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Thursday 27 June 2019

Boss Fortune favours brave as Boden gear up for title defence

Ballyboden skipper Simon Lambert is chased by Ballyhale’s TJ Reid the Leinster Club SHC final last year. Photo: Sportsfile
Ballyboden skipper Simon Lambert is chased by Ballyhale’s TJ Reid the Leinster Club SHC final last year. Photo: Sportsfile

There's probably no way to dress up a 16-point defeat, such as Ballyboden's to Ballyhale Shamrocks in last December's Leinster final, as anything other than a hiding.

But viewed in hindsight and with the context of Ballyhale's 17-victory over St Thomas in the All-Ireland SHC Club final, it seems somehow less garish now.

"If you're beaten by a better team on the day, you have to go on and wish them the best," Ballyboden's manager, Joe Fortune acknowledges.

"The only thing I said to them in the dressing room afterwards was to make sure they drove it on and give us something to aspire to do in the future."

The precise meaning of Ballyboden's Dublin SHC success last year was open to interpretation.

Many felt it the last glorious act of an ageing army but Fortune saw it then as he still sees it now: the first gambit towards a more substantial pursuit.

"When Mattie went into Cuala, they were beaten in a county semi-final in his first year," he points out ahead of Ballyboden's opening match in their county title defence against Lucan Sarsfields in Parnell Park on Saturday.

"Then were beaten by Oulart in their first Leinster final.

"And there's a progression there as well.

Disappointment

"Was there massive disappointment after Ballyhale? Of course there was - for a number of different reasons.

"But I wouldn't take it back. The lads enjoyed the journey. I learned and awful lot from the journey."

The county champions have "a clean bill of health" which means that Conal Keaney could make his first competitive appearance since that Leinster final following shoulder surgery in what would be a timely fillip to both Fortune and Mattie Kenny.

Unusually, the county champions are under such pressure to perform so early in the year as a loss to Lucan would put them on the backfoot.

Cuala's pioneering Leinster and All-Ireland wins were rightly hailed as breakthrough moments for club hurling in Dublin but so too did they take attention away from the fact that the competition as a whole has exploded in quality over the past few years.

"That Dublin Championship is extremely competitive," Fortune asserts. "Cuala have been the benchmark for where everyone wants to go.

"But Crokes have been in the last three county finals.

Pin of their collar

"Vincent's have put anybody who has got to a county final to the pin of their collar and they'll have big aspirations.

"Na Fianna have loads coming through. Lucan were beaten in a semi-final two years ago.

"I only have to start mentioning names like Chris (Crummey), Johnny (McCaffrey), Matthew McCaffrey, Paul Crummey…

"There are lots of clubs with aspirations."

Including Fortune's.

"We've parked 2018," he stresses. "It was the first time in five years that they were in a county final.

"Then it was the first time in 11 that they were in a Leinster final and that didn't go the way we wanted it.

"But look, we're reset and refocused on 2019," Fortune adds. "The next few weeks are going to determine how the year goes for every club."

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