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Baker: Brilliant days for Crokes but it gets harder

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Kilmacud Crokes manager Ollie Baker insists it is too soon for talk of winning the Leinster title. Photo: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Kilmacud Crokes manager Ollie Baker insists it is too soon for talk of winning the Leinster title. Photo: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Kilmacud Crokes manager Ollie Baker insists it is too soon for talk of winning the Leinster title. Photo: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Kilmacud Crokes carry the mantle of hope for Dublin hurling as they hunker down for a three-week build up to their AIB Leinster Club semi-final against the winners of the Kilkenny championship.

Ballyhale Shamrocks and Clara will contest the Noreside final on November 16, and Crokes manager Ollie Baker knows that his side will be underdogs against either club a week later.

The good news for Baker is that the Stillorgan club have precious time to restore energy levels and allow players to clear up some niggling injuries after Sunday's extra time win by 0-23 to 0-22 over Rathdowney-Errill of Laois at Parnell Park.

"Rathdowney was our fourth match in the last five or six weeks, and that's a heavy toll on lads," he said.

Freshness

"We have a three-week break now so we can repair a few injuries and get a bit of freshness back again."

His team will need all hands on deck if Crokes are to break new ground and qualify for a Leinster senior final for the first time in their history.

Their most recent campaign in 2012 resulted in defeat against Oulart-The Ballagh in the quarter-finals.

That outing was the first time in 27 years that Kilmacud had qualified to play in Leinster, so reaching the semi-final this season represents a significant breakthrough.

Given the success of Dublin at county level under the Anthony Daly reign which yielded long-coveted National League and Leinster Championship titles, the next frontier for Dublin clubs is to see a team from the capital lift the O'Neill Cup for the first time since Crumlin achieved the feat in 1980.

The Leinster club championship began in 1970, and 44 years later, Crumlin remain the only metropolitan outfit to be crowned kings of the province.

Five clubs - UCD (three final appearances), Crumlin (2), Cuala, O'Tooles and Ballyboden St Enda's (one each) - have reached the final.

In recent years as Ballyboden dominated in the capital, they looked the most likely team to make a breakthrough success, but they lost out by just a single point in the 2007-08 final against Birr.

Baker won't hear talk of finals and winning the Leinster title. It's way too soon for that.

"We know there's a mammoth task ahead of us in three weeks. We'll just have to be ready for it. At the same time, there's a real excitement about the fact that we are in a Leinster semi-final," he said.

"These are brilliant days for Kilmacud and brilliant days for the players. We'll live them as they are, and take every day as it comes."

The biggest concern in the immediate aftermath of Sunday's pulsating extra-time win over Rathdowney-Errill centred on top scorer Sean McGrath.

The 22-year-old scored 15 points of Kilmacud's 0-23, with his accuracy from placed balls almost unerring from a variety of distances and angles.

A combination of cramp and a hamstring strain caused McGrath, the Crokes captain, to be substituted near the end of extra-time, but Baker is confident he will be fit for duty against the Kilkenny champions.

Also on the recovery list are wing-backs Cian MacGabhann and Bill O'Carroll, who both suffered injuries.

"I don't think Seanie's badly injured. It was a bit of a hamstring strain. He should be fit in three weeks' time," said Baker. "Bill was carrying a bit of a knock coming into the game and Cian got a knee injury during the game, but we have a bit of time."

Irish Independent