IT’S the great dream of every player in the GAA to play in Croke Park and before the ‘waking up bit’ arrives, the trick is to lift the All-Ireland cup in the middle of ‘The Hogan’.
For Abbeyknockmoy’s intermediate hurlers, the first part of that scenario is in place on Sunday (3.45) when they face Kilkenny and Leinster champions Bennettsbridge, and the North Galway side will now have their sights firmly set on going all the way.
Mind you, the odds from the bookies suggest that maybe it’s not worth Abbeyknockmoy’s while turning up for this match as they’ll trot out onto the hallowed sod of Croker as 6/1 outsiders with Bennettsbridge an unbackable 1/10.
The Abbey lads though have a tradition of winning matches against the odds, going back to their sole senior success of 1988 when they toppled the mighty Athenry, so the underdogs tag on Sunday is nothing new to them.
Bennettsbridge do come into this final with one mighty impressive CV. Over the course of the past two seasons, they have now gone 29 league and championship games undefeated, in the process mopping up the All-Ireland junior title last year as well as the 2015 county and provincial intermediate crowns.
A village about five miles to the south east of Kilkenny city, Bennettsbridge have back the decades, won 12 senior titles – 11 of them in their golden era from 1952 to 1971 – before falling on leaner times, prior to their resurgence of latter years.
They have four All-Star winners in Jim Treacy (of the famous white head), Paddy Moran, Liam Simpson and nine times All-Ireland winner, goalkeeper Noel Skehan, while the names of Seamus Cleere and Pat Lawlor, will be familiar to hurling aficionados of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
Abbeyknockmoy though will be concerned about times more recent. Last year, Bennettsbridge went straight through from their junior success to take the Kilkenny intermediate title, beating St. Patrick’s, Ballyragget, in a replayed final.
Full preview in this week’s Connacht Tribune.