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Brigid's put title on line

THE church bells of Saggart are ringing a little louder these days. They seem to be signalling the start of the Dublin Senior Football Championship.

There's an extra zest on the village street, and out on the training field. It's reflected all over the county.

"You can sense the buzz that the championship brings," says St Mary's manager, Jimmy Callaghan. "Everybody is training hard for it.

"It is going to be a very competitive championship again. There are so many good sides there. And you not only have the Dublin footballers, but many from other counties as well."

Jimmy predicts that the winners will come from the usual quarter.

"It's hard to look beyond the likes of St Brigid's, Kilmacud Crokes and St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh. Clubs like that who make the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals every year.

"I think Ballymun Kickhams have been knocking on the door too. They will be strong, and you'd have to say that Parnell's could go close this time. They have assembled a very strong squad."

The holders, St Brigid's, are seeking their third title. They'll meet Thomas Davis in the second clash of Thursday's double-header in the Donnycarney Dome. Brigid's won last year's Battle of the Navan Road in the county final against Plunkett's. Mick Galvin's men will again feature highly among the favourites as they chase their first crown. Their opening assignment is against Clondalkin's Round Tower.

Lucan Sarsfields, who meet Ballinteer St John's, gave Plunkett's quite a rattle in last season's semi-final, while in the other semi-final, Brigid's edged out Paul Curran's Ballymun in extra-time.

The 'Mun face a local derby against Erin's Isle, while one of the most interesting tussles could be between the Division 1 champs St Jude's and St Vincent's.

At Mary's, the focus is very much on Thursday night's O'Toole Park appointment with Raheny.

"The championship has been a bit stop-start because of the success of the Dublin unders-21s. But that's also brilliant for Dublin football.

"Calling off the championship knocked everybody's preparations, and all the clubs had to go at it again, but it does come around very quickly. We are all looking forward to the Raheny game now. They are doing very well in Division 2. By all accounts, Ciarán Whelan is doing a wonderful job with them.

"They are a young side with a few players on the Dublin under-21s. Things have been going nicely for us in Division 1 and we just hope our bit of experience can bring us through.

"We have a small squad, and it is very important that we have all our players available and that we don't pick up any injuries. Thankfully, this year we have most of the fellas available. We'll give it a go, as we always do. No matter who you are, it's all about trying to get your name in the hat for the next round.

"Our pick is small. We are pulling from what's in Saggart and Rathcoole. But the lads always wear their hearts on the sleeve. They have a brilliant attitude," stressed Mary's maestro Jimmy.