Dunnamaggin keen to continue upward climb
By Michael Devlin
Dunnamaggin were not long resting on their laurels after clinching the Kilkenny Junior Hurling Championship last month.
“I suppose when we won the county final we were back straight away training within four or five days, did some fitness work with our coach Martin O’Brien, and just got into the zone that we wanted to get somewhere in Leinster,” said corner-back Jack Brett ahead of their provincial decider with Meath champions Na Fianna this weekend.
“Thankfully we are in a final now, so we’ll see what happens. Na Fianna are obviously a very strong team, and our focus is that we want to do ourselves justice, but it’s going to be a tough battle no doubt.”
Dunnamaggin easily defeated Dublin’s St Maur’s 1-25 to 0-8in Callan to book their place in the final. Leading 0-15 to 0-1 at half-time, the game was well out of sight by the time Ronan Coffey raised green flag in the 54th minute.
“We always want to start strong, and lads talk before in the dressing room about being up for it. We started off very well and just kept pushing on. Thankfully we got the win.”
Brett admits the team had to reset following relegation from Intermediate in Kilkenny in 2017. Lacklustre numbers at training and a poor run of form resulted in a disappointing demotion for the Hayden Park club. This season though, the players returned to the fold in mid-January, refocused and re-invigorated.
“This year from the minute go, we were totally clued in. We wanted to get somewhere this year, wanted to bounce straight back up, that was the automatic response. Thankfully everyone put in a massive effort and got fit and we got over the line. It was a tough championship as well, every match, and we had to be at our very best to get through.”
Success last year in the county minor ‘B’ championship has led to a crop of promising young players breaking into the team, which has kept the older more established players on their toes - always a good thing.
“There’s eight or nine from that team from last year, and obviously that momentum has driven us on. It’s after pushing us on because there’s serious competition for places with the young lads coming into the team,” says Brett. “They are driving everyone that’s older, so there is good momentum coming into it.”
“We’re always trying to better ourselves because we know there’s always young lads coming into the team. We know that if we don’t play well, the young lads will come in and take our positions. It’s definitely driving us all on and there’s a good buzz around the club at the moment.”
The older lads have plenty to offer the fledgling talents as well, none more so than Kilkenny hurling legend Noel Hickey. Now at 37 years of age, the nine-time All-Ireland winner and triple All-Star suffered a bad hamstring tear during the Kilkenny semi-final win over Dicksboro and was forced to leave the field.
He has been receiving treatment from physio Robbie Lodge, but played no part in the 1-16 to 2-8 victory over Piltown in the final. While still unclear as to whether he will be recovered in time for Saturday’s game, Brett believes that having such a presence about the team as invaluable.
“It’s touch-and-go, to be honest we’re not sure yet. They’re was serious concern whether he’ll be back, hopefully we will have him. Just to have him about is a big, big thing for us.
“He’s serious, always talking and stuff. I’d be in the full back line along with him and he’s something else. He’s been going as strong as ever, he’s as fast as ever he was.”
Kilkenny have won the Leinster JHC 13 times in the last 17 seasons, competing in every final since 2001. While Meath teams do not boast the same illustrious record, Brett is certain Na Fianna will present a stern challenge, despite not knowing much about them.
“With Leinster it’s hard to know what the other teams are like. Compared to county, you tend to know everyone and where their strong areas are. With Na Fianna we don’t know that much about them, and I’m sure likewise they don’t know much about us.
“Everyone’s going to have to take a man and work themselves, but without doubt it’s going to be a titanic battle. I’m really looking forward to seeing how we come up against a good team like Na Fianna.”