Saturday 14 December 2019

McGuirk hopeful Brigid's hit form

Manager looking for more clinical showing against old club Craobh

St Brigid’s players in a huddle
St Brigid’s players in a huddle

When the draw was made for the Dublin Senior Hurling Championship semi-finals last Sunday week, it seemed almost inevitable that St Brigid's and Craobh Chiaráin would be paired off together.

There are many similarities between the two teams, with a strong emphasis placed on fast, skilful, attacking play and those qualities were very much in evidence as they came through their respective quarter-finals against Na Fianna and Lucan Sarsfields.

Of course, there will be plenty of familiarities to take into account next Sunday as well with the respective managers Ger Ryan of Craobh and Johnny McGuirk of St Brigid's both having contributed massively to the development of hurling in both clubs.

McGuirk was a central figure when Craobh last won the senior title back in 2006 and still enjoys strong ties with the Donnycarney club but his focus now is very much on getting the best out of the talented bunch of hurlers coming through at Russell Park.

"Of course, I spent fifteen years playing for Craobh and I had some great times there but I have now being involved with St Brigid's for fifteen years as well and the club is very important to me.

"I have a lot of respect for them and from our perspective, we now that we have a huge battle ahead of us.

"They are hurlers, plain and simple, and are very intelligent on the ball and have a high skill level.

"They play to a plan that suits them and gets the best out of their talents and we are well aware that we have a lot of work to do between now and Sunday in terms of getting our lads right for the tough challenge that awaits us," said the former Dublin minor and Under-21 manager.

McGuirk has been pleased with what his team have produced since the championship resumed after the summer break with an emphatic victory over St Jude's in their final group game highlighting their enhanced attacking threat.

To score 1-30 against a team that are generally defensively sound like St Jude's reflected the promise that Brigid's have in attack with the trio of Paul Winters, Eoghan Dunne and Cian O'Sullivan sharing fourteen points from play on that occasion.

Their combined tally from open play fell by two points the next day as Brigid's did enough to see off Na Fianna by 2-19 to 2-16, winning more assuredly than the three point winning margin would suggest.


Few would argue of their dominance across the field for the large majority of the game but some careless shooting in the final quarter, in particular, almost undermined their ambitions as Na Fianna almost salvaged extra-time through a late Jonathan Treacy free.

Such an outcome would have seemed an injustice to the Blanchardstown outfit but once again stressed the importance of making the most of the scoring opportunities that came your way, something that McGuirk is acutely aware of.

"You would have to be happy with where we are at the moment and it's great to have a county semi-final to look forward to.

"St Jude's were a test and I thought that we hurled well against them and Na Fianna are a fine team so we were pleased to get over that challenge.

"However, we weren't too pleased with the way that we saw out that game and it's fair to say that we hit far too many wides.

"We need to be far more clinical than we were against Na Fianna and our conversion rate needs to be much better.

"I believe that we should have been far more comfortable by the end and we need to just trust ourselves more and trust the ability that we have.

"The team have definitely progressed this year and that development has been totally player-driven.

"The bulk of these lads have hurled at a high level at underage and have come very close to winning championships at the younger grades but for a number of reasons, they just fell short.

"I think that eventually, the penny has to drop, and if what you are doing is not enough to get you over the line, then changes have to be made if you want to be successful.

"We are fortunate that we have ten lads fighting extremely hard to make it into our match-day panel of twenty-six and that has pushed the standard up all year.

"Next Sunday is a very big test for us and naturally, there is a big amount of interest due to the links between the two teams.

"However, we can only really focus on ensuring that we play as well as we possibly can on the day," he said.

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