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Defence is the key for Kickhams Kings

AFTER winning the 2005 All-Ireland final, the Tyrone Supporters Club printed Christmas cards with a picture of their captain Brian Dooher asleep in his bed with a bubble quote saying something along the lines of: "Dear Santa, no need to call this year, got my Christmas present in September."

While still a couple of games off that enviable status, I'm sure the footballers of Ballymun Kickhams will be thinking their Christmas has come a couple of weeks early too after collecting the Leinster senior club football title in Mullingar last Sunday for the first time in the club's history.

At a time of the year where heart and desire more often than not determines the outcome of championship games, Ballymun produced a gritty performance where those traits were displayed in abundance to book a place in the All-Ireland semi-finals where they will face either Dr Crokes of Killarney or Tír Chonaill Gaels of London.

Since beating St Jude's in the semi-final of the Dublin championship, Paul Curran's charges have been as miserly in defence as that well-known Charles Dickens' character Scrooge was with his money. It is four games since they last conceded a goal, and in their three Leinster club games they have conceded an average of less than seven points per game.

What makes this defensive record all the more impressive is that going into last Sunday's provincial decider Portlaoise had bagged 19 Championship goals, 15 in their run to the O'Moore County title and a further four in their two previous Leinster club games.

However, despite a twitchy 10-minute spell mid-way through the second half, the Ballymun goal never really came under threat.

While undoubtedly this solidity at the back provides the basis for the team's success, arguably last weekend the real winning of the game for Ballymun came from their ability to get maximum return from limited possession, particularly during a second half when they went almost 20 minutes without a score. In fact, with three points between the sides Portlaoise kicked four bad wides in a six-minute spell, where in contrast the first time Ballymun Kickhams managed to break into the Portlaoise half after that period of dominance, they manufactured a free which Jason Whelan swung over to give the team another lift as they pushed on for home.

An interesting aside to Ballymun's success is that like the recent successful managers who have guided Dublin to All-Ireland titles -- Pat Gilroy 2011 (senior All-Ireland), Jim Gavin 2012 (under-21) and Dessie Farrell 2012 (minor) -- is that Paul Curran is another member of the 1995 All-Ireland winning team to show his aptitude for the management game.


While Gilroy, Gavin (the new senior boss) and Farrell have cut their managerial teeth at inter-county level, Curran has busied himself at club level, where not surprisingly some of his colleagues from the Class of '95, Charlie Redmond, Mick Deegan and Keith Barr -- who guided his St Brigid's U14 team to All-Ireland Féile Division 1 success -- have also successfully plied their trade.

While the Ballymun lads will take a well deserved break from club action, Curran has probably already began plotting their assault towards an All-Ireland title. And while no doubt short of experience when viewed against the other provincial finalists, he more than anyone will know that anything is possible now.