’Knock eyes on the prize

by Stephen Findlater
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CASTLEKNOCK are eyeing up a first-ever Dublin junior hurling championship title on Sunday at O’Toole Park when they take on Lucan Sarsfields at 2.30pm in the final.

It will be Anton Cleary’s side’s third game in a fortnight after a helter-skelter finish to the campaign, seeing off Trinity Gaels last Wednesday night in Parnell Park in dramatic fashion, Niall O’Callaghan helping them over the line with a glut of extra-time scores.

But the manager says that his side has not fully clicked to date in the competition.

“It has been a stop-start season but we can also look at the momentum we have got now with three games in quick succession.

“The other side of it is that we haven’t really been close to championship level in any of those games except for Trinity Gaels,” he told GazetteSport. “They matched us for every step. It was a great game to play before a final but, at the same time, there were elements that we weren’t really happy with and we don’t have a huge amount of time to address things.

“Fellas did find it hard to get into the game. We didn’t impose ourselves on the game as we should have done. Trinity Gaels, though, were fantastic and, for an aging squad – apart from five lads in their 20s, the rest are in their 30s – they physically beat us for 40 minutes without being dirty. It was an example of how to dominate the game. We did more of the hurling but I was impressed with them.”

His side go into the final without Darragh McCormack, a long term absentee with a cruciate injury, while Ronan O’Brien and Conor Murray are also more than likely to miss the final.

Nonetheless, the side has coped with such adversity before and Cleary believes his panel – as shown in the semi-final – has the depth to roll with the punches.

“It’s the nature of junior hurling, picking up those knocks. In fairness to the lads running the side last year, they had 16 injuries; we’ve had them too but not all at the same time and we have had a big enough squad to carry them.

“We brought on eight subs over the hour and its fantastic to have. There’s another five or six more who could also do the job. The lads that came in did very well. It’s a cliché now but it’s a 25 or 30 man game over the course of the season but when you use eight subs, everybody knows they contributed.”

He knows, however, Lucan will be hard beaten.

“Last weekend, Lucan won about six county titles between hurling and camogie and they have another few finals on the way. They are turning into a very strong club and you don’t meet a bad Lucan side now, the same way as when you play Ballyboden.

“At junior level, you can find one or two players who aren’t up to it in a team but with Lucan they won’t have that.”

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