‘It would be massive for a lot of people in the club’
Tom Lahiff of St Judes and Shane Cunningham of Kilmacud ahead of Sunday’s Go-Ahead Dublin Senior Football Club Championship Final. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

‘It would be massive for a lot of people in the club’

ST JUDE’S manager Gareth Roche has said that a victory over Kilmacud Crokes in the Dublin Senior Football Championship decider on Sunday (throw-in 3.15pm) would be a fitting tribute to those who helped build the club from the bottom up since its original inception.

Founded in 1978, the Tymon Park outfit will be competing in their third SFC final this weekend – following previous defeats to Ballyboden St Enda’s (2009) and Crokes themselves (2018).

They have become regular fixtures at the business end of the competition in modern times and with the week that’s in it, Roche is grateful to all those who have helped make this possible.

“It would be massive for a lot of people in the club” he told The Echo. “The learnings started a long time ago, but there are people who have gone before us. The people who established the club in 1978 who are still there.

“Padraic Monaghan got us to the final in 2009. Padraic came back in then six years ago and got us to the county final again in 2018.

“You can’t help think of the lads who put all the hard work in over the years and have retired in the last three or four years. They’re the ones on this week that you’re thinking of and wishing that they were still playing” Roche acknowledged.

With eight county titles, four Leinster crowns and a brace of All-Irelands to their name, Roche is aware of how difficult a proposition Crokes will be on Sunday.

In their semi-final encounter against Ballyboden, Robbie Brennan’s men came away with a comfortable 1-15 to 1-8 victory.

Since their success over Jude’s in 2018, the Stillorgan side have welcomed two-time All Star Rory O’Carroll back into the fold. Nevertheless, Roche believes his own squad has evolved significantly in the past three years.

“They looked like they bullied ‘Boden an awful lot and put them under severe pressure on the ball” said Roche.

“It’s going to be a tough day at the office. It doesn’t matter who they really bring in. Whether it’s a young fella that they’ve had on a minor or Under 21 squad, or a seasoned player like O’Carroll.

“Crokes are a very, very good team, but we’re a different team as well in the last three years.

“We’ve changed an awful lot as well in our philosophy and things like that. We’ve learned and we’re looking forward to the prospect of playing them again and seeing how much have we improved.”

One of the key differences for Roche – who took over from Monaghan for the 2019 club season having previously served as a selector – between now and 2018 is strength-in-depth.

While stalwarts like Paul Copeland, Chris Guckian and eight-time All-Ireland winner Kevin McManamon (all survivors from their maiden final appearance in 2009) bring experience to the table, there are a succession of players who add considerable energy off the bench.

This was evident in the 1-18 to 3-5 triumph over Lucan Sarsfields in the last-four, when substitutes Seamus Ryan, Brian Coakley and Diarmuid McLoughlin all chipped in with scores.

“The squad has grown so much in the last two years even” insisted Roche. “To be bringing on players of the calibre that we can bring on. Three years ago we hadn’t got that quality on the bench and it’s testament to the players who are on the starting team, how far they’ve come as well.

“It gives us a lot of options, which is only a good thing for the team, as a group. They all have bought into this and they’re there to drive each other on.”

Aside from local faces like Copeland, Guckian and McManamon, there are also a host of players within the Jude’s squad who hail from right across the country.

Included amongst this contingent are Cork brothers Brian and Niall Coakley, Antrim’s Mark Sweeney, former Kildare footballer Ciaran Fitzpatrick as well as Kerry native Pat Spillane Jr.

A son of the Kerry legend of the same name, Spillane kicked three points in a man-of-the-match display against Lucan the last day out. Having first joined the club in 2020, Roche feels the ex-Templenoe star has really blossomed during the current term.

“He’s a player who, this year, has grown so much and learnt so much, has been so open to coaching and everything. Absolutely delighted that he got man-of-the-match. He deserved it for all the work he has put in this year,” Roche added.

“You couldn’t ask any more of him. He’s a great kid that’s willing to learn all the time, which again as a coach, you can only have a big smile on your face dealing with him. A lovely lad to deal with as well.”

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