TWO Kilkenny clubs will be hoping to paint Croke Park black and amber this weekend, metaphorically speaking.
Clara and Thomastown, who swept all before them in Leinster, will be hoping to finish the job when they contest the All-Ireland club intermediate and junior hurling championship finals.
Standing between the Cats and All-Ireland glory are London senior champions, St Gabriel’s, who tackle Clara, and Warwickshire and All British champions, Fullen Gaels, who could be described as the surprise packet in the entire club series.
Two Kilkenny man, Niall Coady from Graignamanagh and P.J. Rowe from Mooncoin, have been listed among the St Gabriel’s panel, so one way or another some Kilkenny people will be celebrating in Croke Park on Sunday.
“We have come this far and we are determined to finish the job properly,” insisted Thomastown manager, Paul Treacy, who said the entire club and parish have been given a huge boost through the exciting exploits of the players.
Clean bill of health
The word is the same from Clara, who reported a clean bill of health for what will be an historic day for the club.
“We don’t know much about the opposition, but by all accounts they are very strong,” said Clara manager, Robert Shortall. “Nothing but our best will suffice on this occasion.”
Twice in the past, in 2005 and 2011, a pair of Kilkenny clubs contested the All-Ireland finals, with mixed results.
In 2005, Galmoy took the junior title, but Carrickshock were beaten in the intermediate match.
There was no luck at all for Kilkenny clubs in 2011, when John Lockes (Callan) and Dicksboro (intermediate) crashed to defeats.
Thomastown will be without regular goalie, Dylan Walsh, who was sent off during the semi-final win over Kildorrery (Cork) and stands suspended. His place will be taken by Darragh McGarry, son of former Kilkenny goalkeeping great, James McGarry.
Otherwise they will be at full strength.
Fullen Gales defeated Connacht champions, Calry St Joseph’s (Sligo) after extra-time in the All-Ireland quarter-final before crushing Bredagh from Down in the semi-final, winning by 1-12 to 1-4. Their main scorer was Robbie Power, who helped himself to eight points.
The same Power is the main man in the team, while Shane Lawless, Simon Wallace and Alan Morrissey are others who are regarded as big time players by the club. The club, which was founded in 2005, takes it names from Fr Emmet Fullen, who hails from Derry, who was a founding member and former chairman of the Warwickshire Board.
Small club - 50 members
They featured in the All-Ireland club junior semi-final for the past three years. They are the smallest club ever to feature in the All-Ireland club final with a total membership of less than 50 members, including the players. A camogie section was added to the club in 2011.
While the club is based in Manchester, all their player, who are all Irish, are drawn from all over the North West of England. They compete in the Warwickshire senior championship which generally involves a round trip of 190 miles to play games.
St Gabriel’s contested All-Ireland semi-finals back in 1979 and 1991, so they have been a hurling power across the water for a long time. Last year was the 52nd anniversary of the founding of what is a hurling club only, and they celebrated in style by winning a record 15th title.
St Gabriel’s are the most successful club in the history of the GAA in London, and their stock has been boost these times by an influx of players from Ireland who have had to leave home in search of work. The vast majority of their players come from Galway, but they also have a fair sprinkling from Clare, with an odd one from Cork, Tipperary, Offaly and Dublin.