Dublin hurling on rise, insists Crokes star Corcoran as Oulart test looms
KILMACUD CROKES missed out on winning a football and hurling championship double on Monday night, but the club will decamp to Parnell Park again on Sunday.
They'll travel more in hope than expectation, with Wexford champions Oulart-The Ballagh coming to the capital to take on their hurlers.
Oulart have won the Wexford title for the last four years. In fact, they have failed to come out of Wexford only twice since 2004, but Leinster success has continually eluded them.
Last year, they looked set to make the breakthrough when they upset James Stephens to become the first Wexford side to beat Kilkenny representatives in Leinster since Rathnure defeated Gowran in 1996.
But Coolderry trumped them in the final, meaning there is a definite sense of unfinished business about their provincial campaign this time around.
"I heard that they won the cup in Wexford and it was basically put away," said Crokes defender Niall Corcoran. "They are very focused on Leinster this year."
Traditionally, clubs venturing into provincial championships after ending a long famine at county level don't fare too well.
Crokes' championship success over Cuala last month was the club's first in 27 years, and although he only joined up with the Stillorgan outfit in 2008, the enormity of the result wasn't lost on Corcoran.
"It was huge for the club. There were tears in some people's eyes. We had a few nights to celebrate but we were back training later that week and decided we'd give Leinster a good go. You never know how many chances you'd get at this," he said.
And in his five years in Dublin, Corcoran has seen the club game in the capital come on in leaps and bounds.
Having picked up a job coaching in Dublin, Corcoran joined Crokes from Galway intermediate outfit Meelick/ Eyrecourt and agrees that at that time, a strong Galway side from that grade could have held its own in the Dublin senior championship.
But with the five-in-a-row-winning Ballyboden failing to get out of their group this year and the emergence of other clubs, the Dublin scene is on the rise.
"I joined in 2008 and we got to the final that year and were well beaten by Ballyboden. The standard wouldn't have been as high then as it is now, no doubt about it," he said.
"But since then we have come back a lot stronger. Cuala are there too. Crumlin got to the semi-finals too, so teams are improving and making an impact. It's a bit more even now in Dublin."
Dublin clubs have struggled to make an mark at provincial level in recent times. Ballyboden threatened to make a breakthrough in Leinster on a number of occasions. In 2007, they beat Oulart and went on to reach the final before falling to Birr.
They also brought O'Loughlin Gaels to extra-time in 2010 before the Kilkenny champions went all the way to the All-Ireland final.
"You could see with Ballyboden that they got more competitive through experience. We don't have that and Oulart do. They have some fantastic players like the Jacobs and Keith Rossiter but we'll go into it with a positive frame of mind," said Corcoran.
Whatever the result on Sunday, Corcoran sees Dublin hurling continuing to rise. Tomas Brady's defection to the footballers is a blow to the county team, but that won't be an excuse in 2013.
"Winning the league last year was a big help, and you see young fellas hurling all over the place now.
"You see the footballers and when they go to Croke Park there's a full house nearly all the time. That's what hurling needs to be aiming for and since Anthony (Daly) has come in, we've been making good strides," said Corcoran.
"We'll miss Tomas as a player and a leader but the best of luck to him. We have a good squad and a couple of good underage teams over the past few years, so it's a chance for them.
"We have a bit of depth there now. Whatever happens, we won't use it as an excuse next year."