GAA HURLING ALL-IRELAND INTERMEDIATE CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP QUARTER-FINAL PREVIEW
By David Hennessy
Four years ago when Kilburn Gaels were last crowned London county champions, their progress in the All-Ireland club championship was blocked at the quarter-final stage by Dicksboro of Kilkenny, who they lost to by a score of 2-13 to 2-04.
This year, it is another Kilkenny side in Mullinavat that Kilburn Gaels must overcome if they are to make it to Croke Park.
However, this is very much a new look Kilburn side, with only club captain Keith Kennedy remaining from that 2010 encounter to play in this year’s county final when the team in green and white annihilated Sean Treacy’s by 4-20 to 0-08.
Mullinavat will present a stiff task with the predatory instincts of John Walsh, the young forward who scored 2-5 in this year’s All-Ireland minor final singled out for particular attention although he is far from their only danger man.
While there have been many people in Kilkenny booking tickets to be at Ruislip for this weekend’s game, not all will be cheering for the visitors as Kilburn Gaels boast three Cats. Although William Hoyne has departed, family from the Carrickshock region of Kilkenny will be coming to support Mark O’Dwyer, Luke Gaule and Andrew Power. Carrickshock is the Kilkenny club that has produced Kilkenny stars like John Tennyson, Michael Rice and the Power brothers, Richie and John.
Mark O’Dwyer, who won the Minor All-Ireland with Kilkenny in 2008 and was part of the Carrickshock team that reached the Kilkenny SHC final last year, told The Irish World: “There’s a few people coming over. Everyone nearly has parents coming over. We’ll see, there might be a good turn-out.
“I nearly know every lad on the team. We’re used to playing with them and playing against them, coming up underage and all. We’re looking forward to playing it even more so now that we know it’s Mullinavat.
“We’re expecting a tough battle. I never played Mullinavat and had a handy match. They’re a physical team so we’re trying to prepare ourselves for that as much as we can.”
Kilburn Gaels are aware of the threat John Walsh presents but Mark is quick to also highlight the talents of Ger Malone and Mullinavat’s other young blood: “Definitely, John seems to be the danger man. He’s capable of getting a score from anywhere really.
“Their centre forward Ger Malone seems to be handy enough as well, he’s another young lad. Mullinavat won Under 21 Roinn A in the county last year I think so they would have a few good lads coming up that we might not be familiar with. There could be a couple of surprises there maybe.”
Beating the Kilkenny and Leinster intermediate champions will send out a strong message and confirm how strong Kilburn Gaels’ All-Ireland hopes really are. “That’s the thing as well,” says 24-year-old Mark. “You would be wondering: Have we a good team or is it just a good London team? It’s great to be able to go back and play the likes of Mullinavat who we know are a strong team going up into senior Kilkenny hurling next year. We can really test ourselves against them.
“If we perform well, we’ll know our championship is decent enough and if we beat them, better still. We’re looking forward to it anyway. It will be a tough test for us. If we win, it will be something special alright to get to an All-Ireland semi-final. We’re not looking any further than this now at the moment anyway.”
To be able to add an All-Ireland club medal would bolster an already impressive collection for Mark who has won club championships in London and North America in 2012 playing with San Francisco’s Na Fianna. Mark’s must be a happy household at the moment as in addition to his Kilburn team-mates Luke Gaule and Andrew Power, he shares with Alan Cuddihy who hurls with Kilkenny senior champions Ballyhale and Damien Brown who hurls with Cratloe of Clare who lost out to Kilmallock in the recent Munster final. “Everyone in the house has a county medal,” says Mark.
Asked if it could become a fully Kilburn Gaels house in future, Mark laughs: “We’re trying to convince them in the house every night. We might convert them over to Kilburn next year.”
Kilburn Gaels go into their All-Ireland quarter-final test relatively injury free with only what manager Tom Bergin describes as a “couple of niggles”, although William Hoyne has departed for New Zealand.