We have absolutely no fear - Henderson
Published 10/11/2012 | 05:00
TWO years ago they were intermediates, and earlier this year they were second last in their league group, fighting relegation.
Is it any wonder that Dicksboro's progress to the Kilkenny senior hurling championship final against local giants Ballyhale has generated such excitement?
Dicksboro have been labelled Kilkenny city's 'third team' in recent years but, having mined a rich vein of young talent, they're now desperately hoping to reverse the order. "It's fair to say we've been playing not second but third fiddle behind O'Loughlin Gaels and James Stephens," manager Ger Henderson acknowledged.
That is why their two-point semi-final victory over reigning champions James Stephens was such a coup, finally propelling them past their bogey team and into a first county senior final since 1994.
When the club won their fourth (and last) title in '93, Henderson's dad Pat, the legendary centre-back who won five All-Irelands and managed Kilkenny to another two, was manager and young Ger had to be content with a substitute's role due to a cruciate injury.
Nineteen years later, after switching roles with selector Liam Maher this season, Ger finds himself in charge of their talented youngsters.
They may be viewed as the ones wielding a slingshot against Ballyhale's Goliath tomorrow, but Dicksboro have surfed in on a great wave of underage success.
Back in 2009 they won Division 1 of the All-Ireland (U-14) Feile, and two of that team -- Robbie Fitzpatrick and Kevin Kenny (both 17) -- will start tomorrow.
They've won three minor titles since 2006 and two U-21s, and this year's minors (captained by Rory Glynn, brother of senior captain David) also reached the county final, which they lost to James Stephens last weekend.
Considering that their senior championship opener (Kilkenny's draw is based on league placings) against Dunnamaggin was also a battle to avoid a relegation play-off, their seniors' run this year has been remarkable.
"It is unusual alright, but we were in a very good league group that included O'Loughlins, James Stephens, Carrickshock and Castlecomer," Henderson explained.
"We won only one match and drew another, but in Kilkenny the league can be very disjointed, with long gaps between games, so it's difficult to get your form together.
"Our championship matches have all come very close together and we've definitely been able to get some momentum going. We did get to the quarter-finals last year where O'Loughlins beat us.
"This year we beat Dunnamaggin and then St Martin's, who would have been fancied, and James Stephens probably weren't as hungry as they were last year."
"But we hurled fierce well against them, the lads were just fantastic and winning that was a massive achievement for us.
"We have a very young team -- eight of them are still U-21s -- but sometimes, with young fellas, there is absolutely no fear."
Henderson is hoping the fearlessness of youth will be Dicksboro's ace card again tomorrow against Ballyhale's hugely experienced and star-studded side.
But in Cillian Buckley, who established himself as a county senior midfielder this year and started in the replayed All-Ireland final, they already have a rising star of their own.
Ollie Walsh (grandson of the legendary county goalkeeper of the same name and son of Michael) is another rising talent who started for Kilkenny in this year's All-Ireland U-21 final and on that county U-21 bench too were Dicksboro's David Glynn, Martin Gaffney and Danny Kenny.
Paul O'Flynn is another big scoring threat -- they had eight scorers in their semi-final victory.
Back in 2005 Dicksboro went all the way to win the All-Ireland intermediate title but, in the county which is the standard-bearer for every hurler in the country, senior hurling is an absolute barometer of class.
Dicksboro's young guns have already reached that and marked themselves out for the future.