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Saturday 20 January 2018

Kilanerin aiming to prolong fine year with provincial title

On the Line with Alan Aherne

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

We may be heading into the last weekend of November, but that doesn't mean the G.A.A. action is stalling as a quick perusal of the fixtures for next Saturday will clearly underline.

I'm going to be busy over the coming days organising coverage for the grand total of eight games, starting at 1.30 p.m. in faraway Ruislip and eventually concluding with three floodlit Under-21 football matches at 7 p.m.

There's still no rest for the younger St. Martin's contingent as they will be in action yet again in the last remaining Greenstar Premier championship preliminary round tie. And a mouth-watering clash is in store given that they will be travelling to Bellefield to take on their Senior county final conquerors, Starlights.

Last Sunday was a chastening experience for the club and a reminder that there's still a long way to go before they can be regarded as genuine contenders for Leinster honours.

One thing that the current big guns such as Cuala, Na Piarsaigh, Kilcormac-Killoughey and Ballygunner have going for them is their admirable consistency within their own counties.

They are winning so regularly on the domestic front that it means they are gaining more and more experience at provincial level practically every year and it's like second nature to them at this stage.

That has to be the next goal for St. Martin's, then, to claim Pettitt's Senior titles back-to-back for the first time and make an immediate return to Leinster level in order to put the bitter lessons learned to good use as soon as possible.

For the moment, though, they deserve to bask in the considerable achievement of becoming only the second club - and first since Rathnure in 1996 - to win the Senior, Under-21 and Minor hurling titles in the same year.

Hopefully Fethard will be focused enough to emerge from their journey into the unknown in London to advance to an All-Ireland Junior hurling semi-final in early 2018. Their opponents, Brothers Pearse, have scored heavily en route to this stage, but it's still difficult to gauge their true capabilities as the quality of the opposition is impossible to judge at this far remove.

With one provincial club crown already in the bag, Kilanerin will be aiming to make it two when they take on Ballyboughal from Dublin in the Intermediate football decider in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday at 2 p.m.

They are the first-ever Model county club to get to this stage, and they are certainly there on merit after turning Páirc Uí Shíocháin into a fortress and recording two good wins over Raheens of Kildare and St. Mary's from Westmeath following a first round success away to Longford champions Rathcline.

Not a lot is known about Saturday's opponents, although I'm sure the Kilanerin management were out in force to watch them recording a replay win at home to Emo from Laois in the semi-final last weekend.

They are situated in rural north county Dublin, not far from the M1, and shouldn't be confused with inner city Ballybough which is just a stone's throw from Croke Park.

And while they're not regular suppliers of personnel to inter-county teams, rest assured that any side contesting a Leinster final will present a stiff challenge.

Kilanerin have only met a Dublin team in Leinster on one previous occasion, and that was in 1996 when they lost the Senior semi-final to St. Sylvester's from Malahide in Portlaoise by 2-10 to 0-8.

They had beaten James Stephens (Kilkenny) and St. Joseph's (Louth) in the earlier rounds, but they were on a downer for the defeat because it arrived one week after losing the county final to Glynn-Barntown by two points.

That was in the era when late-finishing counties were allowed to nominate a representative, and Kilanerin got the nod by virtue of being the title-holders from 1995.

That game against St. Sylvester's was one of the first for a then 17-year-old Matty Forde to do his stuff at Senior level if I'm not mistaken, and it's remarkable to think that he will be the fulcrum of the attack still on Saturday. Best wishes to the Wicklow border crew as they aim to achieve something special.

Wexford People

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