ST SYLVESTER’S are facing something of a group of death as they begin their Dublin senior football championship campaign in a four-team line-up featuring a series of big guns.
Under new management for this season, the recently relegated Malahide club have had a rough year, and have drawn three of the top sides in Dublin for their group matches: Na Fianna, Ballymun Kickhams and Kilmacud Crokes
The challenge, though, is not about to put them off.
“I think where we’re at is a work in progress,” says new boss Paul Clarke ahead of the Senior Championship getting underway.
“Confidence was low when I came in, with the team having been relegated. Our season ended in October or November and I think we were feeling a bit beaten up, to be honest. The season could easily have gone very differently, there were a lot of close games.
“To come in with six or eight weeks to prepare, I think I’m happy with how it’s gone. We won’t be doing anything different for the Championship. You could go into games like the ones we have and try and shut the other team down, but that’s not how we want to play, and it’s not how I’ll ask my players to play.
“We can’t panic, it’s a big double header on TV, and it’s there to be enjoyed. Nobody expects anything of us, so we can go and have a go. We’ve got enough talent, we’ve just got to be prepared to express ourselves.”
Clarke is quite taken with his new side. “It compares favourably to what I expected,” he says of his early impressions.
“I’m surprised by the spread of talent. We have the potential to have 24 or 25 strong players on the panel. The management have been swapping teams on the Whatsapp, and they’re all quite different. That’s always a good sign.
“We definitely don’t want to drop out of the Senior Championship,” Clarke said. “Our immediate priority is the league, and I don’t think we’d dream about semi-finals or finals.
“We want to avoid a relegation quagmire. Getting out of this group and progressing might happen. Stranger things do happen, but it’s the competition in the side that’s important. We’re going to be juggling several plates, and it’s important to keep on top of our game.
“What I’m looking for now is consistency. We’ve had some moments of brilliance, but I want 60 strong minutes put together on an ongoing basis.”
Sylvester’s get their Championship season underway against Na Fianna on Saturday, April 13 at Parnell Park. They throw-in at 5.15pm, with their two other group opponents following them at 7pm.