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Crokes make point with huge effort

Dublin SHC Group 2: Kilmacud Crokes 4-18 Ballyboden St Enda's 0-16

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Marc Howard Ballyboden St Enda’s of Kilmacud Crokes score his side’s third goal despite the attention of Niall Ryan of Ballyboden St Enda’s during the Dublin SHC match at Parnell Park. Photo: Sportsfile

Marc Howard Ballyboden St Enda’s of Kilmacud Crokes score his side’s third goal despite the attention of Niall Ryan of Ballyboden St Enda’s during the Dublin SHC match at Parnell Park. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Marc Howard Ballyboden St Enda’s of Kilmacud Crokes score his side’s third goal despite the attention of Niall Ryan of Ballyboden St Enda’s during the Dublin SHC match at Parnell Park. Photo: Sportsfile

Anyone wondering where the challenge to Cuala for this year's Dublin SHC title might emerge need only have tuned into TG4 yesterday afternoon.

And if the first Sunday of competitive football and hurling since the start of March was an accurate representation of the GAA's new normal, we'll take it. Every week. No qualms.

Two action-hungry teams thundering into each other on a lush, carpeted Parnell Park pitch on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

What's not to like? And after all the accreditation checks and hand-sanitising, Crokes were more emphatic than anyone expected yesterday.

It's not clear exactly how their players tackled the tedium of the great 2020 sporting lock-down but to a man, they emerged from it yesterday immaculate shape - the final scoreline makes for an accurate synopsis of the game.

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Oisin O’Rorke of Kilmacud Crokes in action against Simon Lambert of Ballyboden St Enda’s

Oisin O’Rorke of Kilmacud Crokes in action against Simon Lambert of Ballyboden St Enda’s

SPORTSFILE

Oisin O’Rorke of Kilmacud Crokes in action against Simon Lambert of Ballyboden St Enda’s

Tightest odds

Of the eight first round matches in this year's Dublin SHC 'A', this was the one with the tightest odds.

Yet against a team they have historically had issues with, Crokes won by 14 points.

"They've been a bit of a bogey team for our lads over the years," acknowledged Aodán De Paor, who assumed the role of Crokes manager after Anthony Daly stepped down last year following two seasons in charge.

"So that was pleasing obviously enough. We've worked hard the last three weeks. You don't know how to prepare your team when you have three weeks to do it.

"The first two weeks we worked hard and maybe struggled a bit in challenge matches and in training. But it seemed to pay off this week."

And then some. For all but 13 minute spell in the first half, when Ballyboden scored six points without reply to briefly hold the lead, Crokes were utterly dominant.

They were stronger in both tackles and rucks. Their hurling was sharper. They moved themselves and the ball much more freely and with far greater energy.

Even the loss of Oisín O'Rorke to a straight red card in the 44th minute did nothing to muddle their flow.

They also attacked with a sort of blood-lust, sensing a vulnerability in the Ballyboden defence and always going direct for goal at even the slightest sniff of a chance.

Marc Howard and Ronan Hayes might reasonably have settled for points in the second half but instead went green -flag-hunting, scoring goals that for Ballyboden, gave the scoreline an unforgiving luck. Harsh words were spoken in the 'Boden huddle afterwards as they changed under the stand at the church end in Parnell Park.

"Obviously we looked at the fact they have very good forwards," observed Joe Fortune, who led 'Boden their last county title in 2018.

"When you have Ronan Hayes and Oisin and Considine inside, it's a fierce strong full-forward line. Am I surprised? No, look, I'm taken aback with ourselves."

If there was solace to be found in simply being back on the pitch again, it didn't last long.

The hope for Fortune now is that yesterday an experience team creaking its way slowly back to form rather than a true representation of their lot.

"I thought we were in a better place," Fortune admitted. "I have spoken to managers over the last couple of weeks and they have all kind of said the same thing...you don't really know where you are until you get back out to competitive fare.

"The last few weeks and months have been strange and now it's up to us to lift it again."

SCORERS - Kilmacud: O O'Rorke 0-7 (5f, 2 '65), R Hayes 2-0 (1-0 pen), M Howard 1-2 (0-1f), A Considine 1-1, F Whitely 0-3, S McGrath 0-2, C Conway, C MacGabhan (f), F Ó Ceallaigh 0-1 each. Ballyboden: P Ryan 0-6 (4f, 1 sideline, 1 '65), C Keaney, N Ryan, A Mellett, N McMorrow 0-2 each, P Doherty, S Durkin 0-1 each.

KILMACUD CROKES: M Collins; J Clinton, B O'Carroll, B Sheehy; C MacGabhann, M Grogan, N Ó Ríordáin; F Whitely, D Mulligan; M Howard, S McGrath, C Conway; O O'Rorke, R Hayes, A Considine. Subs: S Veale for Conway (45), F Ó Ceallaigh for Considine (54), R O'Carroll for Mulligan (54), E Gibbons for McGrath (56), J Gibbons for Ó Ríordáin (58).

BALLYBODEN ST. ENDA'S: F McGarry; S O'Connor, S Lambert, J Madden; P Dunleavy, S Durkin, D Curran; N McMorrow, C McKeon; S McDonnell, D Curtin, P Ryan; N Ryan, C Keaney, A Mellett. Subs: P Doherty for McDonnelly (35), L Corcoran for Durkin (39) L O'Dwyer for Curtin (39), K Wigglesworth for Dunleavy (54)

REF: S Stack (Parnell's)