IT'S crunch time for Fingal clubs with five teams in action in the Dublin Intermediate and Senior championships over the next couple of days.
The senior draw has seen both St Sylvesters and St Maurs handed tricky ties with the latter up against St Vincents in Lawless Park on Thursday night. While Maurs have one eye on two crucial league clashes with St Judes and Na Fianna, the chance to put one over the Marino men is a challenge they will certainly relish. These are exciting times for the Rush club following the official opening of their new strength and conditioning gym and new bar facilities last Friday.
The newly developed gym was an initiative set up by former manager Barry Moore, and the team has certainly benefited from the expertise of players Chris Moore, Conor McGuire and Barry Horgan, the latter working with the Cavan senior team this season. With wins over Na Fianna and St Marys Saggart over the past three seasons, Maurs won't go into Thursday's game with any fear. Admittedly they struggled for a period against Trinity Gaels in their last game but coach Alan Durnin believes that was to be expected.
'In any game it can take you five or ten minutes to fully acquaint yourself with the various match-ups between players and to be fair once we rectified the problems we were on top,' he said. Since that fourteen point win, Maurs have got in two good competitive friendlies against a Seneschalstown team that included Meath star Joe Sheridan, while their most recent game last Thursday saw them take on Thomas Davis who saw off Skerries Harps in the last round. Durnin expects another tight encounter on Thursday night, along the lines of their league clash in April.
The sides have met in the championship previously at under-21 level in January 2011 when Vincents edged a tight game by two points, and several of that Maurs panel including their three Dublin under-21s, Ciaran Reddin, Danny Byrne and Luke Fletcher, are likely to feature again. Vincents while featuring established players like Ger Brennan, Diarmuid Connolly and Eamon Fennell can also look to the likes of underage talent Nathan Mullins and Ciaran Dorney. Nonetheless Vincents away from Parnell Park have in the past proved vulnerable as St Mary's Saggart proved three years ago. And Durnin believes that Maurs are more than capable of inflicting another upset on Tommy Conroy's men. 'We have reached the last sixteen in the last two seasons and Fingallians has proved a happy hunting ground in the last the few years.
'While staying up in the league is our main priority we will be going out to enjoy ourselves on Thursday and hopefully secure a quarter-final spot.' The tie of the round comes on Saturday, meanwhile, as St Sylvesters take on Plunketts in a repeat of the 2010 clash when Plunketts won out in extra time with a late Gareth Smith free condemning Syls to an agonising one-point defeat.
That day the Brogan brothers were held to three points between them but with former All-Star Jason Sherlock reported to be in flying form, Syls will have their hands full again. Nonetheless Syls boss Gabriel Bannigan believes it's all to play for when the two lock horns again. 'I know we have lost to Kilmacud Crokes and Plunketts there, but we have also beaten both Ballymun Kickhams and Parnells there in the championship so the venue holds no fear for us. 'Against Plunketts that day we were missing six influential players and I would defy any team to cope with that. 'With the exception of Gary Sweeney, we are pretty much operating at full strength and I think on the evidence of Saturday's game I've a few selection headaches ahead of Saturday, which is a good thing.' Syls second string are also in action this week in the intermediate championship as they take on last year's beaten finalists, Cuala.
Elsewhere, St Pat's Donabate take on St Brigids in a repeat of the 2010 clash when Brigids won well. But with the two Collins, Joey and Niall, currently flying, a much closer contest is anticipated. Fingallians, meanwhile, face a long trip to Newcastle on Wednesday night where they take on Good Counsel, conquerors of St Finians Swords in the last round. Good Counsel will certainly take some watching with the two Quinn twins, Alex and Ben Quinn, more than a handful for any defence. Former Dublin forward, Jonathan O'Brien is another tricky customer but with current All-Star, Paul Flynn, currently banging in the goals at full forward, Fingallians will expected to progress to the last four.