Raheny hurling heroes bridge 37-year gap
September 13, 2007
Raheny's golden jubilee celebrations got off to an early start when they were crowned Dublin intermediate hurling champions for the first time since 1970. Here, hurling team selector Kevin Broderick charts their path to glory.
As the countdown continues to Raheny GAA's 50th anniversary celebrations in 2008, the club's ever-improving hurlers have their sights firmly set on a return to the senior ranks of Dublin hurling.
On July 8 last, the Raheny stickmen took a giant step towards achieving that particular goal when they defeated Ballyboden St. Enda's by 0-16 to 0-12 to capture the county intermediate championship crown after a 37-year lapse. The victory means that Raheny will ply their trade in the senior 'B' championship next year, but in the meantime they also hope to secure promotion to the senior hurling league.
"It was a huge achievement to win the intermediate championship after such a long wait. We gave the lads a couple of weeks off to celebrate, but we're back at it again now and will be doing everything in our power to get promotion in the league as well," team selector and club hurling coordinator Kevin Broderick explains.
"We have nine matches left to play in the intermediate league, so there is still a lot of hurling to be played. If we can finish in the top two, we'll be promoted and that is what we are aiming for."
At the time of writing, Raheny had played just three league games, winning two of them against St. Peregrine's and Kevin's, but losing the other to Round Towers (Clondalkin). The league is running behind schedule due to the new regional initiative in Dublin, which has been introduced to give players from intermediate and junior clubs a taste of senior action with the newly-formed divisional sides.
There was no such delay to the intermediate championship which was run off during the months of May, June and July. Under the management of Gene Russell and his co-selectors Broderick and Enda Mulcahy, Raheny qualified from the league section with a 100 per cent record after registering wins over Trinity Gaels, Whitehall Colmcille, Kevin's, St. Peregrine's and Craobh Chiarain's second team. Joining the northside maroons in the last four were Kilmacud Crokes, Ballyboden St. Enda's and St. Vincent's - all of who are top senior outfits in the capital.
Raheny faced St. Vincent's in the semi-final at Parnell Park and after leading by 0-7 to 0-3 at interval, were overhauled following the restart. But just when it seemed they were heading out of the championship, half-time substitute Darragh Pelley conjured a late goal to give Raheny a dramatic victory.
The final took place in wet conditions at O'Toole Park with Ballyboden providing the opposition for Gene Russell's men. Raheny made a sluggish start and found themselves 0-2 to 0-5 in arrears at the end of the opening quarter. But with Colm Donegan in fine scoring form, the Dublin 5 outfit fought back to lead by 0-7 to 0-6 at the break.
Ballyboden were reduced to 14 players in the second half, but Raheny struggled to make their numerical advantage count and there was never any more than two points between the sides up until the closing stages.
With 10 minutes to go and Raheny leading by a point, centre back Donegan made a crucial goal-line clearance. It was the wake-up call Raheny needed as they finished with a flourish, with three points in-a-row from Sean Dempsey handing them the title.
"We found it hard to pull away, even though they had a man sent off. But in fairness to the lads, they came good in the end and that's all that matters. It was a big breakthrough for us and I'm sure the win has given all our teams a big lift," says Rathdowney native Broderick, who served as a Laois senior hurling selector under both Padraig Horan and Sean Cuddy.
The hurling championship structure in Dublin is different to most other counties in that the winners of the intermediate championship aren't automatically promoted to the top flight. But Broderick believes that a spell in the senior 'B' championship won't do Raheny any harm at all.
"It suits us to play in the senior 'B' championship next year. We're still a work in progress and we mightn't be ready for the senior 'A' championship just yet. We've made steady progress over the past few years. We won the junior 'A' championship in 2004, the intermediate 'B' in 2005 and the intermediate 'A' this year.
"We also won the All-Ireland Sevens in St. Jude's two years ago and I would regard that victory as being the catalyst for this year's success."
Dublin hurling has enjoyed a major revival in recent times and Raheny is one of a number of clubs in the capital that is working tirelessly to promote the game. Raheny's commitment to hurling was recently underlined by the construction of a hurling wall, which was part of a EUR200,000 development that also saw the club convert its car-park into an all-weather pitch.
"Dublin hurling is on the up and up, and it's an exciting time to be involved at the moment. There's huge enthusiasm for the game around the city and county, and our county development officer Michael Connolly is doing brilliant work," Kevin adds.
Raheny GAA has come a long way since its formation in 1958. Back then, Raheny was a small village with many of its inhabitants struggling to survive in a bleak era of depression and high unemployment. But the arrival of Limerick man Fr Dick Ryan as curate in 1955 help to reinvigorate the village and within a few years the parish was transformed with hundreds of new families coming to live in the area.
Success came early for the fledgling Raheny club, with junior and intermediate football championships being annexed in the 1960s. 1970 was a memorable year as not only did the hurlers land the intermediate title, but the footballers won the senior league and reached the county final as well, only to lose narrowly to neighbours St. Vincent's.
The club contributed handsomely to Dublin's three All-Ireland football successes of the 1970s with David Hickey, Michael Hickey, Paddy Gogarty and Alan Larkin being members of that great team.
Raheny built a new clubhouse, hall and dressing-rooms in 1981, facilities which have served the club well since then. Raheny's playing membership has swelled to the extent that the club fielded 44 teams in 2007 between football, hurling and camogie. It is currently represented on the Dublin football team by Ciaran Whelan and David Henry, who has also represented the county in senior hurling, and by Greg Bennett on the county hurling team.
A number of social events are planned for the club's golden jubilee celebrations next year when Kevin hopes the hurlers will be competing hard for a place in the senior 'A' championship in 2009.
"That's the plan anyway. As I said earlier, there's a lot of hurling still to be played this year and we'll be playing in the Leinster junior club championship as well. David Henry missed our intermediate championship campaign due to his football commitments, but hopefully we'll have him back for that. He would be a great help."
The Raheny team which captured the Dublin IHC title was: R Somers; R Donnelly, T Hamill, E Mullane; R Farrell, C Donegan, D Browne; G Bennett, J Ryan; S Dempsey, S Carr, D Pelley; D Myers, G Murray, L Dillon. Subs: C Daly for Murray; N Sullivan for Donnelly.
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