Last-eight clashes 'too close to call'
Fireworks expected as SHC reaches quarter-final stage
IT'S still hard to believe that Boden have left the building.
This week sees the long-awaited quarter-finals of the Evening Herald Dublin Senior Hurling Championship, and Boden won't be at the party.
They were hurtling towards the historic six-in-a-row. No Dublin team has ever done that.
But, shock of all shocks, they didn't make it out of Group C where Lucan Sarsfields and Cuala emerged.
Like the two drawn All-Ireland hurling finals last week in Croke Park, nobody would have predicted that.
But now the Dublin bus rolls on, and all those left on board will fancy their chances a whole lot more in the absence of Dublin hurling's aristocrats.
But before the last eight gets the green light, there is still a bit of unfinished business to attend to in Group B.
Crumlin prevailed from the three-team Pool, but nothing could separate St Brigid's and St Jude's, and they have an appointment tomorrow night to see who faces Kilmacud Crokes in the quarter-final.
Crokes won three from three in Group A where they qualified along with Craobh Chiaráin.
Ballinteer St John's were also in that section. Their manager is John Mitchell. He's looking forward to the action.
He says predicting the semi-finalists will not be easy. "Some of the ties look pretty even, and they are hard ones to call," notes John.
He feels the Boden factor has opened the door. "Ballyboden were the standard bearers of Dublin hurling. They set the bar for everybody.
"It was such a huge surprise that they were knocked out. And St Vincent's also didn't make the quarter-final. That was another surprise."
John says last year's finalists, O'Toole's, should be well in the frame. "They have to be one of the favourites. They have a very experienced team, although Lucan have done well in the championship in recent years.
"I think Craobh against Cuala will be a good one. The Cuala manager, Harry Roberts, has done a top job there. The Craobh are a real championship team. They are never easily beaten."
Says Harry Roberts: "All we ask for in an honest effort from everyone. This year our aim was to avoid relegation, stay safe in the league and get out of our group in the championship.
"Thankfully, we have managed to do that. We have a good bunch of hard-working lads here and I'm sure they don't want just to be remembered as the team that put Boden out of the championship only for somebody else to come along and win it."
John Mitchell states that Crumlin and Na Fianna could also produce a photo finish. "Crumlin, on their day, are very good. Na Fianna are also a decent young side. It should be quite an open game."
And he tips another tight affair in the Brigid's/Jude's fixture. "We drew with Brigid's in the league and Jude's beat us by a point. But both have improved a lot since then."
With Boden's leading the charge, Dublin hurling, in most people's view, has got sharper.
"It's no coincidence that Boden have been the club that have done well in Leinster, but, overall, Dublin clubs haven't made much of an impact in Leinster.
"I think in club hurling Dublin has quite a way to go to catch up with the likes of Kilkenny. And that's proven time and again in Leinster.
"Changing the structure in Dublin would help. There is too much of a gap in the summer months.
"The championship is killed off before the summer and I don't think that is doing anybody any good.
"When you have no championship matches, it's hard to keep guys interested. The league won't do it for you.
"Keeping the championship going during the summer months is something that has to be looked at.
"It would certainly help improve and promote Dublin hurling."
In the meantime, eight clubs will march on with hope in their hearts this week. And with Anthony Daly (pictured left) about to begin a fresh chapter, the latter stages of the championship will provide a genuine showcase for the best swingers in town.