Boden coach working hard on club's return to glory
Two titanic tussles are anticipated next weekend as the semi-finals of the Dublin Senior 1 Football Championship take place in Parnell Park across Saturday and Sunday.
On Sunday, St Vincent's will put their county title on the line as they come face-to-face with a St Jude's team that they defeated at the corresponding stage last year, but the Templeogue outfit will enter the encounter with their confidence enhanced following their excellent victory over Ballymun Kickhams at the quarter-final stage.
The remaining semi-final sees southside rivals Ballyboden St Enda's and Kilmacud Crokes renew hostilities after the sides met as recently as April in the group stages.
Crokes were victorious on that occasion, with Shane Horan's two goals helping them to a deserved 3-12 to 1-11 victory, but anyone that witnessed Ballyboden's last-eight win over Na Fianna last Saturday week would not rule out the 2015 champions from turning the tables on their talented opponents.
For Anthony Rainbow, it was an encouraging performance from his team after some inconsistent displays in the group stages but he's well aware that his team will need to improve again on that display against Na Fianna if they are to advance to the final.
"We were very pleased with how the lads performed in the quarter-final and I think that our movement and set-up was in keeping with some very good performances that we have had in the league," Rainbow said.
"We managed to put in some excellent displays at the start of the year in the league but, for some reason, it didn't really work out for us in the championship.
"Up until the Na Fianna match, we haven't played especially well in the championship and it's difficult to work out why that is the case but the lads are learning all the time and taking new systems on board.
"The lads have all put an awful lot of work into the season and it's great for them to have a championship semi-final to look forward to.
"Of course, we know how tough it will be at the weekend but it's a match that you want to be involved in at this stage of the season," he added.
Indeed, Kilmacud have proven a tough opponent for St Enda's this year and not only did they enjoy a comfortable win over their rivals in the championship, they franked that with another win in Division 1 of the Adult Football League.
Any team that can come through the so-called 'Group of Death' unbeaten naturally demands respect and Crokes possess a panel of players that are comfortable in these heightened surroundings.
While they were far from their best in the quarter-final, they still managed to overcome St Sylvester's by a healthy eight-point winning margin and Rainbow has the utmost respect for the team that stands in the way of Ballyboden's ambitions.
"Looking ahead to the Kilmacud game, I would certainly see them as hot favourites given that they beat us in both the championship and the league this year," he said.
"Of course, it's going to be a very tough game for both teams and the local element to it adds further spice.
"It is such a massive game for both teams and it's all about who performs on the day.
"Kilmacud have some excellent players all the way through their team and they have forwards that are more than capable of putting up some big scores.
"They have some very quick and talented attackers and it's not just about Paul Mannion in terms of the threat that they possess.
"Of course, he is a very important player for them but Shane Horan at wing-forward has enjoyed a fabulous year for them and Callum Pearson is another forward who can win a game on his own.
"Pat Burke is still a handful and when you look through their team, there is plenty of quality all the way through it and Cian O'Sullivan is also expected to return from injury so that should strengthen them further.
"Of course, we have some excellent players of our own and our forwards will be looking to take the game to the Crokes defence and that's why I expect it to be a tight and high-scoring match.
"Both teams are very well conditioned and are at a similar level in that regard and I think that Johnny Magee and Robbie Brennan have done a very good job with Kilmacud this year.
"It really is set up for a match that will have just a kick of the ball between them at the final whistle," added the former Kildare star.
One advantage that Ballyboden appear to enjoy over their opponents is in experience, with the majority of the 2016 All-Ireland winning panel still available for this current campaign.
Their subsequent fall in terms of results in both the Dublin championship of 2016 and 2017 hinted at a team in decline but they appear refreshed and re-energised under Rainbow this year.
Certainly, Ryan Basquel's displays have been as impressive as any forward out there while Michael Darragh MacAuley looks back to his barnstorming and belligerent best, if his performance against Na Fianna is anything to go on.
That duo are pivotal to Boden's chances on Saturday but the depth of their talent remains high and Rainbow has been delighted with the application of his players since taking over at the start of the year.
"When I came in and joined the management team, it was all about taking it one day at a time," Rainbow explained.
"They are a hugely talented and self-motivated group and our focus was on adding something to their training this year to take them back to their position of prominence that they experienced from a couple of years ago.
"The players have all taken on board what we wanted to introduce and it has helped that we have such a settled and experienced group of players on the panel.
"The core group is still there from the 2015/16 season and they want to get back there or thereabouts to that level of playing.
"We have made little tweaks to the system as the season has evolved and the performance levels seem to be improving the longer we have worked on them.
"This has got us to where we want to be, playing serious football in October and having a great match against Kilmacud Crokes to look forward to.
Hopefully, we will show another bit of improvement the next day out," said Rainbow.