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Pat's prepare for shot at 'big boys'

ALL the St Patrick's, Donabate senior football squad went to the same school. The panel is full of brothers and cousins.

They have all climbed on the fastest escalator in Dublin football. For decades, Pat's campaigned in the lower divisions.

Now, for the first time in their 90-year history, they reside in Division 1. "It's Roy of the Rovers stuff," admits Adrian Henchy, managing the team with Roy Farrell, Rory O'Neill, Gerry Lynders, Mick Duignan and Paul Molloy.

"What this group of players have achieved is just unreal. They won the Junior Championship for the first time in years and went from Division 5 to Division 1. They have been fantastic."

Patrick's have had three successive promotions from Division 4 to Division 1. "Last season was incredible," explains Adrian. "We lost two of our first three games. Then we won 11 on the bounce, a run that stretched from April till August/September."

They clinched the title at Erin's Isle with a game to spare. "And now we are looking forward to welcoming the heavyweights of Dublin football to Donabate."

Mick Duignan has Robbie Farrell Park glistening.

"The facilities have improved greatly in the last few years. The committee and the people have put so much into the club.

"There is a real energy and buzz about the place. We have fed into that and we hope that the club is feeding off our success as well," adds Adrian.

Maintaining a prestigious address won't be easy.

"We are under no illusions. We are up there with the big boys now. The quality in Division 1 is higher than it has ever been. It is going to be tough even to survive, never mind do well.

"League football in Dublin is now so competitive. Years ago, clubs didn't take the League as seriously as the Championship. That's certainly not the case now.

"Guys are training hard and making sacrifices. It's a marvellous competition. The play-off structures for promotion and relegation mean that every game is important.

"It is very hard to get out of any division, especially with the double-headers on Wednesdays and Saturdays. For a large part of the season, you need to be producing two good performances a week.

"Our target is to stay in Division 1, give a decent account of ourselves and give the Intermediate Championship another rattle."

For the last two years, Pat's lost in the semi-final to Fingallians.

"Last season, we found ourselves 11 points down in the semi-final. We brought it back to two, but we had left ourselves too much to do. We were very disappointed.

LUCK

"But we are not too far away. The club have won Junior Championships, so the Intermediate Championship is the next step. But you need that slice of luck.

"Championship football is so demanding now over the last couple of years in that you can have four games in the space of two to three weeks. Staying clear of injuries is crucial. If a club's star player pulls a hamstring, that's the championship over for him, and maybe the team. Everybody is in the same boat," he added.

Adrian is delighted to see the clubs of the north county continuing to prosper, and he's looking forward to meeting up with his old pal, Pillar Caffrey, back as the Na Fianna chief.

Adrian had some memorable days on the Mobhi Road, playing and managing the Glasnevin club, and captaining them in the Senior Championship final defeat by Kilmacud Crokes in 1998.


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