Cuala and Ballyboden put records on the line in fierce finale

by Stephen Findlater

Cuala have not been beaten in their last four Dublin senior hurling championship final appearances; Ballyboden St Enda’s can top that – it’s seven outings in the decider since they last lost.

Something has to give when these two modern giants of the county scene lock horns and clash ash on Saturday at Parnell Park (4.30pm) in a potential classic.

Between them, they have won 12 of the last 14 titles but have yet to meet on this stage, marking this out as a special battle in this strangest of seasons.

For Cuala’s manager Willie Maher, the anticipation is one of pure excitement, saying “it’s just brilliant to be hurling”.

“County finals are difficult to get to and we are in the fortunate position of looking forward to it,” he told the Dublin Gazette.

“The guys are hungry for it after what everyone’s been through over the last six months.”

One of the features of this year’s campaign is the ability to give the club game full focus; in the circumstances, clubs have never had more access to their county stars and less absentees for J1s or summer holidays.

It has meant Maher’s Cuala crew have had masses of players out training with coach David Herity overseeing the firsts and seconds, the latter reaching the Senior B final. Add in their footballers also reaching their Senior 2 final and it shows they have needed the bodies.

“For the hurling, everyone trains together which gives the opportunity for high-class training which has paid off,” Maher adds about managing the quick-fire nature of so many fixtures with potential player overlaps.

“With the footballers, it is very player-led; they take responsibility to communicate with me and the football management.

“They are outstanding men and shows in the responsibility they have taken in minding and managing their hurling and football.”

As for the final, Ballyboden offer a vastly experienced opponent with legends like Conal Keaney, Simon Lambert and Paul Ryan still going strong while former Dublin skipper Stephen Hiney emerged from the bench in the semi-final against Na Fianna.

“The roll of honour beside all their names is very impressive and they are big game players.

“They are a formidable opponent. For the last 10 or 15 years, they have been the most successful team in Dublin and is testament to the work, hurling ability and everything that goes into producing players and teams.

“They are well versed in winning finals but so are our lads so it will be a fascinating battle for the neutral.

“We have to bring the fight to them on Sunday for our players to show they have the hunger and desire.

“I think our lads have that and so we look forward to two big teams crashing off each other on Sunday!”

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