| 14.8°C Dublin

Brothers go in for the Kil'

AS the shivering, drenched masses sought shelter under the few dry spots around Parnell Park on Wednesday night, only a few things were certain.

Firstly, there wasn't going to be a whole lot of football played, despite the hefty billing perennially associated with Kilmacud Crokes these days and also with St Sylvester's this season.

Secondly, you'd have wanted to be in the whole of your health to be out on the pitch; slipping and sliding in the monsoon and mud but with no allowance for errors in the ferocity and frequency of the hits.

And lastly, if you're ever subjected to such a bitter experience, make sure and have one, other or both of the dual O'Carroll brothers in the trenches alongside you.

The duo gave an exhibition of inside defensive play, just three days after starring for Kilmacud in their first Evening Herald Dublin SHC 'A' final win since 1985 and now, are two matches away from a coveted Dublin club double.

If they do start in two winning finals (there are others on the panel who would also collect two medals: Barry O'Rorke, Ryan O'Dwyer and Brian Hanamy) they will join Conal Keaney, Stephen Hiney, Shane Durkin and Simon Lambert in exalted company as the last players to do such a double in 2009. Granted, the conditions on Wednesday didn't suit forwards but neither did they really suit anybody and in a match where the team who made the fewest number of mistakes was going to win, the O'Carrolls manned their pressurised posting robustly and calmly.

"Rory ended up winning an All-Ireland club medal on the back of just two and half games of adult football," says Paddy Carr, Crokes manager in the 2009 All-Ireland club football success -- their first national exposure as top class football defenders.

Famously, Carr blooded Rory at half-time in the Leinster club final (v Rhode, December 7, 2008) with his team a man down and six points in arrears, a bold move which proved a stroke of genius, even if he wasn't quite certain then whether the performance was merely a flash of things to come or a sign that his new full-back was ready to make his place permanent.

"One of the big question marks for us was, we were thinking that he had only half on hour of football played at this level so would it be too big of a gamble to play him in the All-Ireland semi-final against Corofin," Carr recalls.

"I rang Jack O'Connor looking for a challenge match against Kerry in the hope they would play Kieran Donaghy against Rory because I just knew I needed to test him against the best. We drove down to Limerick and played Kerry and I remember afterwards Kieran Donaghy asking me: 'who was that guy?' "Rory just had the confidence to stay with him. He became the Dublin senior full-back and I'm not sure people realise just how little adult football he had actually played."

If the giant steps up Rory made in such little time were testament to what just about everybody in Crokes describes as a "professional attitude", so too was Ross's repatriation with top level hurling last year.

Pat Gilroy turned his head after the All-Ireland club success but such were the chronic back problems (sciatic nerve) the eldest O'Carroll endured, a short cameo in a league match in Clones was the sum total of his senior inter-county football career.

So following last year's Sam Maguire triumph he rejoined the hurlers, got himself fit and by the time the summer rolled around, he looked like a man who had never been away from the stick.

"His enthusiasm for the game is amazing," says his Crokes and Dublin team-mate, Niall Corcoran. "He probably knows every single hurler in the country. He follows hurling, he lives hurling night and day.


"He's a very self-motivated guy. If you're marking Ross in training, you know you're marking Ross. He trains like he plays and he's great to have in any dressing-room because he wears his heart on his sleeve. With Ross, what you see it what you get."

It says something of Rory's pedigree too that he is constantly being touted as a potential Dublin hurler at some point in the future, despite the fact that he has never played with the seniors.

"What Rory has, is a presence," Corcoran explains. "He's a big, big guy. He's a very physical guy and he uses his body extremely well. I can definitely see him manning number six or number three at some stage in the future for Dublin (hurlers)."

It's a mark of their stature that both Daly and Gilroy coveted both so much. And it's testament to their abilities that after taking off for the rest of the 2009 summer and spending the largest portion of 2010 in France, Rory could walk straight back into the number three shirt and secure his reputation as one of Ireland's best full-backs.

Ross too was welcomed with open arms by Daly after deciding to devote his inter-county lot back with hurling at the end of last and there's little doubt he would take Rory too if he could.

"A lot of what you would try to put into other players," adds Carr, "Rory and Ross tend to have in terms of this mindset to operate at the highest level. They're just not fazed by the context in which they sometimes have to play.

"They give you tremendous peace of mind when they're both in the full-back line together and I've no doubt, the hurlers are much better when they're there too."