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joy of six for champs crokes

AS Michael O'Grady would say, Kilmacud Crokes think big about the small ball. They'll remember 2012 with relish, although the Leinster defeat by Oulart will carry the faded sting of a September wasp.

Kilmacud didn't get the rub of the relic in that one. But they have much else to be proud of.

For the first time since 1985, the Dublin SHC 'A' title is spending the Christmas by the cosy fireside in Páirc de Burca.

During the summer, the wise whispers were tipping Crokes, although Ballyboden were still very much in the building at the time.

The Stillorgan lads kept their heads down. And they completed their programme with a 100pc record.

Now, they have added six Dublin Bus/Evening Herald Dubs Stars awards to their collection. And that total rises to nine when you include the Dubs Stars bench.

The generous haul reflects their commanding campaign. They brought composure and craft to the stage.

They were professional in their work, and they looked like a team that knew where they were going.

The sat-nav all along the N11 pointed firmly towards Dublin gold. Manager, Gearóid ó Riain, was the leader of the expedition from Glenalbyn.

He had a worthy crew with him -- Pat Halpin, Billy Noctor, Robbie Leahy, Seán Allen, Chris Thompson and Brid O'Higgins.

And they had the ideal captain in Ross O'Carroll. Ross was 'the voice' in word and deed.

People are still chuckling about the slice of encouragement he gave to Brother Bill in the final. Bill had been involved in a positive pocket of play. Ross rewarded him with a firm tap of the hurley on the backside.

Maybe it was a bit firmer than Bill might have liked. But, in the circumstances, it was better than sending an email.

Impressively, the three O'Carroll brothers make the selection -- Ross and Rory on the team itself and Bill in the dugout.

It's a tribute to the O'Carroll family, and the contribution they bring to the Stillorgan reservoir.

And, of course, not just with the sliotar. On the pitch following the ending of the 27-year wait, Ross said he was overjoyed with the victory but that he had a football match to prepare for.

The hurling faithful are now hoping that, following the long vigil, akin to waiting for the good old 46A, two might come along together.

Crokes wouldn't contemplate such a possibility. It was one pull at a time during the championship, and that philosophy served them well.



Assured

The other Crokes Colts making the side are accomplished goalkeeper, Matt Collins, assured defender Niall Corcoran, diligent midfielder Dillon Mulligan, and classy attacker Seán McGrath.

Young Bill has company in the reserves with cultured colleagues Jack Doughan and Rob O'Loughlin.

Crokes beat Cuala in the big Southside Sizzler. It was dubbed 'the poshest final in history'.

But, in truth, it had more spice than sugar, and it was pleasing to see a bigger than normal attendance.

That was a tribute to the work both clubs put in, especially among their juvenile sector. Indeed, on the eve of the final, Crokes and Cuala held a joint underage tournament.

With an attitude like that, one that sees the big picture, the old craft will surely continue to thrive in two such prosperous hurling hamlets.

Cuala's return to the big-time cheered all in the village. Harry Roberts guided the team back across the Liffey for the first time since 1994. And now the locals say that he can walk on water.

Harry was disappointed in the Parnell Park corridor after the final. Defeat is never a comfortable companion.

But in the chill of winter, Cuala can look back with a fair degree of fulfilment. Beating Croabh in the quarter-final in O'Toole Park was a huge result. It added even more Lucozade to their belief.

They had emerged from the group that included 'Boden, Vincent's and Lucan. When that draw was announced, even the parish priest of Dalkey wasn't giving them a prayer.



mantelpiece

But out of it they came, and they now have five Dubs Stars on the Hyde Road mantelpiece.

Paul Schutte is named in defence. His dad, Karl, also hurled for Dublin as did Paul's uncles the Holdens, PJ, Vinny and the one and only Mick. Seán Moran also gets the call in defence. He's everything you'd want a defender to be. And he carries the same name as one of the most noble Cuala stalwarts, Seán Moran, the pride of Galway Bay.

Barry Connolly also hails from good Galway stock. He's a member of the celebrated Connolly clan. And also in the attack is the stylish finisher, Cian Waldron, while David Treacy would have given his da, John, the former Dublin full-back, something to think about.

Four other clubs make the starting 15. Ger O'Meara's inclusion will lift the roof at Blunden Drive.

Ger hurled for the Dubs. And, on current form, still could. He's such a wholehearted and clever defender.



stick-smith

Lucan's Matt McCaffrey is also turning heads. A gifted young stick-smith following the same path as his brother.

Cian McBride also got several top reviews. His electric feet and quick brain sees him climbing the stairs.

And so too with the talented Wes O'Brien of Crumlin. His presence helped their stirring march to the semi-final.

There's another O'Toole Park representative on the squad, the capable Crumlin custodian, Bill McCormack.

Joey Boland brings many air miles to the subs list, while the forward unit sees John Hetherton and Ger Ennis link up.

Genial Ger has seen many a Dubs Stars bash. And so has John's father, Hedgo.

When called from the wings, watch these two song-and-dance men light up the stage.


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