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Crokes tuned in for battle with Ballagh

KILMACUD boss ó Riain has Dubs focused on upsetting Oulart

It's been 33 years since a Dublin team won a Leinster Club Hurling Championship and it's certainly true that, in the meantime, there haven't been too many close calls or near misses to boast of.

Crumlin's 1979 success ranks as the last capital hurling success and for all Ballyboden's Dublin dominance of the past half decade, their 2007 Leinster final defeat to Birr in Tullamore still ranks and rankles as the one that got away.

Given that Kilmacud Crokes hadn't won so much as a county title in 27 years until a week-and-a-half ago, and the fact that they have been placed somewhat perilously on the same side of the draw as the yet-to-be-anointed Kilkenny champions and Sunday's Parnell Park opponents, Wexford's Oulart-The Ballagh, they are not widely expected to break that particular run of misfortune.

But they're an ambitious bunch out in Glenalbyn and the celebrations arose and died equally quickly ahead of their voyage into the provincial unknown.

"The lads have got back and got tuned in," says manager, Gearóid ó Riain of the elapsed time since they beat Cuala in this year's Evening Herald Dublin SHC 'A' final.

"Okay, it wasn't the best few days with the footballers losing. It would have been better for the momentum if they had come out on top on Monday night. But in fairness to the likes of the O'Carrolls, they're always tuned in anyway."

There are, ó Riain feels, subtle changes in the landscape from here on in, challenges which aren't completely obvious to the naked eye.

"The style of hurling changes in November and December anyway. You need to have a change of style, a Plan B ready to roll with.

"Oulart have probably been pacing themselves with Leinster in mind as well and have their style built around doing well in the Leinster championships. They've had that luxury, we certainly haven't."

Crokes are, for the most part, somewhat unlikely but certainly worthy Dublin champions.

Dominance

Back before it started, Ballyboden St Enda's were forcibly fancied to continue their Dublin dominance and when they perished early in the group stages, it was Lucan Sarsfields and Cuala who were tipped by some as more certain successors despite the fact that Crokes had emerged to the last-eight with a 100pc record.

Given their rapid development lower down the age chain, no one doubted that the Stillorgan would come strong at senior level, just perhaps not as quickly as it transpired.

"It wasn't a huge thing when 'Boden went out," ó Riain stresses. "We knew the likes of Lucan and Cuala were flying. Lucan were probably the second best team in the county for a few years. They were probably unlucky at times.

"Even with 'Boden gone, we still knew it would be a serious task. Thankfully, there wasn't much talk about it over the summer. We were able to keep the thing low key and go about our business really."

Crucially, they managed the lengthy period between the group and knockout stages effectively when the competition was put on hold for 10 weeks and many of the Dublin panel were on sojourn in America.

"We probably learned from the previous year when the whole championship turned into a complete mess really," explains ó Riain, now in his third year with Crokes. "They were talking about playing it July and July ended up being October. It really, really dragged out and the whole season went flat for all of us - management and players.

"We basically downed tools and for the summer months, we did different stuff. We did fitness work, more to provide variety than anything else.

"We said from August on, we would get tuned back in and have a six-week run rather than trying to keep it going right through the summer.

"But the lads are tuned into it now," he adds. "You can't look past Oulart but if we did, you get a crack at the Kilkenny champions. Facing into a run like that...what more do you want really?"


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