So the county senior hurling championship final on Sunday week is going to be something different, with fresh-faced Dicksboro taking on experienced Ballyhale Shamrocks, who will be chasing their 14th title.
The Ballyhale outfit have many a warrior who has been through all this before, and many times. Their total demolition of O Loughlin Gaels was a complete performance. The concession of two goals late should take nothing away from what was an excellence effort.
This was Shamrocks in business mood, hurling with a freshness and eagnerness that might have been missing, in part at least, from their game in recent years. There is a different mood in the camp, and the loss in the League final a few weeks ago didn’t upset their rhythm, or their real goal, one little bit.
Dicksboro’s overturning of city rivals and defending champions, James Stephens was no less impressive. Here was a young outfit that struggled during the League and finished the preliminaries in the relegation zone, but now they have the chance to win the county title.
It would be some turnaround if it were to happen, and right now it is a possibility, be the odds long or short.
Was Dicksboro’s victory warning of the arrival of a new force within the city boundaries? Their form against ’Stephens and St Martin’s (Muckalee) earlier was very good, and now that they have shown their hurling hand, building on those two good showings won’t be easy.
The ’Boro lost star man, Cillian Buckley through injury early in the second half, but they drove on regardless. The more senior players such as Kieran Cuddihy and Paul O’Flynn took up the slack, grabbed the team by the scruff of the neck, and helped drive the Palmerstown outfit over the finish line.
Senior players is not, perhaps, the correct term, however. But at 28 years of age they were the oldest member on the starting line-up.
The action in the first match of the day between O’Loughlin’s and Ballyhale turned out to be less dramatic than was expected. The Shamrocks were favourites, and rightly so. Just look at their stated half forward line of ‘Cha’ (Fitzpatrick), Henry (Shefflin) and Colin Fennelly. You couldn’t but be impressed.
You just had to wonder how the champions of two years ago would contain them. They didn’t! Now the same challenge awaits Dicksboro. Such things can lead to players having sleepless nights.
Shefflin’s positioning sense – the way he can fade from sight and then pop in a dangerous area – and constant movement gravitated the play around him, leaving the Fennellys and company to carve open channels through their opponents’ defence. O’Loughlin’s had no answer to the clever movement of players and ball in the Shamrocks forward line.
Never let up
Shamrocks never looked like letting the game slip from their grasp once they caught hold of it. They kept a firm hold on proceedings throughout and left the O’Loughlin’s support little to cheer about.
The concession of two goals didn’t reflect accurately the control the Shamrocks backs exerted throughout. Veteran Bob Aylward seems to getting better and better with age. His massive late point from his own 45 yard line was uplifting for all, and more or less confirmed that Shamrocks had reached yet another county final.
Their opponents, Dicksboro, will certainly be no pushovers. This young side has exceeded everyone’s expectations by reaching the club’s first senior county final in 19 years. Watching Dicksboro play was like a breath of fresh air; their forwards grafted, yet they have lashings of skill and lightning pace.
They constantly ran at The Village defence and their movement often confounded the reigning champions, who, by comparison, had a forward line that was stale and unimaginative. Eoin Larkin was the only one who took the game to Dicksboro, and he was also the only forward who was able to win his own ball.
Eight of this Dicksboro side are currently under 21, and with Danny Kenny and Shane Maher looking fitter than ever. They are in with a chance against Ballyhale because they appear to play without fear. Not a bad way to be going into a county final.
Robbie Fitzpatrick (17) and Kevin Kenny were two youngsters who didn’t flinch in the white heat of battle. Fitzpatrick used neat stick work and speed to deliver an outstanding performance.
Dicksboro’s pace and class should pose a threat to one of the best club teams of all time, if they get to use it. However, Ballyhale’s steely determination and icy approach to such occasions should see them clinch yet another title.
We look forward to seeing it all unfold in Nowlan Park.