By Jackie Cahill
Pat Ring grimaces when he recalls the dark days.
Tomorrow (Saturday), Ring will send his Foxrock-Cabinteely side into battle against Cork outfit Mourneabbey, in what is the Dublin club's third successive All-Ireland semi-final appearance.
It wasn't always like this for Fox-Cab, who have Dublin All-Ireland senior medallists Sinéad Goldrick and Niamh Collins.
In conjunction with Naomh Olaf, Fox-Cab first fielded an adult team in 2005, when Ring was a selector and Philip McAnenly was team manager.
From there, Fox-Cab rose quickly through the ranks, winning an All-Ireland junior crown in 2007.
Then, as Ring remembers, the real challenge began.
He says: "We went intermediate in 2008 in Dublin, and won the championship.
"So, we went from junior to senior within two years, which was tough.
"We went senior in 2009, and hit a brick wall for three years, particularly in Dublin, which was frightening.
"A lot of the players were still very young, we still have most of them now and they're a lot more experienced, but we got some terrible hidings in 2010, 2011.
"Then the whole thing settled, we won our first (senior) championship in 2012 and we haven't been too far off since."
Fox-Cab didn't compete in 2013, as a number of players were injured or travelling abroad on J1s, before they lost the 2014 final to Na Fianna.
Since then, Fox-Cab have banked three successive Dublin senior crowns, and last year marked their first appearance in an All-Ireland senior final.
Fox-Cab beat Carnacon to get there, but lost out to Donaghmoyne in the Parnell Park decider.
Now, they're back at the business end of the season once again, and Ring is looking forward to meeting up again with an old friend.
Shane Ronayne, manager of weekend opponents Mourneabbey and mastermind of Tipperary's 2017 TG All-Ireland intermediate win, coached Fox-Cab 12 years ago.
And Ring recalls: "Shane was teaching in Dublin and Philip asked him to come in and help him with the coaching.
"The girls really enjoyed the year with him (Ronayne), and still speak very highly of him and rated him highly as a coach.
"We'd be in touch on and off and meet up occasionally, as we're both involved in third-level football.
"I met him on Wednesday night in Cork, DCU were playing UCC and I spoke to him briefly after the game."
For an hour at Bray Emmets GAA club, friendship will be put to one side as Fox-Cab and Mourneabbey battle it out for a December 3 final place.
On Sunday, Fox-Cab's neighbours Cuala are also in All-Ireland semi-final action, when they tackle Monaghan outfit Corduff in the junior championship.
Ring smiles: "We'd know a lot of them, they're in the next parish and a lot of the players would know each other very well.
"Some of them went to school and college together, and play inter-county together. There's a very good working relationship out our way between the clubs.
"We'd get on well with Cuala and have a good working relationship with (Kilmacud) Crokes as well. Local clubs have to co-operate with each other, it wouldn't work otherwise.
"Facilities are limited so we have to help each other out on occasion."
Ring has reported no major late injury concerns ahead of the fixture, but will be planning once again without Dublin county player Amy Connolly, who sustained cruciate knee ligament damage earlier this year.
Ring said: "We're waiting on one or two, we have had a couple with flu and chest infections. We played a challenge on Monday, which a couple of players sat out, and a couple of little niggles.
"One or two had to come through to prove fitness but we've been lucky enough with injuries all year. The big loss is Amy, she's been a huge, huge loss.
"But we've adjusted and managed to get this far. Now it's about whether we have the firepower and the mental strength to get to the next level.
"Their experience would be a year or two ahead of us and a bit like ourselves, they have a number of inter-county players as well.
"It's going to be a mental test, really. Whoever goes out there and does it on the day will probably get through.
"Both teams have been there or thereabouts for the last two or three years - neither of us has reached the Holy Grail and somebody's going to be disappointed again. That's life, that's the way it is, but we'll the best we can for our club."