Hiney sights on Leinster road
BODEN steeled for battle after tough county final
HE'S an awesome athlete. He's been a pillar of the Firhouse Road for years. A commanding, assured presence.The Hiney Highway just keeps on totting up the miles. Football or hurling, it doesn't matter.
When they talk about playing for the shirt, Stephen Hiney is everybody's role model. He thunders over the ground in pursuit of big ball and small.
Last Sunday, he collected his sixth Dublin SHC A title. A proud son of the famous five in-a-row.
He is part of a very formidable Ballyboden half-back line. Conor Robinson and Shane Durkin complete the three tenors.
This Sunday, the Boden band will head for Dr Cullen Park in Carlow for their AIB Leinster SHC tie with Mount Leinster Rangers (2.30pm).
The Dublin champions know all about the potholes on the Leinster Road. They have come close to the chalice in the past. Now, they get another chance to spin the wheel.
"We just haven't managed to get over the line," reflects Stephen.
"It's not easy to get over that line. It just doesn't happen."
Boden have met some heavyweights in their five Leinster campaigns. The quality is high and it has also evened out somewhat. He's hoping that their experience this term in Dublin will help to see them through this Sunday.
"With the Dublin county team doing so well this season, the level of club hurling has also risen. It is rising all the time."
Of their six Dublin Senior Hurling Championship final triumphs, the win over Lucan Sarsfields was the closest of all. Only three points in it.
"We knew it was going to be a tight final against Lucan. We have had some close matches with them over the years. But we managed to get through it in the end. We paid no attention to people making us the big favourites or anything like that. We knew that type of talk would have no relevance on what the final was going to be like," he added.
"We just focused on work-rate and hunger. We felt that, if we could match their hunger, we'd get over the line. That was the biggest thing we tried to focus on coming into the game."
Making a successful return to Parnell Park for the county hurling final made Stephen's day. "It seemed a long time ago since we climbed the steps of the stand to collect the trophy. It really hurt last year. We never got going. That made us very hungry this time.
"Losing some key players also drove us on. Simon Lambert was a massive loss, and there were other lads as well. It is not something that we are not used to. We have lost several players over the years through injury, including myself."
Battling against the wind and the rain is part of the Boden DNA.
"Even looking back at the final, we seemed to pick it up when we had the man sent off. We played our best stuff with the 14 men on the pitch," he said.
"We have been around the block. We are not a young side anymore. We have young players coming through, but the core of the team is the same as it has been for the last six or seven years.
"And being so many years together is a help. We probably have a bit more physical strength than most teams in Dublin."
Having a high cluster of inter-county personnel is also a bonus. Boden's pang from their year's absence from Dublin's crystal was deeply felt, but the county ended over half a century of Leinster Championship anguish.
"It was a very successful season, although there would still be some regrets there," admits Stephen.
"We got to the All-Ireland semi-final. It was quite open at that stage. No clear favourites. Maybe looking back in a few years, we'll say that was a big opportunity, which it was. But overall it was a great campaign, and we have to build on it now."
The Blues were rewarded with three All Stars – Peter Kelly, Liam Rushe and Danny Sutcliffe. Many felt that Conal Keaney should have made it the Fab Four. Against Lucan, when they needed it most, the 'Boden faithful turned their lonely eyes to their captain, who started to deliver precious helpings of Special K.
"We needed leaders all over the pitch at that stage and there is no better man to put his foot forward. As captain, he really carried the team. He was just class in that county final."
Boden don't lack calibre or conviction. And they'll have their climbing boots well polished to get over what could be a tricky test against Mount Leinster.