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Boden to 'kill off outsiders

WHEN a team wins five county titles on the spin, it's fairly safe to assume their ambitions inflate accordingly. And when you've come as close to tasting provincial success as Ballyboden St Enda's have on a couple of occasions over the past four years, that progression is somewhat inevitable.

Liam Hogan has made little secret of the fact that his desire is for his all-conquering Firhouse troops to make the next step and take a Leinster title but those who see tomorrow's trip to the Midlands as an aperitif for the 'serious' hurling -- bookies included -- might well be misguided.

"We haven't done ourselves justice in Leinster," admitted Hogan after the drive for five was completed in rip-roaring fashion against O'Toole's last Sunday. "But we've another bite at the cherry -- there's a lot of clubs in Dublin who would love to be where we are now, and we are thankful that we have a great bunch of players."


They do, but on the face of it, they are without two totems of 'Boden's recent dominance in Conal Keaney and Stephen Hiney. Against that, some of the club's younger players have graduated into the set-up, and the likes of Marty O'Sullivan, David O'Connor and Niall McMorrow looked perfectly primed to make the step up.

With Keaney and Hiney in tow, 'Boden might be unbackable favourites to progress tomorrow but anyone inclined to take Westmeath hurling lightly might look back to Raharney's victory over Offaly champions Coolderry last year as a warning sign.

In fact, they went on to run then All-Ireland favourites, Oulart-The Ballagh, to three points and 'Boden's opponents tomorrow, Clonkill, were unquestionably the best team in Westmeath this year. Featuring the guts of the side that won an All-Ireland Intermediate championship as recently as 2008, Clonkill are serious opposition and in centre-back Andrew Mitchell they possess a player able to dominate a game and provide shelter for his inside defenders.

Ballyboden side still look well-primed to kick on, though, and with former Wexford man Stephen Nolan in awesome form in the Dublin decider, they have a powerful lynchpin of their own in defence.

Shane Durkin's industry in the middle is admirable while fellow intercounty Dubs Simon Lambert and Conor McCormack ghost in and out of the full-forward line to telling effect.

And in Paul Ryan, they have one of the country's most lethal marksmen.

On the face of it, the 1/8 odds being offered on a 'Boden win seem irreconcilable with the reality of the battle facing them, but given they have been down this road so many times before, they are unlikely to be caught off guard.

ODDS: Clonkill 11/2, Draw 14/1, Ballyboden St Enda's 1/8

VERDICT: Ballyboden St Enda's