KILKENNY and Leinster champions, Dicksboro will march on Croke Park on Sunday in search of what would be their second All-Ireland club intermediate hurling championship title without two of their star performers.
Eddie O’Donoghue, an experience attacker who scored a vital goal in their All-Ireland win at this level in 2006, has been sideline by an arm injury. And Kilkenny All-Ireland winning minor captain of last season, Cillian Buckley is still troubled by a groin injury that has prevented him from playing any part in the championship, or featuring with his school, St Kieran’s College in colleges’ competitions.
“The two boys will be a loss,” admitted Dicksboro selector, Ger Henderson. “They are two quality players, but their misfortune is an opportunity for others. The squad is working well and everyone is looking forward to what is a big day for the club.
“It is not every day that your club gets to play in an All-Ireland final in Croke Park, and we feel honoured to be doing so for the second time in a few years,” he added.
The ’Boro beat Ballinhassig (Cork) by 2-13 to 1-13 in the 2006 decider when O’Donoghue and Alan McIntyre – a booted effort at the Hill 16 end with only two minutes remaining – were the goal scorers.
Providing the opposition this time will be another Cork side, Ballymartle, a rural club based in Riverstack in the South East of the county. The Leesiders are backboned by two families of O’Dwyers’, all of whom are related, while another family, the Corrys’ provide most of the balance of the team.
Direct style of play
In direct contrast to Meelin, who favour a running game made famous by Newtownshandrum (Cork), the Ballymartle boys play a more direct, traditional style of hurling. Meelin, incidentally, play John Lockes (Callan) in the junior final.
The Leesiders have been in decent scoring form all season. They registered 2-14 when beating Borrisokane (Tipperary) in the Munster final, and while they looked a little ring rusty in the All-Ireland semi-final against Padraig Pearse (Galway) they still clocked up 1-10.
“Any championship winning team in Cork has to be respected,” insisted Mr Henderson. “The reports we have received on Ballymartle have all suggested they are a very good, disciplined and well organised team. They will take beating.”
The journey to Croke Park has been very interesting for Dicksboro. In Leinster they went on a record goal scoring spree. While they shot 17 goals in three outings, they were a little slack on the point scoring side (24).
However, things have been more evenly balanced in the All-Ireland series. They scored 2-13 in the quarter-finals and then 0-16 in the semi-final, which were more orthodox returns when measured against the 8-7 registered against Kildalkey (Meath), for example.
The ’Boro were managed by Tommy Buggy for the wins in Kilkenny and Leinster. A new management team of Liam Maher (manager), Ger Henderson, Mick O’Flynn (trainer), John O’Gorman and E.J. Ryan has since been put in place, all being promoted after working at under-21 level in recent years.
While the ’Boro are embracing the upcoming All-Ireland final experience, their eyes are trained further down the road on the massive challenge that lies ahead in the Kilkenny senior league/championship this season.
St Lachtain’s (Freshford) won this club All-Ireland in 2010, but they failed the challenge in the subsequent Kilkenny senior league/championship and ended up being relegated. The ’Boro have been warned!
“It is a great occasion to be going Croke Park, but we have been using the last few matches as a stepping stone in our preparations for the senior league/championship in Kilkenny,” Mr Henderson explained. “That is our main priority this year, to survive at senior level and stay up.
“We are not taking anything from the All-Ireland final. This is a very important season for the club. We have been up and down between the senior and intermediate grades over the past few seasons, gone through relegation and all that.
“Over the last few seasons the club has produced some very good minor and under-21 teams. The players have been coming through the ranks so we want to try and build on that and have a good senior championship run in Kilkenny.”
The ’Boro reckoned they have a good crop of players, and the senior grade is where they want to be.
“We got this far without putting too much pressure on the players,” Mr Henderson explained, noting and giving due recognition to the way the management team that went before the current group steered the ship. “Since we came back after Christmas we stepped up things a little bit.
“We train on Friday nights and play a bit of hurling on Sunday mornings. It will be the same this week. We are doing little physical work. The concentration has been on ball work to keep the players’ touch in.”
He assured that the players were up for the All-Ireland challenge. It was a great experience for everyone.
“A lot of our young players have played at minor level with Kilkenny, but playing in Croke Park with your club is extra special,” he insisted. “There is a good buzz in the club and we intend doing ourselves and Kilkenny proud.”
Dicksboro panel - Sam Morrissey, David Glynn, Kieran Cuddihy, Philip Hogan, Michael Fagan, Danny Kenny, Enda Malone, Tom Manning, Ollie Walsh, Paul O’Flynn, Martin Gaffney, Shane Maher, Cillian Star, Eddie O’Donoghue (capt), Adrian Stapleton, Cillian Breathnach, David Carroll, Paddy Hendeerson, Michael Rafter, David Ryan, Gary Gaule, Evan Guilfoyle, Darragh Buggy, Jesse Waters, Derek O’Gorman, Conor O’Loughlin, Oisin Walsh, Cillian Buckley (injured), Kevin Nolan (injured).