Dublin Club Hurling

Senior Hurling Quarter Final Preview

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Tomorrow afternoon will see the eight remaining sides play out the Dublin Senior Hurling Championship quarter-finals on both O’Toole Park and Parnell Park.

The all south side affair of Ballyboden and Lucan Sarsfield’s as well as the clash Cuala and St. Brigid’s will play out in O’Toole Park. At the same time, Croke’s will cross the Liffey to face Na Fianna while neither St. Vincent’s nor Craobh Chiaráin will have to travel far as they face off in Parnell Park.

With six of the sides returning to the quarters since last year, and two who have been away for a few years now, there could be plenty of arguing over which are the most intriguing of games.

From where I’m standing, though I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with any of the favourites with the bookies, the size of the odds seem a touch extreme in three out of four cases.

Lucan vs Ballyboden

The clash of Boden and Lucan represents an interesting dynamic in that the repeat of the 2013 final sees the seeded group considered to be higher odds to win the game.

While Lucan have topped their group Boden came second in theirs, Boden are considerable favourites with the bookies.

Yes, of course, Boden came second to the All-Ireland champions, while Lucan came top of a group which didn’t contain another side from last year’s quarters, so obviously the dynamic of coming top shouldn’t necessarily make them favourites.

Saying that it seems a touch extreme in my eyes that Lucan should be such significant underdogs.

Their short passing game around the half back line where they are likely to implement the most efficient of sweeper systems is a tough nut for any side to crack.

Two things are worth noting regarding their calbre. Firstly, while Jude’s were underwhelming this year, they came into last year’s championship having been in the previous two finals. Lucan knocked them out.

Secondly, while their losing margin of six points to Cuala last year was somewhat bigger than either Crokes’ or Boden’s (in sixty minutes), one could argue that they were the only side last year who kept tit for tat with Cuala until the final stages.

Until Lucan had to chase the game at the end, Cuala never had a period of complete dominance like they did against every other side. There were just two points between the sides with eight minutes remaining.

The point is that it seems unlikely that any side are going to bush aside this tactically and technically highly capable side. With a tight defensive structure and a free taker in Kevin Reilly who can score from up to a hundred odd yards, it would be folly to write them off.

Of course, Boden have a high calibre. A team with a large amount of current and former Dublin seniors, they’re not alone the only side to beat Cuala in Dublin in the last two years, Cuala have now failed to beat them twice in normal time in the last twelve months.

Yes, they have to be favourites, but I’m not convinced they should be such overwhelming favourites.

Cuala vs St Brigid’s

After Brigid’s overcoming a small mountain in their last group game to win by more than the necessary eight points against Fionbarra to progress, they’ll be buzzing coming into this one. They’ll need to be.

With a host of youngsters coming through in the last two years, the coming years for Brigid’s look bright. Coming second in the group, there’s no easy draw, but this is obviously the worst one they could get.

Cuala massacred Crumlin, group leaders at the time, in their last group game, and after a possible hang-over post Croke Park in March, look back in track.

We all know the quality they have and the manner in which they can control the middle third. Even if the Brigid’s lads could potentially have the ability to stick with Cuala, you have to assume that you’d also need experience to try to dismantle Cuala’s methodical style.

It’s probably the one game where I’d feel the bookies large odds are probably justified.

Kilmacud Croke’s Vs Na Fianna

Looking at what lay ahead for Cuala after their close-run final victory over them in last year’s final, Croke’s must be wondering “what if”. They’ll be chomping at the bit to get another crack at them this year. For now, Na Fianna stand in their way.

Again, you have to fancy them, but maybe not as overwhelmingly as the odds suggest.

Yes, the league needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, but Na Fianna currently lie second with an outrageous score difference of an average of a ten point victory a game, miles higher than any other sides’ tally. With host of recent Dublin in their ranks, they were highly fancied earlier in the year, before Craobh knocked the wind out of their sails.

The dynamics of this game, will be completely different though. Craobh imposed themselves physically on that Na Fianna side in a way that Croke’s won’t. And even asides from that, maybe that game with Craobh was a wake-up call for what is required to cut the mustard at senior championship.

This is more likely to be a contest of pure hurling, and to that end, all other evidence should suggest that Na Fianna are on the brink of a new dawn, and on paper, their individual players really shouldn’t be that far off Crokes’.

Of course, the Croke’s side is more settled with less new faces coming into the side, and we can’t get past the fact that they’ve won two of the last five championships and have been in three of the last five finals.

They’re the side who have been there, done that and have proven their capacity. Na Fianna, obviously, still haven’t, but I’d be surprised if this one isn’t closer than many expect.

Craobh Chairáin Vs St. Vincent’s

Perhaps I’m being northside-centric here, but for me, this is the juicy clash of the round.

While neither are probably worthy of being called a top three side, for now at least, there are numerous intriguing dynamics to this one.

Firstly, it’s Craobh who come into this one as the seeded side having topped their group, yet they are significant underdogs with the bookies.

From where I’m standing they look like a significantly superior outfit from last year. Their tactical structure has been massively tightened, and the return of Alan McCrabbe is obviously a huge boost.

To be fair to Vincent’s you wouldn’t read too much into their defeat to Croke’s. It looked like a bout of shadow boxing for most of the game with both sides already qualified

Collectively, they’re certainly fitter than Craobh, but with Croabh defending effectively in numbers, it may not be an open contest where the fitter side will have the spaces to exploit.

Croabh who were all but written off before this year’s championship, and Vincen’t’s long since mived down the pecking order as one of the prime championship contenders, as a given, each will see this as a huge opportunity to reach the semis for the first time in longer than either would care to think about.

The added intrigue, obviously is the local rivalry. Apart from the fact that they were two of the three or four big guns in the nineties and noughties, they live literally side by side. There’ll be no love lost.

Vincent’s have been mooted as dark horses this year, and they certainly appear to have a cut about them this year. Croabh will be a tough nut to crack though.

If I was forced to call it, I’d maybe slightly fancy Vincent’s but my nothing like what the bookies have suggested.

By Stephen O’Meara