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Chiaráin's all set to reach for Sars

THE Craobh against Lucan. Memories of the 2009 semi-final between the pair.

A horrid winter's day in Donnycarney. Chiaráin's got there by a point. True grit prevailed.

Craobh last won the big one in 2006. Kevin O'Donoghue was full-back. Now he's the manager. He was also playing in the 2003 final when Chiaráin's defeated St Brigid's. That was the last time the Russell Park lads got to walk on the blue carpet.

Ger Ryan was in goal for Chiaráin's. Now he's the Brigid's boss. Brigid's are busy preparing for their clash with the born-again 'Boden.

It will be a Thursday night special down in the Parnell Palace. And if the Craobh are to get over Lucan, improvement, according to Kevin O'Donoghue, is an absolute necessity.

Kevin's management colleagues are Eoin Conroy, Philip Cullen and Paddy O'Gara. The side contain huge experience.

They lost that 2009 final to 'Boden. Eleven of the same first 15 from that game started against Ballinteer St John's the last day in their quarter-final.

 

CRUCIAL

2009 saw Alan McCrabbe become Dublin's first hurling All Star since Brian McMahon (1990) and only the third in all, Mick Bermingham being the first in 1971.

McCrabbe's contribution was crucial against Ballinteer, who gave Chiaráin's an assortment of problems.

"We rated Ballinteer highly. We knew going into that game that they were a decent side but we were even more impressed with them after the match," admitted Kevin. "They did give us plenty to think about. It took us a while to get going. We were very sluggish for long periods.

"Maybe that was a hangover from the O'Toole's match. We just couldn't quite reach the same tempo against Ballinteer. We weren't happy with our display. We know we are capable of better."

It was quite a feat for Chiaráin's to make the last eight. "Things weren't looking good going into our last match against O'Toole's. We had only a point from our draw against Lucan. We had lost to Cuala," he said.

"It's always a special occasion when we meet O'Toole's, our neighbours. And we were thrilled to get out of the so-called group of death."

The four clubs all finished on three points – Craobh, Lucan, O'Toole's and Cuala. Scoring difference was the judge and jury.

"We have been training for 11 months. The lads are fit. Eoin (Conroy) is an excellent coach. The squad have gelled well. The aim is to get the old confidence back."

When they beat Brigid's in 2003, Connie Ring, Jonny McGuirk and even Hedgo (Ciarán Hetherton) himself were in the boots. Classical Connie was the purest striker of the sliotar in Dublin.

And still swinging today is Ger Ennis, who is in his 20th year in senior hurling and who is still bouncing on the toes waiting for any stray crumbs. Kevin has noted the changes in the game in Dublin. "The big difference is the fitness. Players are so fit now. And the standard has gone up so much," he said.

"Yet we'd all like to see a change in the championship structure. There is such a gap from your first games in May till it resumes in late September."

For Brigid's, it's a return to the semi-final. They also made the last four in 2011. O'Toole's beat them then before Boden completed the five in-a-row by toppling the Larriers.

 

INCREDIBLE

This season's four quarter-finals turned O'Toole Park into Super Saturday and Sunday. Big crowds enjoyed a festival of hurling.

St Patrick's of Palmerstown gave it a right rattle against Brigid's. The teams were level an incredible 13 times. It was incredible stuff.

The late contribution of Ciarán Kellettt proved vital. Maybe it was that extra slice of experience that took Brigid's home.

Ballinteer were also buzzing. Like Pat's, the winning of the game seemed within their grasp. Such displays from both Ballinteer and Pat's augur well for the old craft in the city that cherishes its hurling culture.

Boden have been so much part of its modern fabric. Will the capital ever again see a team achieve the five in-a-row?

The deeds of Hogan's Heroes have been written in stone. Now the Firhouse faithful want to crown Kenny's Kings.

If Lucan can overcome Craobh they'll be in their first-ever final. The super Sars are capable of dancing with the Gods.

It should be a night to savour under the lights. And hopefully the turnstiles will spin with gusto.


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