setanta start with a smile
Ballymun boys make memorable SHC debut
PROINSIAS ó CONGHAILE painted the Ballymun sky blue.
Sonny's days have never looked brighter.
Setanta are one of Dublin's great hurling clubs. The ash goes deep into the bone.
They had a big night last Thursday. Their Dublin Senior Hurling 'A' Championship début.
Out to Craobh's Clonshaugh centre-court. A large convoy arrived for the Group 4 clash with Parnell's - Setanta won impressively 3-18 to 3-14.
Setanta hadn't been tipped to win. They play in Division 3. They had no management team at the start of the year.
Between their two adult hurling squads, they can only call on 35 players.
But out in Chiarain's came the sweetest of victories.
"It was a huge thing for us to be in the Senior 'A' Championship," remarks selector, Mairtin O Riordain.
"As they say, it's great to be invited to the party. But we weren't just happy with just making up the numbers.
"We wanted to perform. And it was tremendous to get the ball rolling with a win."
Last season, Setanta reached the Senior 'B' Championship final. That was their ticket to the big-time.
But there was also the sting of relegation.
"The priority now is to get promotion."
They are going the right way about it. Three wins from three in the AHL Division 3.
"Consistency is what we are looking for. We want to be playing high quality games all the time. That's what brings you on."
Setanta face St Vincent's next in a couple of weeks. And then there's the champions, Kilmacud Crokes.
Mairtin is tipping Crokes for ultimate glory.
Crokes opened the defence of their title with a five-point win against St Vincent's, the team they toppled in last year's quarter-final.
"It's hard to look beyond Crokes. They are so good at producing players.
"Yet in saying that, you also have the likes of Ballyboden, St Jude's, Cuala and a few others.
"You have six or seven teams that, on their day, can beat anyone. I think it has the makings of being a really good Championship."
The team that came so near to glory last term, St Jude's, also began brightly with a Group 3 triumph against St Patrick's of Palmerstown, who made the last eight two seasons ago.
Boden and Cuala returned high harvests. Boden beat Crumlin in Group 3. Conal Keaney scored two goals. Paul Ryan and Conor McCormack also rattled the O'Toole Park cobwebs.
The Dalkey side hit a stunning seven goals in their Group 2 win over Ballinteer St John's. It's a long time since seven goals were scored in the Dublin Senior Hurling Championship.
The opening spin of the sliotar saw two draws - the Group one meeting of O'Toole's and St Brigid's, and the Group two clash of Faughs and the 2013 first-time finalists, Lucan Sarsfields.
And Mairtin predicts plenty of good hurling before the quarter-final line-up is completed. "The format is good for hurling. It's not like the football championship where when you lose, you are out.
"In the hurling, each club are guaranteed at least three quality matches. And it's to the benefit of the players that they are getting championship game-time."
It's also to the benefit of Ger Cunningham's county side.
"When the Dublin team are doing well, it reflects well on the county championship.
"And you could see that in the last few years. Everybody is lifted.
"And the standards have certainly gone up in the club game. I don't think there's much difference between the Intermediate Championship and the Senior 'B' Championship. The Leagues are a bit different in that the county players can be missing, but when it comes to Championship, everybody is back.
"Anthony Daly can't be thanked enough for what he has done for Dublin hurling. He was just brilliant.
"But now we have to push on again. Galway will be a big test (Leinster SHC, Croke Park, May 31). But the boys will be ready for it."
And the same goes for Setanta when they'll tackle Vincent's.
"The main thing is to again go out and give the best of ourselves.
"We have a very young side. The majority of the players are under-21.
"You'd just hope that we have enough experience to see things through.
"Two minors started the other night, Ryan Swift and Cian Fallon. They did so well.
"But it was a marvellous overall team performance. You could name the entire team."
Young Swift stood out.
"He was sensational. He played in midfield. His link-up play was outstanding. He played with such intelligence.
"He's a great role-model here in the club. Yet it's all about the effort of the squad. And now we just want to keep improving.
"We are not content with leaving it at one good result. We have two more Championship games to come.It's huge for the area. It's such a boost to have people talking about us. And we are not just a hurling and camogie club. It's a cultural club.
"On a Monday afternoon in our clubhouse, you could have 140 children doing their Irish dancing and learning to play their instruments.
"That's what makes the club what it is. The hurling and camogie is great, but the cultural side complements everything."
This Thursday, Setanta will welcome their Japanese friends from DCU to play hurling and camogie at the club (6.0).
The Japanese team are called Nihon Gaels. All are welcome to pop along and see the game. And following the match, there will be a celebration of cultural exchanges in the clubhouse.