Monday 27 February 2017

Perkins exit spurring on Ballyboden in fantastic four quest

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

THEY are chasing four in a row but reigning champions Ballyboden St Enda's now have additional motivation not to take their eyes off the prize against St Vincent's in the Dublin SHC final tomorrow.

Unbeknown to his team-mates, last weekend's county semi-final victory over O'Tooles was Stephen Perkins' last game of the season: he emigrated to Australia earlier this week.

"Stephen is an architect and, like so many Irish people, has had to go where the work is," explained Ballyboden manager Liam Hogan.

"He will be hugely missed because he has not only been a magnificent servant to our club but also to the Dublin team."

Tomorrow's final pits together two sides who are emblematic of two ages of Dublin club hurling.

Ballyboden were pipped by Birr in the 2008 Leinster final and are contesting their fifth county final in a row. They are seen as one of the capital's super-clubs, who not only have a huge conveyor belt of youth talent but the managerial and administrative expertise to harness it.

But their challengers were the city's original super-club and have an even richer dual history.

St Vincent's have not only won more county football titles than anyone else -- and an All-Ireland club title in 2008 -- but only Faughs have won more than their 13 county senior hurling titles.

Giants

Yet the Marino giants haven't won the capital's premier hurling crown in 17 years; they lost to Ballyboden in the 2007 final.

The sides drew when they met in the round-robin stage earlier this season. If Ballyboden have county stars in Gary Maguire, Stephen Hiney, Shane Durkin, David Curtin and Simon Lambert, then so too do Vincent's, in Ronan Fallon and Ruairi Trainor.

They also have dual star Diarmuid Connolly, whose two brothers, Thomas and Keith, are a real scoring threat in their full-forward line.

Between them, the three Connollys racked up 3-8 in the semi-final thrashing of Kilmacud Crokes.

"Our meeting in the group stages was a real tough, hard game and we'll expect more of the same," said Hogan.

Apart from Lucan Sarsfields coming within a point of them in the quarter-final, Ballyboden have had a relatively easy passage, though they lost to O'Tooles, by three points, in their round-robin opener.

But they underlined their intent by blasting O'Tooles aside (3-17 to 1-11) in last weekend's semi-final rematch.

"From one to 30 they are a very, very dedicated bunch of players," said Coolderry native and former Offaly senior Hogan. "They're almost semi-professional really, in the way they prepare and their attitude."

Not since Garda in the late 1920s has a club won four Dublin SHC titles in a row but Hogan won't allow his side to be distracted by history.

"We cannot think about the four-in-a-row," he said. "We're just thinking about how to beat St Vincent's."

Irish Independent

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