leaders of the pack
St Vincent's and Ballymun still the teams to beat as Dublin SFC resumes in second round
BACK sooner than expected. Not many saw Donegal beating the Dubs.
But when the dust - and the disappointment - settled, a small silver lining emerged from the clouds.
The Dublin Senior Football Championship has returned following four months of slumber.
"That is a positive thing for the club footballer," asserts Naomh Mearnóg manager, Ciarán Ó Ceallacháin.
"Losing to Donegal was a huge disappointment for everybody.
"Yet if there is a consolation it is that if Dublin had got to the All-Ireland final, the county championship would have remained on hold, and players would have been left hanging around even longer."
Also, the frantic Autumn rush will be avoided.
"Last year, St Vincent's won the replay against Ballymun and they were out again in Leinster a few days later.
"That was three games in a week. It put fierce pressure on the players and management."
Ciarán is enjoying life at Mearnóg. They reside in mid-table in Division 2 of the AFL.
"We have a good group of young players coming through from last season's minor side.
"They did well in Division 1 and it is always encouraging when talented players are coming up through the ranks."
Five Division 2 teams remain in the SFC mix - Lucan Sarsfields, Skerries Harps, Ballinteer St John's, Fingal Ravens and St Anne's.
St Jude's knocked out Mearnóg. "Jude's are a terrific side. And they have been in several semi-finals over the years.
"They also reached the final (2009), and I'd say they will be there or thereabouts again."
Jude's will meet Whitehall Colmcille, the only Division 3 club left in the frame.
They registered a memorable win over Erin's Isle at Balgriffin, with Seán Dwyer's late goal proving crucial.
Jude's are among seven of last year's quarter-finalists that will lace up the boots this week - the others being St Vincent's, St Sylvester's, Ballyboden St Enda's, St Brigid's, Ballymun Kickhams and Raheny.
In last year's quarter-final, Jude's defeated Parnell's who didn't make the cut on this occasion, falling to Lucan by two points.
Vins and Syls are now set to dish up a quarter-final repeat tomorrow night. Last time, Vins had just a point to spare over the Malahide men.
"That is the tie-of-the-round," states Ciarán. "And all eyes will be on the champions.
"There will be plenty of good football to be played over the next few weeks, but I think the champions will be either Vincent's or Ballymun.
"Ballymun are playing Fingal Ravens. Ravens have just won Division 2, and they are an excellent team.
"Ballymun won't have it easy against them. They play quite a similar style to Ballymun, so it will be interesting."
Of the 16 clubs left in the competition, only six of them have lifted the Clery Cup - Ballymun, St Vincent's, Ballyboden, St Sylvester's, St Brigid's and Na Fianna.
And the Marino men, with their 25 titles, are the undisputed capital kings. Na Fianna, with five wins, are the closest to them from the six-pack.
For his own part, Ciarán is preparing to tackle fellow Division 2 side, Cuala, in the Senior B Championship. "That is going to be a tough one."
"And making things extra difficult for all of us in the Senior B Championship is the presence of Kilmacud Crokes," quips Ciaran.
Crokes were the big first round casualty, losing to St Oliver Plunkett's/ER in a Clondalkin cracker.
"Plunkett's have a lot of talent. And they have come so near to winning the Championship."
Maybe this could be their year, but, first, they'll have to get past St Anne's next Saturday. Anne's toppled Thomas Davis in the big Tallaght derby.
Parnell Park (6.45): St Jude's v Whitehall Colmcille
Parnell Park (8.15): St Sylvester's v St Vincent's
Balgriffin (7.30): Raheny v Lucan Sarsfields.
Parnell Park (8.15): Templeogue Synge Street v Na Fianna
Parnell Park (4.0): St Oliver Plunkett's/ER v St Anne's
Parnell Park (5.30): Ballymun Kickhams v Fingal Ravens
Chanel (5.30): St Brigid's v Skerries Harps
O'Toole Park (5.30): Ballyboden St Enda's v Ballinteer St John's