herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Nobody is counting chickens but beating Tipp and the Cats is like having the hay saved

IT'S amazing what a lick of paint can do.

Ger Cunningham comes in and Parnell Park gets a make-over.

The furniture gets moved around. Suddenly, the room looks different.

Michael Carton in at full-back. Peter Kelly to centre half-back. Conal Keaney on the half-back line, and Liam Rushe up front.

"Anthony Daly did so much for Dublin hurling. They were great years," offers Ross McGarry, the Fingal hurling captain.

"But maybe Dalo brought them as far as he could. Sometimes, you just need that fresh face. That new voice."

Ger's gospel is working. Two matches in Division 1A of the Allianz Hurling League and two wins.

And not just any old wins - home to Tipp and away to the Cats.

Two of hurling's super-powers.

"That was a fantastic result against Kilkenny. It's not everyday that you beat Kilkenny in Nowlan Park," states Ross.

Next up is Cork in Croke Park on Saturday week, March 7th (5.0). It's a double-bill with the footballers tackling Tyrone (7.0).

If Jimmy Barry was coming to Parnell Park, it would have been some night. The atmosphere would have been crackling in Fortress Donnycarney.

But now a golden chance pops up. Beating Tipp, Kilkenny and Cork would be some three-card trick.

But genial Ger is not climbing into the pulpit.

At this time of the year, it's all about the work done and the fitness levels. Less so when the turf begins to harden.

Early days, yet Ross can feel the good vibrations.

"Winning is a habit. And Dublin have put themselves in a very strong position now.

"Ger Cunningham brings a lot of experience with him. Just like Anthony Daly did.

"Dublin hurling is in a good place, and it's a tribute to all those that have come before."

Ross thinks back on the contribution of men like Jimmy Boggan, Lar Foley, Jimmy Gray, Michael O'Grady, Humphrey Kelleher, Marty Morris and Tommy Naughton.

And he salutes all the toil that has gone on in the clubs.

"Dublin hurling is in the top flight now. And that's down to the massive effort that has been made by everybody in the county.

"You can see the improvement in standards in all the Leagues in Dublin. And it's getting better all the time."

Ross plays with a club that have also been climbing the mountain, Skerries Harps.

One of their braves, Denis Murphy, was once the pilot of the Fingal hurlers. Michael Kennedy wears the cap now. And he wears it well.

"It's great that we are getting to play in the National Hurling League (Div 3A). It's a high level of hurling," states Ross.

Without the Fingal project, that chance would be denied. And Ross and his colleagues appreciate the conviction and vision of men like the sadly missed Andy Kettle.

The Fingal lost to Tyrone on Sunday. But the result from the Nore lifted the spirits.

Dublin's hurling river is flowing proudly.

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