Cuala expecting an 'on-slaught'
Manager Kenny ready for 'massive battle' in Armagh against team with momentum
Given all that has transpired for Slaughtneil these past few fairytale months, Cuala shouldn't be counting on much neutral support for their All-Ireland Club Hurling semi-final on Saturday.
"Slaughtneil are having a great season," acknowledges Cuala manager Mattie Kenny, who also issued a plea for supporters of both a Cuala and Dublin persuasion to make the trip to Armagh's Atheltic Grounds on Saturday.
"They're on a great run. We respect that.
"It's going to be a massive battle and they're going to be very hard to beat."
By Saturday, it will be all of 12 weeks since Cuala beat O'Loughlin Gaels in the Leinster club SHC final and in doing so became just the second club from Dublin to win provincial honours.
"Once the date was confirmed, you have something to work to," Kenny explained of the lengthy semi-final preamble plenty of club sides have found so treacherous in the past.
"So it gave us an opportunity over the Christmas period to get a bit of a break.
"Our guys had been through 2016, winning the Dublin Championship and the Leinster Championship.
"So we took a break over the Christmas period and we started in January preparing for this game."
"But we're looking forward to it now," Kenny continued.
"We're hoping to have good support. And we acknowledge the challenge that's ahead of us.
"It won't be easy."
For all Cuala have done on the training pitch, Kenny accepts that "the acid test" is the Championship.
"The acid test is when that ball is thrown in.
"We've done our preparation work. We've prepared to the best of our ability."
Helpfully, Cuala enjoyed a pristine run of health during their provincial club run and Kenny expects to be able to call on a fully fit panel for Saturday.
"Part and parcel of hurling being a contact sport is there's always knocks and bruises," he said.
"They're for every club and every team to deal with. But we're going into the game with a clean bill of health and we hope to be in a position to give a good account of ourselves on Saturday."
Naturally enough, though, Slaughtneil have captured the GAA public's imagination of late.
They'll be the first club since the All-Ireland club series was introduced in 1970 to qualify for both the football and hurling finals should they beat the Dublin champions in Armagh with a squad that shares 17 players with their football panel.
It is expected too that nine of those who started in Slaughtneil's football semi-final victory over St Vincent's two weeks back will play again on Saturday.
Last year, they won a treble of Ulster titles in football, hurling and camogie and became the first team from Derry to win a provincial hurling crown.
"We know the momentum that the opposition have," Kenny noted.
"So we're expecting a massive battle on the day and we just want to make sure that we turn up and give a good account ourselves and put ourselves in a position to perform."
"And we're hoping," the Galway native concluded, "that everyone in Cuala, South Dublin and everyone else in the Dublin area comes out and supports the team."