Whichever club wins Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final in Armagh, presuming there will be a winner on the day of course, will create their own little piece of history.
What: Cuala (Dublin) v Slaughtneil (Derry), AIB All-Ireland Club SHC semi-final
Where: Athletic Grounds, Armagh
When: Saturday, 3pm
No side from either Derry or Dublin has ever made an All-Ireland Club Senior Hurling Championship final.
And for the remarkable Slaughtneil there is further incentive, as their footballers and camogie team are already in their respective deciders.
As is so often the case in the club championships, these teams have their own special stories.
Cuala, from the south Dublin suburb of Dalkey, are a hurling oasis in the middle of what could loosely be described as rugby country. After a few lean years, or even decades, they are finally back on top in the capital.
Few would have begrudged Oulart-the-Ballagh their Leinster title in 2015, given the heartache and near misses they had endured before, but Cuala probably came away from that game feeling it was one that they left behind.
When they beat Kilkenny powerhouse O’Loughlin Gaels in the Leinster final before Christmas, the Southsiders became just the second-ever Dublin club to win the competition, following on from Crumlin 36 years previously.
That Crumlin win was at a time when hurling in the capital was very much the second sport for GAA lovers. The gap is closing though and Cuala reflect a revival in the small ball game in the city kick-started more than 20 years ago now.
Cuala is a big club that feels like a small club, with the senior hurlers based on families like the Schuttes, Treacys and O’Callaghans. It’s also a strong dual club, with the emphasis on hurling.
Con O’Callaghan is a prized asset. The star of last year’s Dublin Under-21 team that reached an All-Ireland semi-final, he only started to concentrate on the small ball late last season and turned into one of their most important performers, hammering home 6-10 in three Leinster games.
Regardless of what happens this weekend, Slaughtneil are the story of this year’s club championships.
Winning a provincial treble is a remarkable achievement and Robert Emmet’s clearly aren’t happy stopping there, having already reached two out of a possible there All-Ireland finals. (Just for the record, they don’t field ladies football teams - but if they did we all have a fair idea what would probably happen).
More than a dozen players are on both hurling and football panels, with the big-ball men putting paid to St Vincent’s hopes of winning another All-Ireland by taking their scalp in the semi-final earlier this month.
This is a small community, one that’s currently seeking Gaeltacht status, of around 300 families in the foothills of South Derry’s Sperrin Mountains. Nearly everyone is involved one way or the other.
It’s two weeks since they booked their place in a second football final; they lost to Corofin two years ago on at Croke Park.
Their hurlers will now be looking to give the GAA’s fixture makers a St Patrick’s Day headache.
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