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Frank Roche: Mun set to rock Sars'

WHEN it comes to premier club football in November, so many variables can derail the best-laid plans. The weather. The pitch. An unknown sub, sprung by unfamiliar opponents, turning the game on its head.

But Paul Curran prefers not to overly dwell on such matters. For the Dublin great, it's all about controlling the controllables -- namely his own team's preparation.

And to date this year, that mantra has served Curran exceedingly well: Ballymun Kickhams have won a first Dublin SFC title in 27 years and now stand on the cusp of a first Leinster final appearance since 1982.


"We don't know a whole lot about Sarsfields, other than one or two of their county players -- the same as Mullingar Shamrocks (in the quarter-final). It's not something we ever get bogged down about. We will always try and concentrate on what we are doing. If we can reach the levels of the last six weeks, we have a real chance," the Ballymun boss proclaimed.

The bookies clearly concur, given the match odds. That may be partly predicated on the status automatically accorded any club emerging from the ultra-competitive minefield that is Dublin. Yet Ballymun's recent form, in its own right, has been pretty convincing.

They exploded from the blocks against those perennial contenders, Kilmacud Crokes, in the county final and held on in the home straight. They reprised that blitzkrieg start routine against Mullingar and this time didn't relent.

Ballymun's fitness is hugely impressive but it's the quality of their support running that really stands out.

Against the Westmeath champions, time and again there was a team-mate running off the shoulder of the man in possession. It gives them options; it stretches the opposition.

Moreover, as that quarter-final underlined, they are no one-man attack either. Dean Rock has (rightly) garnered many of the headlines during their march through Dublin and added another 0-8 (6f) the last day . . . yet it was his former Dublin U21 team-mate, Ted Furman, who really stood out in the inside line. He scored 1-2 and created lots more as he tormented a brace of corner-backs.

But? Well, this is still new terrain for 'Mun and the surprisingly paperweight challenge posed by Shamrocks will hardly have steeled them for what could develop into a low-scoring dogfight on a heavy pitch that is like a second home to Sarsfields. Newbridge in November isn't designed for free-wheeling classics.

But as Curran countered: "I think it's the same for both teams. Sarsfields, looking at them, are a team similar to us -- they like to move the ball quickly and they have a lot of runners. I don't think the ground suits either team, but you have to be able to do the basics well. If you do that, you have a chance."

He is quick to downplay suggestions that Mullingar were a poor side, arguing instead that "it's just that we played well on the day. I think this will be another step-up -- Sarsfields do quite well in this competition when they're in it and they're playing at home. I think it will be a huge crowd, actually, so we've a little bit more to deal with. But at the end of the day, it's about us."

Sarsfields' progress to the last four hasn't electrified in quite the same manner, even against St Pat's of Louth when they edged out 14 men thanks largely to a flying start. But they have been hugely consistent in all Kildare competitions this year; they contain a winning blend of youth and experience; and their inter-county vanguard have led by example.

That should be no surprise given that Gary White and Alan Smith are now approaching their mid-20s peak. White has been the senior midfield partner alongside impressive rookie Matty Byrne and often reverts to more familiar terrain as their defensive screen.

Go-to forward Smith is coming off the back of his best year for Kildare and has carried that form into the club championship.

Manager John Crofton yesterday dismissed rumours that another Lilywhite stalwart, Dermoty Earley, might be parachuted back into action after his latest knee surgery. In Ballymun, Crofton expects to face a team that is better organised, more structured and more mobile than anything they have faced so far.

It's a big ask for 'Mun . . . but an even bigger one for Sarsfields.

ODDS: Sarsfields 13/5, Draw 15/2, Ballymun Kickhams 2/5 VERDICT: Ballymun