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ryan roaring for larriers

Determined O'Toole's skipper hopes to end 'Boden drive for five.

KEVIN RYAN is the skipper of the Larriers. He'll be a proud man wearing the captain's arm-band in the Parnell Park parade this Sunday.

It's the Evening Herald Dublin Senior Hurling Championship 'A' final day as O'Toole's and Ballyboden St Enda's march behind the band (3.45).

The club is in Kevin's bones. He deeply admired the exploits of O'Toole's icons like Seán Kearns, Peter Pringle, Paul Gettings, Peadar Carton senior and the present boss, Joey Morris.

Back in 2002 was the last time O'Toole's played in the final. They beat Craobh Chiaráin following a replay.

The first installment ended 3-9 to O'Toole's and 0-18 to Chiaráin's. Ten of the Craobh points came from the cultured Connie Ring, all from the placed ball.

Connie was such a refined striker of the sliotar. He was a real stylist. One of the best in the game.

Kevin scored a point in the replay. His midfield colleague back then, goalkeeper, Brendan McLoughlin, hit 1-2. O'Toole's won by three points.

Also on duty were present O'Toole's players Philip Brennan, Michael Carton and Graham Morris.

The current manager, Joey Morris, was also on the management then with Paul Gettings and Brendan O'Donnell.

The replay was fast and furious. After it, O'Toole's were welcomed into the Craobh clubhouse. Later that evening, Chiaráin's attended the celebrations in Ayrfield.

The 2002 success came after O'Toole's golden three-in-a-row feat in 1995, '96 and '97.

"Nine years is a long time for a club like O'Toole's to be waiting to get back into the county final," reflects Kevin, who has seen, at first-hand, the strides Dublin hurling has made.

"It is improving all the time. And the achievement of Anthony Daly and the boys keeps on pushing it along.

"With Dublin doing so well, you then have the situation of the county players going back to their clubs and (they) are lifting things again, so the club game is benefiting as well.

"There's no reason why the Dublin Hurling Championship can't compare favourably with any other county championship. Ballyboden have proved that in the last couple of years in Leinster."

His older brother, Liam, will be at full or centre-forward for O'Toole's on Sunday. It wasn't always so. At times the two brothers played against each other when Liam was with Erin's Isle.

They were reared in Rivervalley in Swords. Both are also first-class footballers. They were on the St Finian's (Swordsvalley) side that climbed from the basement into senior football a few years ago.

The former Dublin full-back, Dermot Deasy, now a top ref, was the chief pilot. Earlier this year, Liam was the captain for the day as Dublin beat Kilkenny in Parnell Park to lift the Walsh Cup.

Kevin has performed with great distinction at centre half-back as O'Toole's progressed to Sunday's final with a semi-final victory over St Brigid's, having already beaten Kilmacud Crokes in the quarter-final.

He had trusty lieutenants alongside him in the defence. O'Toole's defending has been one of the most impressive features of the campaign, and they proved their worth when they succeeded in curtailing the Kilmacud and Dublin ace, Ryan O'Dwyer.

"We are just happy that we have made it back to the final. It was a good victory over Crokes. Against Brigid's in the semi-final, it was all about the result.

"The performance doesn't really come into it in semi-finals. The bottom-line is getting through, and we are just thankful we did that."

It was different back in 2002 when O'Toole's had group wins against Crumlin, Naomh Fionnbarra, Trinity Gaels and Crumlin again before overcoming Faughs in the semi-final.

"The shorter Championship is just the way things turned out this year. But now it's all about getting ready for the final. Making sure we are well rested and as well prepared as we can be.

"It is all about getting the bodies and the minds right to ensure that we can give it everything on the day.

"Boden, I'm sure, were disappointed with the way things went in Leinster in the last couple of years. They'll love another crack at it to prove to themselves that they can do it. They'll be all out to win Dublin and to take it from there, but our job now is to stop them in the final."

The winner of Sunday's decider progresses to face Westmeath champions, Clonkill, away the following Sunday.

O'Toole's have vast experience, and they have the knowledge and guile to grind out results.

But they also possess a cluster of talented young personnel, the elegant Paddy Carton among them.

"We have a nice mix there. There's lads who have shown marvellous dedication to the club over the years and it's nice to see the young fellas coming through now.

"It's important to have young players emerging, and hopefully with the blend of experience and youth we can drive things on from here."

Kevin himself is playing for the Larriers for more years than he'd care to remember. He also decorated the Dublin jersey. But the main thing is he's still enjoying it as much as ever.

He would enjoy it even more if he could lead the Blunden Boys back to Paradise and stop the five in-a-row.