Lucan hope to prosper after run to the semi-finals in 2021 but absentees a concern
Next Friday night sees the start of the eagerly anticipated Go Ahead Dublin Senior 1 Football Championship, with two intriguing encounters on the agenda to set the ball rolling.
At Parnell Park, Ballymun Kickhams face Clontarf in the highly competitive Group 2 that also includes Ballyboden St Enda’s and Cuala while across the county in Clondalkin, local rivals Lucan Sarsfields and Castleknock meet at Monastery Road in Group 4.
Lucan enjoyed an encouraging campaign last year, impressing many on their way to the last four that included a quarter-final victory over then holders Ballymun Kickhams. But as Sarsfields coach Ollie Collins explains, it would be dangerous for his team to look too far ahead at this stage.
“Last year, we placed much of our focus on getting out of the group and really, that’s our ambition again this year.
“We are not in a position to look too far ahead and all of our energies are directed to the match against Castleknock.
“We really enjoyed our run in the championship last year and it was a great experience for all involved but we can’t be thinking along those lines.
“For the large part, we have a group of young, talented footballers that would have learned a lot from last year, especially from our semi-final defeat to St Jude’s.
“I thought that Jude’s were very strong and that defeat really brought us back down to earth and as a management team, we really noticed the difference there was between the teams in terms of strength and conditioning.
“They are hugely experienced at this level and we just weren’t able to match them on the day but it was a good lesson for all of us to take on board,” added Collins, who has worked closely with team manager Dave Cullen over the past number of years.
Sarsfields will be under a degree of pressure to maintain momentum and the positive impression from last year but that may be easier said than done, given the numerous absentees from their panel at present.
Key personnel such as CJ Smith, Harry Ladd and Daire Newcombe are in San Francisco and won’t be returning in time for Castleknock but as Collins explains, their absence opens the door for others to impress and stake a claim.
“We’ll be going into Friday night a few lads down but I would imagine that a lot of teams are facing a similar issue.
“Of course, you can’t begrudge the players who are away in America as this is a great opportunity for them, especially after the last couple of years.
“Having said that, we would be hoping to get them back as soon as possible but in the meantime, this presents others lads on the panel with a great opportunity.
“These lads will get good experience of playing at this high level and learning what’s required and it’s a chance for some of them to put their hand up and make themselves an even more important part of the group,” he added.
As for the opposition, Collins is full of respect and admiration for the three teams that Sarsfields have been pitted against in Group 4.
Naturally enough, their focus will be firmly fixed on their near neighbours Castleknock for the time being but he doesn’t anticipate anything easy from either Round Towers Lusk or Whitehall Colmcille.
“We are not sure who Castleknock will have available to them on Friday night but we are preparing for their strongest team.
“They are a really strong team, who have enjoyed a decent league campaign, despite the issues in terms of their management.
“They are player-led at the minute, which brings its own benefits in terms of motivation and there is also a local derby element to it which makes the game even harder to predict.
“We have built a good, competitive relationship with Castleknock in recent years and we’re fully aware of the young talent that is coming through at the club.
“A lot of the lads would know each other well and it makes for an intriguing battle in three days’ time.
“We won’t be looking ahead of Friday’s encounter but we all know how strong Round Towers Lusk are on their day and they gave us an almighty battle last year that could have gone either way.
“We were fortunate to come out with a one-point win and we would expect another similarly tough battle when we play them.
“Whitehall are another team that can be a match for anyone on their day and they have some excellent footballers in their team.
“Lads like Eoghan O’Donnell, Lee Gannon and Cormac Costello are serious operators at this level and that’s another game that we’re going to treat with the utmost of caution.
“What this proves is how competitive the Dublin championship really is and how difficult it is to advance to the knock-out stages.
“We were fortunate enough to do so last year and it was a great experience to get to the semi-finals.
“It would be great to get out of the group again and see where that takes it but for now, we can only really look at Friday’s match and hope we can make a positive start to the group,” said Collins.
Friday, 5th August 2022
Dublin SFC1 Group 2: Ballymun Kickhams v Clontarf (Parnell Park, 7.30).
Dublin SFC1 Group 4: Lucan Sarsfields v Castleknock (Monastery Road, 7.30).
Saturday, 6th August 2022
Dublin SFC1 Group 1: Templeogue Synge Street v Ballinteer St John’s (O’Toole Park, 3.45); Kilmacud Crokes v Raheny (Parnell Park, 5.30).
Dublin SFC1 Group 2: Ballyboden St Enda’s v Cuala (O’Toole Park, 5.30).
Dublin SFC1 Group 3: Thomas Davis v Na Fianna (Parnell Park, 3.45); St Jude’s v Skerries Harps (Balgriffin, 5.00).
Dublin SFC1 Group 4: Round Towers Lusk v Whitehall Colmcille (Garristown, 5.00).