

"When I was managing Lucan, I didn't really notice such things because you are so much involved in the game.

"But I think that's something Dublin needs to look at. I'm not talking about the standard of Dublin football and hurling, which are top class. It's just the things around the games like attendances, atmosphere and so on."

Playing in Donnycarney, Damian feels, is a big boost to Kilmacud.

"It's a huge advantage. Crokes would be very familiar with the venue.

"Crokes are a fine side. They have some excellent players. I was very impressed with them when I was with Lucan.

"Ballyboden had a few cracks at Leinster. They just didn't quite manage it.

"If Kilcormac Killoughey from my own county were not to win Leinster, I'd love Crokes to do it."

Damian enjoyed his time in the capital and at the 12th Lock.

"We got to the final, but we didn't win it. That was a pity.

"Yet it was a great experience for the club. I remember it was a tough, hard game against Boden."

Boden won it by three points in the end. It was an excellent match.

Even in defeat, the season represented quite a breakthrough for the Sars, who had endured so many semi-final defeats.

inherited

He had inherited a group that had put in the work, and he was the first to hail the massive contribution that Seán McCaffrey had made. He was also quick to compliment the efforts that Johnny McCaffrey brought to his coaching role in the locality.

Damian is from Tullamore. He was a very talented sports-man.

He could play any sport well. So well that the locals called him 'The Gift.'

But the small ball is the one that's remained closest to his heart.

The highlight of his career with Tullamore was winning the Offaly Senior Hurling Championship title. He played for the Offaly U21s, but living six years abroad curtailed the chance of a senior inter-county career.

He managed the Laois senior hurlers. He was in charge when Portlaoise lifted the senior championship crown, and he also guided Tinnahinch to two senior Laois county finals.

"There is a high standard in Dublin hurling and the appointment of Ger Cunningham is another plus.

"He has a good crew there. Tommy Dunne is an excellent coach, and the two other lads, Shay Boland and Gearóid ó Riain, know Dublin hurling inside out. They have been around the block a few times."

He was very impressed with the achievements of Anthony Daly and company.

He feels the talent is in the county.

"I think some new blood coming into the squad would help to move things on at this stage."

He says that Dublin are a lot further down the road than Offaly.

"We have a lot of work to do, but I'm looking forward to it."

He's enjoying working with the Millennium Man, Brian Whelehan.

"The greatest hurler that Offaly ever produced. And Brian is so well regarded around the country as well.

"His family are steeped in it. The brothers played for Offaly. And so did the Dad, Pad Joe.

"It's in the blood. Pad Joe is a great hurling man. He led Birr to All-Ireland titles."

There's still quite a few steps to go before St Patrick's Day.

And Damian suggests that Sunday can provide a compelling chapter of its own.

And he has full confidence in the Dubliners.

"I'd give Crokes a great chance. Okay, they are playing the Kilkenny champions. They'll respect them, but they won't fear them.

"Parnell Park will suit Crokes. They'll will be up for it. They won't make life easy."


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