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Boden can cement status as greatest

ANDY CUNNINGHAM knows his hurling onions. He is a regular pundit on Dublin City FM (103.2) on Wednesday nights (7pm).

He hurled with one of Dublin hurling's aristocrats, O'Toole's, and he was among Tommy Naughton's lieutenants with the Dublin hurlers.

When Andy (pictured below) was playing, the Dublin Senior Championship was straight knockout. "It all depended on the luck of the draw. You could be out of the championship in early May."

But there was one consolation. "The league back then carried a lot of weight. It meant something to win the Dublin League. Sadly, that's not the case anymore."

Andy is disappointed that the league is just a pale shadow of what it once was. "It used to be so competitive, but it hasn't been that way for a long time."

With no safety net, there was more bite in the championships duels. And bigger crowds. Nearly all of the fixtures were played in Parnell Park or O'Toole Park.

"I wouldn't knock the round-robin format. It does help to prolong a team's season. At least they are guaranteed a few championship games.

"But some of the fixtures just don't have the cutting edge. The format of playing a couple of matches and then having the gap is not ideal but it's the best we have in the circumstances. The inter-county does seem to be squeezing out the club scene all the time, but we just have to run with it.

"The one benefit is that it gives teams, if need be, a chance to regroup after their opening games as they try and reach the quarter-final."

Andy is looking forward to some cracking action over the next few weeks and months. And he's pleased that Dublin's injury fog is beginning to lift.

"It will be tremendous to see the likes of Tomás Brady, Stephen Hiney and Conal Keaney back with their clubs. They will be using the Dublin Champion-ship to get back playing for the county, and they are such vital players for Dublin."

He has seen some top sides down through the decades. Boden are up there with any of them.

"They are such a fantastic outfit. They are one of the best that I have ever seen. The closest to them in the modern era has been my own club, O'Toole's, who won the three-in-a-row in the '90s."

This season, Boden will attempt to rewrite the history books as they seek to become the first club to win six successive Dublin SHC 'A' titles.

"That will bring it's own pressure, but 'Boden always seem well able to handle it," judges Andy.

"They are, by far, the team to beat. People were saying years ago that if they managed to win one championship it would be the first of many. And that is what has happened.



Unbelievable

"They are such a tremendous outfit. They have a superb juvenile structure. They have been very successful at minor and U21 levels, so the talent keeps coming through.

"To win six championships in-a-row would be unbelievable. But they have such quality.

"Over the years, the established clubs would be able to put it up to them, but I'm not sure if that is the case anymore.

"O'Toole's are considered one of the strong Dublin hurling sides, yet they were well beaten in last year's county final.

"The overall standard is not as good as it once was, and 'Boden have just got better and better. I think their dominance is a comb-ination of both factors.

"Aside from 'Boden, several of the rest of the sides are evenly balanced. It's a tough ask for any of them to beat 'Boden but, as they say, when you are on the top, you are there to be taken down."

Andy feels that 'Boden will have to be humming from the off as they find themselves in the 'Group of Sweat' along with St Vincent's, Lucan Sarsfields and Cuala.

"Boden will have a tough opener against Vincent's on Saturday night. It's the hardest group of them all. Yet you'd expect 'Boden to come through, with the other three sides taking points off each other.

"Lucan have been in contention in recent times, reaching many semi-finals, but now they are in Division 2. Cuala, on the other hand, promise much because of their underage success, but they just don't seem to be making the breakthrough. That's no easy section."

Two clubs who have been making progress in the modern era, Ballinteer St John's and St Pat's (P), are in Group A with Craobh Chiaráin and Kilmacud Crokes.

"Craobh are not the force they were, and Crokes faded against O'Toole's last season, but you'd still expect Craobh and Crokes to make the quarter-final."

Crumlin, St Brigid's and St Jude's find them-selves in the three-card trick that is Pool B. Danny Sut-cliffe's emer-gence has been exciting all in Tymon.

"It's hard to pick the two that will advance here. St Brigid's had a marvellous run to the semi-final last season. They surprised a lot of people, while Crumlin are usually a good championship side."

Group D is also far from being a bed of tulips. "You'd expect O'Toole's to come out of it. They got some good wins last season.

"Naomh Fionnbarra had a terrific win in the Senior 'B' Championship, but this is a big step up, while Na Fianna had a disappointing championship last year and they have now slipped into Division 2.



History

"Faughs are Faughs. We have lost trace of how many championships they have won. They have been getting a few decent results."

Faughs have won 31 Dublin SHC crowns. But even they, at their height, couldn't better four-in-a-row.

Garda and Commercials are the two other clubs that secured the five-in-a-row, Commercials (1895-1899) and Garda (1925-1929).

Boden now stand on the edge of history. The Firhouse Road is holding its breath as Hogan's Heroes set out on their biggest adventure yet.


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