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Big time finally beckons for Na Fianna hurlers at nearby Croke Park

Dublin champions facing a tough task as they contest their first provincial decider against Kilkenny’s O’Loughlin Gaels

It has been the longest time coming for the Na Fianna hurlers – this short sweep down Mobhi Road and across Botanic Avenue towards the hulking cathedral of Croke Park.

Their footballers contested an All-Ireland club final at GAA headquarters in 2000, while many of Na Fianna’s players have run out there at intercounty level for Dublin, among others, in recent years.

But the hurlers have to go back to the 1980s, at a time when some Dublin club championship games were fixed at Croke Park, for the last time they hurled in a stadium just a long puck from their Glasnevin home.

Saturday will see the Na Fianna hurlers take centre stage as Dublin champions at Croke Park for the first time when they face O’Loughlin Gaels in a Leinster club SHC decider, 4.05pm.


“It’s a very exciting week for the club,” says Donal Burke.

Just five weeks after claiming a first ever Dublin senior hurling title, they find themselves preparing for a provincial decider against a Kilkenny outfit who have previously won the competition on two occasions.

“I think they’re very balanced all over the pitch,” continues Burke. “They’re a Kilkenny team so they’re going to be very hard work [for us]). It will be a big, big test but hopefully we can perform and do ourselves justice.”

Burke’s match-day responsibilities in recent times have revolved around that of water carrier, as he continues his recovery from a nasty hamstring injury – he shredded the muscle off the bone while playing for Dublin during the summer.

The dead-ball specialist has resumed running but says he won’t be rushing back to action.

“It was probably around January that I was hoping to be there or thereabouts so I’m nearly there, I’m knocking on the door. The first goal is to get back training, get back on the pitch. Once I do that I can probably get a little bit of leeway to see where I am.

“I’ll see how Saturday goes and then we’ll probably re-evaluate but I suppose I definitely won’t be taking any risks for this Saturday, unfortunately.”

Na Fianna have beaten Raharney and Naas on this maiden odyssey through Leinster.

“Obviously you enjoy your few days [after the county final] but I think it was the Thursday or the Saturday that we got together and had a meeting and we were just saying that we’d give this a rattle and see how we get on,” says Burke.

“It’s one of those opportunities that you’re not really sure if you’ll be back [in Leinster again] so it’s not really hard to get motivated for it and I suppose give it your all.”

If Burke’s absence is a significant blow for Na Fianna, it has been cushioned somewhat by the return of Liam Rushe to the dressingroom. Rushe, who was away travelling, flew home to be part of Na Fianna’s push for a first Dublin title.

“He has such experience. It didn’t take him long to get into his stride either, he’s been huge for us,” says Burke. “He was only back a couple of weeks before the Crokes game so he was thrown a little bit in at the deep end. Thankfully it worked out.

“He probably knew that he was going to be there or thereabouts by the end so he probably kept himself in a bit of shape.”

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times