Ó Riain hungry for more Crokes success
ONE of the 'rewards' of managing the Dublin county champions of a particular year is an invitation to mentor the Dubs Stars Selection in their annual Evening Herald/Dublin Bus New Year's Day clash against Dublin.
The honour tomorrow falls to Kilmacud Crokes' Gearóid Ó Riain, who was hugely instrumental in the Stillorgan men attaining their first county title in 27 years when accounting for Cuala in last October's final.
The joy of finally making that breakthrough after so many years in the doldrums was tempered somewhat by their elimination from the provincial campaign at the first hurdle to Oulart-The Ballagh but time has allowed Ó Riain to reflect positively on the past year and look forward to the challenges that await him and his charges in the coming months.
"It feels good," said Ó Riain. "It's nice to sit back now and reflect on the year. We would have preferred to push on in Leinster and the loss to Oulart still hurts to a degree.
"There is a bit of distance now from that loss and I suppose it is only around now that we can appreciate and enjoy our county title and what the players achieved this year.
"I'm not sure that we ever played to our full potential in Dublin this year and that can happen with what is in essence a young team.
"We probably played the best all year against Oulart, despite losing the game, and I think that augurs well for next year as it should leave the lads hungry for more success," said Ó Riain.
A factor in Kilmacud's re-emergence at the top of the hurling table in Dublin was their ability to deliver when the need arose the most, a characteristic not recently applied to a team that has failed to justify the hype on a number of occasions in recent years.
The early exit of holders Ballyboden St Enda's certainly helped their cause but Ó Riain stresses that their only focus was on internal issues and that eventually reaped dividends with a fourth county title residing in Páirc de Búrca.
"We never felt much pressure to be honest, even when Ballyboden were knocked out as we realised how much work we had to do ourselves and the focus was primarily on that."
Before Ó Riain can concentrate on the pitfalls of defending their senior title, the small issue of the Dubs Stars challenge will need to be addressed but his task has been made slightly easier with Cuala manager Harry Roberts coming on board to assist him on the day.
Although lacking the cut and thrust of club championship fare, Ó Riain expects a worthy encounter between the cream of hurling talent in the county and is looking forward to one of the highlights of the local calendar.
"I doubt we'll be able to arrange any training sessions between now and Tuesday," he said.
"It will be a good, enjoyable day out there and I'm sure all the lads involved will go out and enjoy playing against the Dubs.
"The Dubs Stars games gives players that challenge every year and the high quality of the matches generally reflect that," he concluded.