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Back on the attack can be key for Lucan

Retired Dub Kelly savours club run - and reckons county might reprise Crummey's forward move

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UP FOR IT: Peter Kelly of Lucan Sarsfields (right) in action against Rory Finn of St Vincent's during the Dublin SHC Round 3 match at Parnell Park

UP FOR IT: Peter Kelly of Lucan Sarsfields (right) in action against Rory Finn of St Vincent's during the Dublin SHC Round 3 match at Parnell Park

SPORTSFILE

UP FOR IT: Peter Kelly of Lucan Sarsfields (right) in action against Rory Finn of St Vincent's during the Dublin SHC Round 3 match at Parnell Park

In the words of Peter Kelly, Chris Crummey is "an absolute mountain of a man".

But Crummey has the athleticism and hurling savvy to complement his colossal frame, reckons his Lucan and ex-Dublin teammate, and that explains why he has flourished in a new attacking role in this strangest of summers.

Eleven days ago, Crummey shot 0-5 from centre-forward as Lucan caused a significant quarter-final upset in the Dublin SHC, toppling Kilmacud Crokes.

Mattie Kenny dabbled with a similar relocation during Dublin's distant Allianz League campaign, before a broken collarbone against Wexford curtailed the experiment and then Covid-19 put the entire season in cold storage.

And it could yet be revisited by the Dublin boss, especially if Crummey maintains his recent prolific form in Parnell Park this Sunday. Sarsfields are seeking to slay another heavyweight - Cuala - to reach only their second Dublin SHC 'A' final in history.

"You would have seen it against Galway last year in Parnell, that he has the athleticism to get up to the forwards and the ability to finish off scores as well," says former All Star Kelly, who was forced by injury into inter-county retirement two years ago.

"He's not your typical wing-back that is just about distributing the ball in. He loves getting his name on the scoresheet.

Alluding

"Last year, when we first tried him at centre-forward, he was brilliant - and he got a Dubs Star," he adds, alluding to Crummey's selection as a substitute on the Dublin Bus/Herald scheme that recognises club form in the capital.

"It shows the ability he has, because it's not easy batting a puckout back at one end and getting someone batting down on top of you at the other end!

"But he has bags of ability and the physical attributes to do it.

"So, it's a great option for us to have him there, and I'm sure Mattie Kenny is looking and saw him scoring five points from play the last day against Kilmacud.

"It was a no-brainer for us, but it probably made Mattie Kenny sit up and see what options he has up there."

It is, Kelly stresses, "a lot easier" for a forward to become a defender than vice-versa.

"Only a certain number of players have the ability to do it. The height Chris has and the physical strength he has, it's obviously a huge plus up there - it's not just his hurling ability, he's also an option for puckouts and to win the dirty ball. There's no real downside to him being up there."

Kelly himself knows all about moving between the lines. His own Dublin career started at half-forward. Anthony Daly later switched him to half-back; but his subsequent move to full-back, a position where he scaled his All Star peak in 2013, owed plenty to fate.

Dublin were facing Galway in a 2011 Leinster semi-final in Tullamore. Tomás Brady tore his cruciate, just as Joe Canning was racing away to score an early goal - Kelly immediately moved from centre-back to full-back, with Liam Rushe reverting from midfield to No 6.

"If it didn't happen in the middle of a game it may not have worked," he now admits. "You would have got caught up in your own head about going in to mark Joe Canning in a Leinster semi-final. It would have overcome you.

"I always say it's easier to be a back than a forward after playing in both positions. Certainly, at inter-county, I probably wouldn't have had the career I did if I stayed up in the forwards."

Yet that career was cruelly cut short. His last start was against Galway in May 2015, when he tore his hamstring off the bone - and his last appearance that July, as a sub against Waterford.

Then, that September, he dislocated his kneecap in a club challenge. That injury would prove his ultimate undoing.

Comeback

He missed the 2016 county season; opted off Ger Cunningham's panel in 2017 for non-injury reasons; then his attempted 2018 comeback under Pat Gilroy proved a bridge too far. He retired that April, having turned just 29.

Does he miss it? "You obviously get the grá for it when you're walking into Parnell to watch the lads play, or you're heading into Croke Park," he muses.

"But I'm always starkly reminded that I had to step away because of my knee. It wasn't as if I retired because of age or ability or I was surplus to requirements ... it made it a bit easier for me because the decision was made.

"If I was still fully fit, would I be enjoying the game still? Absolutely. But it's a very different game since I stepped away; it's even more of a full-time job, the way the game has gone. It's quicker and it's harder, and it's more and more elite as the days go on."

Now 31, and back playing in the half-forwards, his body can handle the demands of club and his mind is focussed on that elusive prize. "We've had decent success at underage," he reminds, alluding to last year's Dublin U21 title, "but we've never really made that final breach into the senior grade.

"Fair enough, we made one county final (against Ballyboden) but that's seven years ago now ... we've fallen at the last hurdle enough times and that hunger does drive you on.

"But there's a group of (young) players who have never lost semi-finals, and they've only ever known success. So we're learning as much from them as the other way around. There's a great blend of youth and experience, so hopefully that will count for something."