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'Schedule needs to be condensed'

THE race to the knock-out stages of the Evening Herald Dublin Senior Hurling 'A' Championship is still very much on.

There were some interesting results on Friday night. Boden being held to a draw by Vincent's stood out.

So did St Jude's toppling Lucan. Granted, it's still the Group stages, but some of the results over the three rounds suggests that the standards are levelling out somewhat.

Faughs have come on a ton this term, yet St Patrick's of Palmerstown drew with them on Friday night. Crumlin and Cuala also drew.

Earlier on, you had Lucan beating the Craobh and O'Toole's overcoming 'Boden, while St Brigid's, fresh out of the Senior 'B' ranks, won their first two games.

The Brigid's v Craobh match was abandoned with 15 minutes remaining on Friday night at Russell Park when local lad Pat Rohan suffered a broken leg. We wish him well.

But the championship is shaping up nicely and the upsets have made things more interesting.


Foregone conclusions seem to be off the menu. Two groups of six. The top four in each section progress to the quarter-finals.

O'Toole's, Vincent's and Brigid's are now the only unbeaten sides in the competition. O'Toole's didn't play on Friday. Their game with Crokes was called off due to a bereavement in the O'Toole's club.

"We were looking forward to playing Crokes. They are a good side. They beat us well in the league," reflected O'Toole's manager, Damien Hernon.

Damien won Championships with O'Toole's as a player. A commanding centre half-back who concluded his career in attack.

"We had some marvellous clashes with ChiarĂ¡in's and Vincent's. Really tough battles. They were good days," he recalls. He has seen the changes since. Teams are fitter and better prepared now," he judges.

"The game has advanced. Even the sliotars have changed. A few years ago they had this big, bouncy one, but they did away with it.

"People are trying to improve hurling all the time. But I think in Dublin it's only fair if the Championship was more condensed.

"I know it's always being spoken about, but we just have to find a way of compacting the Championship. April to October is too long. That's a stretch of seven or eight months. Life has changed from what it was 20 or 30 years ago.

"People are busier now. They have more interests. Life has moved on.

"Fellas need to know that they have a period, say for four months, that they can totally focus on the hurling and give it their best.

"We waste all these lovely summer months and we end up hurling into the autumn and winter.

"It doesn't give us any chance to prepare properly for Leinster. Dublin hurling has improved.

"It's improving all the time, but a shorter, more concentrated Championship timetable would bring the game on even more.

"If a solution could be found to run the Championship off in a shorter period of time, it would do everybody a favour."

Damien feels that the emergence of Ballyboden St Enda's has done the old craft a big favour in the city.

"Boden have raised the bar, that's for sure. Their underage structure is terrific. There's not many clubs who can field two teams at senior level.

"Some clubs even struggle to field one. Boden have brought things to a different level, even in terms of the expertise they have introduced to coaching and training.

"The key thing for clubs is to invest in the juveniles early. You'll eventually reap the rewards.

"Look at Offaly back in the '70s. They could hardly win a match. But they then got their structures right.

"They started going into the schools, etc and they went on to achieve great things for such a small hurling county."

At county level, Dublin's small ball is also spinning in the right direction according to the Lord of the Larriers. "The Antrim result was unfortunate. I don't know what happened. We all expected them to go on another bit.

"But that's sport. You never know who is going to win or what's going to happen. That's the nature of it.


"The Dublin management scoured the county to get the best players. There was a good spread of clubs on the team.

"But that's the way it goes sometimes. Anthony Daly has added so much to Dublin hurling. He has lifted it.

"And he has good men around him -- Ritchie Stakelum, Vincent Teehan and 'Hedgo', all good hurlers in their own right and men who know their hurling.

"There's a lot of positive developments in Dublin hurling. And it's great to see the progress being made at all the different levels in the underage and colleges."

Last season, O'Toole's came close enough to ending the three-in-a-row ambition of Boden.

They brought them to a replay in the semi-final.

"When it came down to it, we just didn't have the depth of panel that you need. We got a few injuries and that cost us.

"But we'll give it a good rattle again this year. We have plenty of young lads. The trick is to find the right blend.

"And Damien has advice to all the young clan -- enjoy every minute. What fellas forget is that hurling is a short career.

"You have to do it between the ages of 20 to 32 or thereabouts. You have about eight or nine years to make an impact. You have to do it then. Young fellas think it will go on and on."