Dublin-Meath rivalry revisited in Leinster club championship

GAA News: Kilmacud Crokes’ meeting with Dunboyne is significant for Robbie Brennan

Dunboyne celebrate with the trophy after beating Summerhill in the Meath SFC final at  Páirc Tailteann in October. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Dunboyne celebrate with the trophy after beating Summerhill in the Meath SFC final at Páirc Tailteann in October. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

The last thing Robbie Brennan could possibly have imagined was this. When taking over as co-manager of Kilmacud Crokes at the start of the season, along with former club-mate Johnny Magee, Brennan’s only concern was negotiating the ever-competitive Dublin football championship with a view towards winning back the title for the first time since 2010. 

Both Brennan and Magee did bring considerable experience and loyalty to the Stillorgan club, county star Paul Mannion among those to sing their praises and single out their fresh approach and attitude this season. Duly tested along the way, particularly in the semi-final against 2015 champions Ballyboden St Enda’s, Crokes then beat southside rivals St Jude’s in the final on the October Bank Holiday Monday – Mannion’s 1-6, all from play, naturally leading the way. 

So ended a sort of mini drought, given Crokes had won seven titles before that, since winning their first in 1992. Only then did Brennan realise the uncanny fate, or indeed cosmic coincidence, as this Sunday’s Leinster football quarter-final opponents presented themselves as St Peter’s Dunboyne, the Meath club to which Brennan transferred in 2002, later both played with and managed, and now considers home. 

Dunboyne had come through an equally competitive Meath championship to win only their third county title since 1998, and first since 2005, overcoming a fancied Summerhill, the 2017 beaten finalists, in the final. They also had to get past Wexford champions Shelmaliers, in Wexford Park, in the first round, before ensuring home advantage at Páirc Tailteann against whoever came through the Dublin final. 

Uncanny fate

Brennan’s uncanny fate doesn’t end there: both times Dunboyne came out of Meath before, in 1998 and 2005, they ended up playing and losing to Crokes in the Leinster championship. So in 1998, Brennan played alongside Magee in the Crokes team that beat them, before in 2005 playing on the Dunboyne team against Magee and the Crokes team, and losing. 

Oh yeah – and still central to the Dunboyne team is their former county star David Gallagher, who this year won his third county medal 20 years after winning his first, and is now a brother-in-law of Brennan. 

“It’s very, very close to the bone,” Brennan said after the Dublin final, and realising Dunboyne were up next. Whatever conflicting emotions may be there are usually set aside in games like this, and Sunday should be no exception – particularly with the still-enduring Dublin-Meath rivalry. 

Johnny is a huge character and obviously an icon in Kilmacud Crokes, so it has been deadly having him back in the management team

The Dunboyne team, incidentally, also includes Stuart Lowndes, brother of Dublin footballer Eric, their father also being a Dunboyne native, adding another little dash of the old county rivalry. 

Mannion’s role with Crokes, meanwhile, is naturally central, but he’s also credited the arrival of Brennan and Magee for adding something fresh this season. Magee won three Leinster club titles with Crokes, in 2005, 2008 and 2010, plus the 2009 club All-Ireland, alongside his brother Darren. There are several playing survivors of that team, including goalkeeper David Nestor, Cian O’Sullivan, Ross O’Carroll and Pat Burke, while Paul Griffin is also part of the backroom team. 

‘Good set-up’

“Yeah definitely, the lads that have come in, it’s been a really good set-up, a lot of former Crokes players there with Johnny, Robbie, Paul Griffin as well, so lots of familiar faces,” he said. “I think the lads appreciated that and everyone’s just fully behind the management team. 

“It’s been a kind of a team in transition the last few years, so that coinciding with the new management as well has just really given lads a boost and given a lot of kind of optimism around the club about the team as well at the moment. 

“Johnny is a huge character and obviously an icon in Kilmacud Crokes, so it has been deadly having him back in the management team, an extraordinary passionate man about the club and GAA in general, and that shines through in his management.” 

Kilmacud Crokes’ Paul Mannion: “Everyone’s just fully behind the management team.” Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Kilmacud Crokes’ Paul Mannion: “Everyone’s just fully behind the management team.” Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Also driving Mannion is the realisation these chances don’t come around very often, even with some early perception of success: after losing the Dublin final in 2012, this year’s success is all they’ve tasted since. “Because Crokes had been in so many finals of so many championships in the years before that, you kind of thought this will come again and I’d get a chance. I didn’t think I’d be waiting another five, six years. It’s not that long but definitely I’ve been saying it to the younger lads in the team that these don’t come around too often at all.” 

Also inspiring Dunboyne this season is the fate of former club chairman Sean Cox, who endured serious injury after he was attacked by Roma supporters as he was making his way to Anfield for the Champions League semi-final last April. As part of a fund-raising effort it has been agreed Jim Gavin’s Dublin team will face Meath in a challenge game in Páirc Tailteann on Sunday Decemeber 16th, full details to be confirmed.

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