From little things, big things grow, as Danesfort can testify to

IF you point your car south from Kilkenny city and travel on any of the major three arteries towards Waterford, Carrick-on-Suir or Clonmel, you’ll travel through Danesfort GAA country.

They are not an aristocratic force in the county’s hurling hierarchy and the name does not grab headlines at a national level. But on this All-Ireland final week they have burst to prominence and the local residents are entitled to raise their heads above the parapet. From this small rural area, which also encompasses Cuffesgrange and Kells, Paul Murphy and Richie Hogan are in line for starting berths on Brian Cody’s team next Sunday while Richie’s older brother Paddy will be amongst the substitutes.

“It’s unprecedented for us to have three on the senior panel,” said club secretary Maurice Woodcock.

“We’re founded in 1922 and the last player we had before these three lads, to win an All-Ireland medal on the field of play was Mick Brophy in 1957. It’s a huge milestone for the club now to have three.

“A lot of it can be traced back really to the efforts made to improve our juvenile section in the early ‘90s. Around that time in Kilkenny, there was a lot more science and effort being put into coaching underage players in clubs. The work in the local primary schools and the inter-county development squads helped our players progress as well.”

The dazzling attacking abilities of Richie Hogan were advertised at an early age. He has long been anointed for greatness yet the potential of their other prospects was also evident according to Woodcock.

“For as long as I can remember Richie was putting up huge scores in underage games. If Danesfort scored 4-10 in a match, you were guaranteed that Richie had scored about 4-8 and had two defenders marking him for the game.

“He was very prominent but Paddy, who’s a year older, was a serious player as well, particularly at centre-back. This would be Paul’s first year at senior level but he was earmarked for a long time as a player to watch. He’s an excellent defender.”

There’s huge pride in the community at the trio’s achievements but one person sadly won’t be present on Sunday.

“Paul’s dad Tommy passed away a few years ago,” revealed Woodcock.

“He was a former chairman of the Kilkenny county board and did huge work for GAA in Danesfort. Paul would have grown up with a big hurling interest as a result.”

Four years ago, their county stars were central to Danesfort’s greatest day. Under the tutelage of former senior star Adrian Ronan, Danesfort claimed Kilkenny junior honours towards the end of 2006 and followed that up with a provincial crown. Then in the early months of 2007, they defeated Kilworth (Cork) and Clooney Gaels (Antrim) to lift the All-Ireland crown.

“It was just an incredible day for us in Croke Park. My cousin Tony was the captain and I was one of the subs. For the older lads like myself, Tom Mahony, Pa Dillon, Ger Power and Larry Mahony, it was near the end of our careers really. But it was a great way to finish.”

Three years ago when Kilkenny won the All-Ireland U21 title, the Danesfort committee sprung into action immediately in organising a homecoming to acclaim their local heroes. If Kilkenny are successful on Sunday though, those celebrations will be parked. Danesfort are focusing on a Kilkenny intermediate hurling league final meeting with the Rower Inistioge on September 17.

The club have already pencilled in a challenge game for Saturday week and will be looking to lure their inter-county men back to the club fold in the wake of Sunday’s showdown.

“The attention will go back to the club soon enough. The three lads are obviously huge players for us at club level and we’re looking forward to getting them back involved with us. But Sunday is the priority now.

“There’ll be a big Danesfort crowd there and we’ll be fiercely proud to see the three of them wearing Kilkenny jerseys on All-Ireland senior final day.”

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