St Sylvester’s will return to senior hurling after a three year absence a game ahead of schedule last week, as they defeated Ballyboden St Enda’s in their penultimate AHL3 contest to guarantee promotion and another hard-won shot at the second tier.

The Malahide club had gone close to promotion last year and will now look to retain their spot in AHL2 having gone straight back down on their last stint in the division.

This year has gone far better, though, as a youthful side has built on a failed promotion playoff in 2017 and come back stronger.

“This is a new management team’s second year involved,” the club’s Declan McGrath explained. “Last year we were putting the building blocks down, and learning to play a system.

“They’re a young team, and they’ve matured a little bit and got a bit more used to the system. We certainly planned to go up this year, and it’s worked out well.”

The game against Ballyboden wasn’t a classic. While Sylvester’s have comfortably won a lot of their league matches this year, and are unbeaten in league and championship since way back in March, the Ballyboden game was
decided by the narrowest margins.

Free-taker Dan Murphy hit 11 from 11, including a game-winning free from 65 metres six minutes into injury time.

“It wasn’t our best performance but we got there in the end,” McGrath said of the game. “Dan is really reliable. He’s been a huge asset this season.

“We have seven or eight players who played with the Fingal hurling side, including the likes of the O’Flynn’s, so there’s lots of experience to build on, but last time we weren’t strong enough at senior level. We’re hoping this time we’ll be good enough to hold our own.”

While the league promotion is important, it’s also key to the long term for the side, traditionally in more of a footballing heartland, that they develop into a senior championship team. That’s something that could also be on the cards for this year.

“We need to make the final to go up,” McGrath says of the championship charge.

“We’re already in the quarter final draw with a game to spare and we’ll be getting a home draw for that game, though we don’t know who it’s against yet.

“The last championship group game and the last league game aren’t all that important now. It’ll all be about that quarter final, and hopefully a game or two more after that.

“We’ll be playing the fourth place team from the other section of the draw on September 23. Everything before then is kind of irrelevant.”

Sylvester’s hope to grab two for two, and firmly establish themselves as more than just a footballing hub.