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THIS WON'T BE THE ENDA; GAA HURLING CLUB CHAMPIONSHIPS.

Byline: PAT NOLAN

Ballyboden St Enda's (Dublin) v O'Loughlin Gaels (Kilkenny)

BALLYBODEN ST ENDA'S travel to Nowlan Park to play O'Loughlin Gaels tomorrow (2.30pm) for what manager Liam Hogan describes as "the one game we've been preparing for all year".

At a time when Dublin have made considerable progress at inter-county level, much of it has been driven by the contribution of Ballyboden and the rise of both the club and the county in tandem has been more than just coincidence.

Ballyboden looked to be the emerging force in Leinster hurling when, having won a first county title in 2007, they saw off Oulart-The Ballagh and Camross to reach the provincial decider where Birr used all their craft and experience to edge them out by a point.

And while Ballyboden have gone on to dominate Dublin hurling since having just completed the four-in-a-row, their progress was stalled in Leinster by Birr and Ballyhale, who dished out 12-point drubbings in each of their last two campaigns.

There were extenuating circumstances though, as Hogan points out.

"For the last two years, and this is not making excuses - we were well and truly hammered by both Birr and Ballyhale - but on both occasions the fixture pile-up in Dublin didn't really help us," he recalls.

"In both years we played four games in 16 days in the run up to a Leinster Championship and lads were absolutely wrecked, they had nothing left to give.

"On top of that, Ballyboden were Dublin football champions last year and our four dual players were playing a Championship game every week for about eight or nine weeks one after another and in between they were training with the hurlers and footballers.

"Against Ballyhale last year they were really out on their feet from the word go but we don't have those worries this year and the lads are a lot fresher and seem to be in better form.

"When I say form, I mean from a mental point of view. They seem to be far less stressed, far less tired than they were for the last two years."

And having taken a firm grip on the Dublin Championship, Ballyboden have now started to train their thoughts on the Leinster campaign from the outset of the season.

"From the very beginning this year that's exactly where our eyes were and we tailored our training regime through the year accordingly," explains the former Offaly hurler.

"It's an open secret that we didn't train terribly hard, a bit like Birr were when they were in their prime.

"It was only when we got all county men back at the end of August that we actually started to train and you'll see our results were a bit of a roller-coaster ride, it was up and down.

"We were beaten when we shouldn't have been and put in some very poor performances but then when we got back with some training under our belts we steadily improved."

O'Loughlin Gaels may not carry the same reputation of Ballyhale Shamrocks or Birr, but the scalps they have taken means that they demand respect.

Hogan added: "This is my fifth year involved with Ballyboden and apart from Birr and Ballyhale, there were two teams that really gave us a hiding - and I mean an absolute hiding - and the two teams were Portumna last August in a challenge game and O'Loughlin Gaels in 2008.

"They absolutely annihilated us in our own patch. The score at half-time was 2-11 to 0-5. "They had to empty their bench halfway through the second half to see what their subs were made of and at that stage the score was just embarrassing.

"We're facing the Kilkenny champions who beat Shamrocks and who beat Carrickshock, who were Kilkenny people's favourites to win the county title this year, so we know the task that we're facing. We're realists in that regard.

"We'll be looking to put in a much better performance than in the last two years but we're not underestimating O'Loughlin Gaels."

CAPTION(S):

THE PAIN OF DEFEAT St Enda's boss Liam Hogan and, right, Simon Lambert can't hide pain of Leinster SHC defeat to Ballyhale last year GAEL FORCE O'Loughlin Gaels conquer Kilkenny
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Nov 13, 2010
Words:703
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