Ballymun boost for GAA urban strategy
There is often a mistaken impression about the All-Ireland club championship that it bears a close resemblance to inter-county football, but that is rarely the case.
Club football is played at a lower level and the real attraction of this competition is the honour and glory of the parish – or other local unit – and the possibility of figuring in the finals at Croke Park on St Patrick's Day.
The unusual feature surrounding the Leinster SFC final in Mullingar's Cusack Park was that neither club was from a traditional rural area, with both instead coming from urban bases.
For the GAA, this is quite significant as the promotion of the game in urban areas is very high on their agenda for the future development of our national games.
Ballymun has long been synonymous with inner-city life in the capital and one could not over-estimate the significance of them winning a huge match like this.
Former Dublin full-back Paddy Christie is the man who kept this Ballymun Kickhams outfit together since they were nippers and it is people like him to whom the Croke Park hierarchy should be looking for inspiration to boost the games in large urban areas.
Ballymun largely dominated the match. Not only did they dictate the play after a shaky start, but they were hungrier for success.
Above all, however, their tactics were brilliant and their players never deviated from the pre-arranged plan.
Strange, too, that it was the Ballymun players who dictated and implemented the physical contests – so much so that, by the end, many Portlaoise players were on their knees.
Portlaoise failed in a few key areas where they were expected to dominate. Their passing by foot and hand was off target a great deal and, when they had the chances to win the game, their shooting let them down.
This was particularly costly for a 17-minute period in the second half from the point where the winners led by 0-9 to 0-3.
The Laois representatives rallied very strongly at this stage, with towering midfielder Hugh Coghlan playing a key role. But his team wasted no fewer than five scoring chances during that time, putting them all wide.
This meant that Ballymun were allowed to regroup for the final push, happy in the knowledge that Portlaoise's dominance had brought only three points, thus leaving the winners still three ahead and well on the road to victory.
Portlaoise did put on a bit of a spurt and showed admirable courage, but, with Ballymun quick to pull back at least 10 players to defend when danger threatened, scores were very hard to come by.
Ballymun will pose lots of problems for Dr Crokes – provided the Killarney team beat Tir Chonaill Gaels in their upcoming All-Ireland quarter-final – in the semi-final with their clever strategic play and ferocious commitment.