City clubs reign in Kilkenny hurling, but who will be crowned champions?

John Knox

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John Knox

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@kilkennypeoplesport

City clubs reign in Kilkenny hurling, but who will be crowned champions?

Kilkenny star, Cillian Buckley, has enjoyed powerful season with Dicksboro

The figures and so on all shout points of interest. The first all-city final since 1950. The first senior county final clash between James Stephens and Dicksboro in 80 years.
Both teams in Sunday’s Credit Union senior hurling championship final in Nowlan Park also shared each others company in Group B of the league. And both were taken to a replay during the championship.
And two brothers won finals in different generations, one with James Stephens and the other with Dicksboro.
All cosmetic stuff, really. This clash between two great city rival is about winning a match, a very important one mind you, and making an indelible mark in the history books.
Will it be The Village or Dicksboro who will take home the Walsh Cup? One hour’s hurling will decide.
Crowds at county finals, by and large, swell when a large rural parish is involved, and all the better if two such areas face each other. A city derby, for all its attraction in its own areas, doesn’t do it in terms of crowds as was proven when less than 5,000 trickled through the turnstiles for the semi-finals which involved three city clubs.
Perhaps the novelty of the pairing will generate broad interest, because this could be a very juicy affair.
Both have improved during the season, and especially during the championship, but who has progressed the most? Now that is the question!
When they met in the second round of the league back on May 7, Dicksboro won by 1-15 to 1-13. If The Village were looking for something that mirrored their season, that result was probably it.
They played well, but lost. They led through most of the game, but the concession of late scores tripped them up. They ended up on the brink of relegation afterwards while the ’Boro bounded on to enjoy an unbeaten run, to date.
Dicksboro manager, Mark Dowling, made light of that fine sequence of results stretching over nine games.
“It was nice to keep winning games, but the final is THE match to win,” he asserted.
His opposite number, Niall Tyrrell, said he never feared for The Village, even when they faced into a first round/relegation semi-final against St Martin’s (Muckalee) a few weeks ago.
“ If someone had said to me a month ago do you think you can win the county final, my answer would have been yes,” he insisted.
Not wanting to make light of the heavy lifting ’Stephens had done for months before, but that was a huge result for them. And it was followed by another big result when they came back from being four points down in the closing stages of the quarter-final against Carrickshock to force a draw.
Gap huge
The gap was huge at the start of the second half, and was still challenging with time running out. From the bank in Thomastown that afternoon selector Seamus Dwyer, was heard urging the players to keep going, assuring them the scores were coming as the clock seemed set to beat them.
Dwyer was right. The scores did come. ’Stephens showed grit to win the replay. Then the manner of the beating they dished out to Ballyhale Shamrocks in the semi-final, a squad that was flying on the back of strong results, was very impressive indeed.
One has been hugely impressed by the fearless nature of their younger players. They don’t give ground. They go back from nothing.
We speak here about David Hennessy, Conor Browne, Niall Delaney and especially Luke Scanlon, who has been hugely impressive in recent games.
In the semi-final young Tadhg Dwyer announced himself big time, shooting 2-1.
This guy is a goal getter, and has been since we first caught sight of him playing with St Kieran’s College.
assured free-taker
Then The Village have the gift of an assured free-taker in David Walton, while experienced hands Jackie Tyrrell and Tomás Keogh have been huge in guiding the younger braves.
And then you have that man Eoin Larkin, attacker, midfielder, defender all rolled into one.
For me he could be the difference in this final. In the semi-final he didn’t shoot off as many efforts at goal as he once did, but his eye for the telling pass; his cuteness to draw more opponents than was necessary into the tackle before laying off a killer pass was masterly.
Larkin decorated the final of 2011 when he scored an astonishing 1-11 in the defeat of Shamrocks. He is unlikely to do that again, but these times his deadly influence shows in a different way.
Dicksboro are on the brink of completing the league/championship double, which would be huge for a club that has invested heavily, in terms of finance and effort, in youth down the years. In the league final they beat then championship kings, O’Loughlin Gaels.
They competed the double over the St John’s Park outfit when toppling them in the championship semi-final.
They were big, big results for a club that always found O’Loughlin’s a tough nut to crack. In between Dicksboro rode their luck against all action Mullinavat in the quarter-final and replay.
The Southerners had them in trouble both days, but the ’Boro dug themselves out of it and now the squad can go where no others in the club have ever gone - into the rare territory of double winners.
Their star man is that outstanding athlete, Cillian Buckley, who is usually employed at centre-back, but when things go astray and games need rescuing, as against Mullinavat, he can be shifted anywhere. Without a doubt, Buckley is their go to man in times of crisis.
Huge plus
The acquisition this season of former Dublin senior panelist, Shane Stapleton, has been huge for Dicksboro. He is a good hurler, and his direct running when in attack can hurt opponents, badly.
His arrival, plus the astute changes Mark Dowling and his selectors, David Carroll and Toss Farrell, have made to things have kicked things on nicely.
The serious ability of the likes of Ollie Walsh, the Gaffneys, Evan Cody, Robbie Fitzpatrick and so on has helped bring the ’Boro to a level in recent years, but now comes a huge chance for everyone to take the next step. The classy form of goalie Darragh Holohan, plus up and coming players Conor Doheny and Bill Sheehan suggests they are ready to help drive things on.
This is going to be a tough game. There will be flash points, possibly early on. Players will test each other; front up to each other. That is the way of derby matches.
The impressive way James Stephens riddled Shamrocks for 3-11 during the second half of the semi-final caught us all a bit by surprise. We knew they were improving, but.....
The stronger momentum appears to be with them, and that not inconsequential thing called tradition in finals is with them too.
They can add to past glories!