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Crokes to pass opening exam

IT was the great pity of Kilmacud Crokes' last Dublin SHC win that they didn't go on to record what would, against an albeit undistinguished backdrop, have been one of the most distinguished recent Leinster club SHC wins for a side from the capital.

They went down by a point in Oulart-The Ballagh in Parnell Park (1-13 to 1-12) just a week after releasing Ballyboden St Enda's death-grip on the Dublin county title and so close had they been to winning, it smudged their previous success just a little.

Given the level of their dominance (five county titles in-a-row between 2007 and '11 inclusive), their heavy representation on the Dublin senior team and, by extension, the recent surge in strength and success in the county side, you could argue with some justification that the aforementioned 'Boden side are the best ever to emerge from the capital.

frustration

Yet just once in those five years, in 2007 when they took out Oulart and Camross before losing a Leinster final to Birr in Tullamore by a point, did Liam Hogan's team go beyond the provincial semi-final.

A year later, they lost again to Birr in a quarter-final and this time, by nine points.

In 2009, there was no shame in losing to Ballyhale Shamrocks. But certainly some frustration going down by a dozen points.

That was the first of three consecutive Leinster semi-finals Ballyboden would lose before Crokes took over the very tricky business of representing Dublin in Leinster and really, it doesn't stand to much reason that three of the last seven Leinster club hurling champions are from Offaly, one (Mount Leinster Rangers) are from Carlow, yet no Dublin team has won since Crumlin in 1980.

"I remember chatting to a few of the Ballyboden lads before last year," Niall Corcoran told the Herald this week.

"And they were saying the first year could be your best year because of the fact that you're not a well-known team. We were unlucky that day against Oulart. A game we should have closed out."

Laois, meanwhile, have a champion as recently as Camross in 1997 but it would still constitute a bit of a shock if Rathdowney/Errill came to Parnell Park and turned Crokes over.

Against that, they were hugely impressive in their own Championship and confidence won't be scant.

They beat Camross by 17 points in the Laois final, with teenage corner-forward Mark Kavanagh scoring 1-5 from play and Ross King hitting 0-10 (7f).

And they have almost identical experience to Crokes at this stage.

The last time Rathdowney/Errill played in Leinster was also 2012, they came within four points of eventual All-Ireland finalists, Kilcormac Killoughey.

Crokes though, have grit in abundance, as demonstrated by their Houdini act in the county final when reserving a two-point deficit in stoppage-time.

Battling

They had 11 scorers that night, too, and in men like the O'Carrolls (Ross, Rory and Bill) and Ryan O'Dwyer, they have the perfect battling counterpoint to all the sleek younger talent, many of whom will have justified designs on a Dublin call-up.

And presumably, if he's fit enough, Ross O'Carroll is already there.

"This year now, we still don't have a huge amount of experience playing in the Leinster compared to what Ballyboden have done or even Rathdowney over the last few years," Corcoran admitted.

"They were very unlucky to lose against Kilmcormac a few years ago, who then went on to compete in an All-Ireland final.

"We're still fairly new to it but we've also been there before. With the likes of Cian MacGabhann and Oisín O'Rorke and Caolan Conway, I think we're better equipped this year."

ODDS: Kilmacud Crokes 1/4, Draw 11/1, Rathdowney 16/5

VERDICT: Kilmacud Crokes


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