Fox reaches for the Sars
BIG day for the small ball. The Bob O'Keeffe Cup is in the building. Three castles on a shirt. Half-a-century of hurt.
The man that lifted it, Johnny McCaffrey, will be on duty in next Sunday's Dublin Senior Hurling Championship final (3.0). He was majestic against Craobh Chiaráin in the semi-final.
He delivered a midfield masterclass. Quick feet, soft wrists and wonderful positional sense and vision.
The Dublin skipper will be one of the star attractions. "There will be a big crowd from Lucan, I can guarantee that," promises the Sarsfields manager, Damien Fox.
"On the night of the semi-final, we had a bus-load of kids there, and all they wanted to do was to see their heroes – the likes of Johnny and Peter Kelly.
"The children often come down to watch us train. And I have to say the players are very good with them.
"There's a great love of the GAA in Dublin, and a great love of the GAA in Lucan. Eventually that has to tell. But you need success. Success breeds success."
Ballyboden St Enda's know all about the S word. They have hardly been out of Donnycarney in the last few years.
But they were missing from the champions' dinner last season, and that gap year still very much rankles the Firhouse faithful.
"We are just delighted to be back," admits manager Johnny Kenny. "And hopefully now we can go one step further.
"It's going to be tough. Lucan are flying. We are not expecting anything soft."
Boden emerged from the group stage with comfort, overcoming Naomh Fionnbarra, St Vincent's and St Patrick's of Palmerstown.
"Yes, we got some good results there and we came through well, but it was hard going against Kilmacud in the quarter-final, and Brigid's then put it up to us in the semi-final, so we are under no illusions," added Johnny.
Boden's first final victory came against St Vincent's under the lights in 2007. They then had wins in the finals against Kilmacud Crokes, Craobh Chiaráin, St Vincent's again and O'Toole's.
Liam Hogan was the man that led Boden to the Promised Land. It was an era when Hogan's Heroes were invincible.
In most people's eyes, they had half a hand on the cup even before the sliotar was thrown in to start last year's championship. But, shock of shocks, they didn't even make it out of their group. This summer, though, the bounce was back in the boots. They have had a mean and hungry look. Absence, it seems, has made their heart grow stronger.
In contrast, it's Lucan's first flight. They have endured the stony silence of losing semi-final dressing-rooms. They have earned their place on the blue carpet. They were in the deepest pool of all. It was a photo-finish.
Scoring difference decided. O'Toole's, runners-up in 2011, and last year's finalists, Cuala, tumbled out.
"The lads have shown marvellous character all year," reflects Damien Fox. "Our backs were against the wall against Cuala in our last group game in O'Toole Park, but we dug out the result. That was a big result for us.
"We pushed on from there. We got a bit of momentum. We got over Crumlin in the quarter-final and then Chiaráin's in the semi-final.
"Craobh looked dead and buried in the first half, but they threw everything at us in the second half. You have to credit them for that, but they have been doing that for years in Dublin."
Boden bring a 100pc record into Sunday. Lucan's group was the mixed bag – draw (Craobh), loss (O'Toole's) and win (Cuala).
Offaly native, Fox, has been impressed with the levels in Dublin. "It's very, very competitive. It's hard to get results. Even the league matches are ferociously contested."
Against Craobh the last night, corner-forward Aidan Roche landed some nuggets. Paddy Ward struck a vital goal, and there were valuable donations from Chris Crummey, Tommy Somers and Kevin O'Reilly.
Making the Lucan first XV is not easy. "There's keen competition for places. The young lads bring an edge to it. It shows you how difficult it is when fellas like Mick May and Kevin O'Reilly didn't start the semi-final.
"The team we put out was much changed from our first meeting in the group stage with Craobh. We are still trying to find the right blend, and hopefully we'll get it right for Sunday."
Boden have also got a fresh injection of youth, but the spine of the side is still populated by such stalwarts as Maguire, Travers, Durkin, Hiney, Keaney, Curtin, McCormack and Ryan.
The Boden boys would love to be polishing their sixth Dublin SHC medal back in Páirc Uí Mhurchú on Sunday night.
But if Lucan win, the super Sars will be dancing across 12th Lock. Here's hoping for a happy hour.