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'Nell's back in big time

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WELCOME to the big time. Parnell's are not expecting a soft landing. They are sharing an apartment with Cuala, Craobh Chiaráin and St Vincent's.

They begin their Senior A campaign against Cuala in Parnell Park tomorrow night.

"We are opening the championship. Wouldn't it be great if we could close it," quips Parnell's Kieran Murphy.

The Coolock club have had a rapid rise. "We were Junior D in 2007."

Last season they were Senior B champions. Kieran doffs his hat to Jimmy O'Grady.

"Jimmy deserves so much credit. I call him The Godfather. He's my boss. I'd still consult with Jimmy at half-time during games.

"I remember when I came to Parnell's first and I saw Jimmy taking out teams. He was carrying a bag of helmets in one hand, a bag of jerseys in the other and a sack of hurls over his shoulder. He's a great bit of stuff."

Jimmy hails from Templenoe in the Kingdom. Kieran is from Ballinhassig in Cork. "When I go home I hear from Cork people how highly they rate Dublin hurling. They know that the senior championship in Dublin is a good one.

"It is certainly more competitive than the Cork championship where you have 33 teams. Some of those teams would be complete outsiders.

"The top end of the championship in Dublin is as good as any championship throughout the country.

"And playing in the Dublin Senior Championship means more now than it did a few years ago."

Two teams will emerge from each group into the quarter-finals. Last year's tournament produced some cracking matches. Among the best of them was St Brigid's against St Patrick's (P) in the quarter-final.

That had the O'Toole Park audience enthralled. Brigid's got there by three points in the end. Pat's turned heads with their opening victory over St Vincent's.

The Craobh Chiaráin versus Ballinteer St John's last-eight duel was also a compelling Crumlin contest. Craobh had to use all their guile and grit to reach harbour.

The meeting of the champs, Kilmacud Crokes, and Boden also had the O'Toole Park stiles spinning in the last eight. Boden edged it.

Group A had them all talking. There wasn't a wafer between Cuala, Craobh, Lucan and O'Toole's. Cuala and O'Toole's didn't make the cut. Cuala had reached the 2012 final.

Harry Roberts' special brew had taken them there. It was Cuala's first final since 1994, the last time they were champions. The Southside derby involving themselves and Kilamcud drew a mighty throng across the river.

A year on and Lucan reached their first final. Everybody was pleased for them. They had endured too many semi-final heartaches.

They put it up to Boden. But Boden's bounce was back. And they won by three points.

Their five-in-a-row feat was remarkable. That's unlikely to be done again by any club. But never say never. As they say, you'll never win anything with kids!

Kieran says that Ballyboden are still the market leaders.

"They have a bit of a distance on everyone. Then there's a cluster of teams behind them, and the rest of us, who could beat each other on a given day.

SHOCKS

"You are bound to get a couple of shocks along the way. Our hope is that we can stay up this year.

"It's our first step in the water, and going in against Cuala is a David v Goliath clash. They have eight players on the Dublin squad. And they have a top-class manager in Mattie Kenny," said Murphy.

"He has plenty of experience. He managed Galway to the All-Ireland U21 title and he has been on Anthony Cunningham's Galway senior management team.

"You will probably have Mark Schutte, David Treacy and Colm Cronin in attack and those three alone would trouble an inter-county defence.

"Cuala have such talent coming through. That has to tell at some stage. We have always admired Oisín Gough. He was the role model for the young kids I coached.

"It could be a roller coaster of an hour for us, but we'll promise to turn up anyway! In our group, there are 21 county titles, but we haven't got any of them.

"We have been doing ok in the AHL Division 2 League. We know that the championship is going to be very tough, but we are delighted to be at this level."

Following a shower, Kieran can watch Chiaráin's against St Vincent's in the second game at Parnell tomorrow night.

"I'd know a lot of the lads playing in that match. Craobh love their hurling. They are great hurling people. And they make the most of themselves. For years, I followed them in the senior championship, but now that we are in it, I'll have to stop now," laughs Kieran.

In the other fixture tomorrow, the holders, Ballyboden, have an appointment with Patrick's. They also met last season.

There's two Thursday tussles that will be worth the trip – Ballinteer against Lucan and Crumlin v Jude's. The Group 4 pool looks the most intriguing of all.

Then Friday's double Donnycarney dish sees O'Toole's versus Brigid's, a repeat of the 2011 semi-final, and Na Fianna v Faughs, while across in O'Toole Park, it's Plunkett's and Crokes.


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