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Unfinished business says ex-Crokes boss

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GEAROID O RIAIN

GEAROID O RIAIN

SPORTSFILE

GEAROID O RIAIN

GIVEN 27 years had passed since their previous Dublin senior hurling title and tie in the obvious significance of the act of relinquishing Ballyboden St Enda's choke hold on the gong, it was widely expected that the Kilmacud Crokes vintage of 2012 would quietly pad into - and then quickly out of - the subsequent Leinster club SHC.

Oulart The-Ballagh were coming to Parnell Park and they had big things in mind for themselves and if Crokes were road kill on their already well worn track, then so be it.

What transpired was one of the more stirring performances from a Dublin club in that particular competition, though with a pretty familiar result.

Crokes were six down with 20 minutes to go but then Seánie McGrath cut loose on Keith Rossiter and thus in injury-time, we were level.

unjustly

Yet Nicky Kirwan pointed a free in injury-time on an apocalyptic sort of afternoon in Donnycarney, a day when it seemed that all the significant decisions, particularly a first-half Oulart penalty, had gone unjustly against Crokes.

On the way off the pitch, Crokes then manager Gearóid O Riain and Ryan O'Dwyer gave referee Tony Carroll and linesman Barry Kelly their tuppence - and probably thrupence - worth but they were out.

Worse.

Oulart continued a long and varied provincial final trend by taking out Ballyhale Shamrocks next day out but losing to Kilcormac Killoughey in the Leinster final.

"I think we learned a lot out of 2012 in winning the Championship for the first time," says Ó Riain, now a Dublin senior selector with Ger Cunningham.

"It was a breakthrough. It probably happened a little bit earlier than we thought it would, given there was this big pulse of young players coming through.

"In 2013 we actually played better hurling," he adds.

"We went back and did some fundamental rebuilding of our skills and so on. We played the best in the country and beat them in solid challenge games.

"We were probably unhappy by losing that quarter-final by a few points to Ballyboden."

After that game, Ó Riain left the Crokes job, later to be inherited by Ollie Baker.

At the time, he had to consider the dual forces of a young family and an expanding business, none of which tallies with a a new set of tasks as a selector with a senior inter-county side, but as Ó Riain points out: "It's too big an opportunity to pass up.

"You learn from passing up other opportunities over the years that they don't come around too often," he confides.

So he'll be watching Crokes against Ballyhale on Sunday through the bifocals of a former manager and now, a recruitment agent.

And if there is a club from which greater sustenance can be drawn by Dublin right now, it's probably Crokes.

exaggerated

Although for Ó Riain's money, the perception of a shallow pond of talent from which to fish in the capital is exaggerated.

"I've spent a bit of thinking time going through the various teams, the other clubs.

"Up to this, I would be looking at those players in terms of opposition, so I actually think there is a rich pool of talent there," he says.

"But the challenge is for those players, 60 or 70 of them in the county that have the capacity to move on to senior level.

"The pressure is on us to create the environment for them to really develop into top class hurlers and then for them to take the decision to jump off or move off the plateau to another level of performance.

"We're very clear that age is not going to be a deciding factor," Ó Riain insists. "It will be about freshness. To change and improve.

"So we're going to be taking the best and the best potential out of a whole range of ages, from minor upwards. But we need more strength in depth. That's the challenge for us."


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