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Kickhams plan on glory: Byrne

THERE'S few enough elite sporting competitions around where any single round precedes the next by 10 weeks, but such are the quirks and foibles of the AIB All-Ireland club SFC.

The process of preparation is clear though, or at least it is for Ballymun Kickams.

You win Dublin, you win Leinster. You celebrate. Then it's Christmas and then it's back on the training fields again – this time on the hilly terrain of the Phoenix Park on wet and sloppy evenings, far less glamourous than Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final tie with one of the competition's blue bloods, Dr Crokes in Thurles.

The phrase, 'It's a marathon, not a sprint', was invented for this competition.

Wisely, Paul Curran gave his team a month off all activity somewhere in the middle and as one of Ballymun's wisest old on-field heads himself, Derek Byrne, reckons it was good for the body and soul.

journey

"It was due to the fact that we were on the go since December 2011," he explains of their epic journey to Semple Stadium this weekend. "Paul gave us four weeks off collective stuff ... but a lot of lads were doing stuff themselves."

So know you know how the respective club champions keep their pot simmering over such a long period of inactivity before bringing it conveniently back to the boil when needed.

For Byrne, the time was both much-needed and well-spent.

"I was struggling with my knee," he explains. "But in fairness to Philly (McMahon) and (trainer) Ken Robinson, they gave me strength and conditioning programmes to do to build up the strength in my knee.

"They're trained in that stuff and they helped me out a lot. I'm raring to go and whether that's for 60 minutes or 30 minutes or for any sort of game time, I'm ready to go.

"I've trained hard since we finished the Leinster final. I was hoping to get my knee cleaned out but it didn't happen at the time. Paul (Curran) didn't think it was the right thing to do for me and for the team. So that's why I did the strength programme, to build up the knee.

"I was doing a lot of stuff on my own. Instead of celebrating, I was up here working away on it."

At 34, 2012/13 has been something of an Indian summer for Byrne. He has been a mainstay of the Ballymun team for the last five season since his cross-Liffey switch from Round Tower Clondalkin and if he is in the final throes of seniordom, this weekend and a potential St Patrick's Day date in Croke Park would be some way to go. "When I came across first as a player, you just want to achieve stuff," he recalls. "To finish off the career with Ballymun and to be in an All-Ireland semi-final is a massive achievement.

"When I was brought in, the lads, they're like friends from anywhere else. I'm just enjoying my time here. I still have a couple of years, hopefully."

He looks sharp. And most likely, he'll play a meaningful part on Saturday, where the prize for winning is almost too tantalising to imagine and the consequence of defeat, too painful to picture, particularly after such a long, eventful journey to this point.

quality

"It's been a massive, massive season for us," says Byrne. "Our aim at the start of the year was to win Dublin.

"Winning Dublin is such a hard thing to do. There are so many quality sides.

"Then, winning a Leinster title. It's never been done before and we're down in the history books in the club. So just looking forward to the semi-final now."

And one of the reasons Byrne can't contemplate defeat is because it is so long his Ballymun lost a match of consequence.

"We had such a good season and we haven't been beaten," he explains. "So I don't know what it feels like. But we're just going to set out our system, put it in place and really look forward to the semi-final.

"We've had a game-plan all year and for us, it's about us. It's about executing that system and that plan on the day. It has worked all season so all we can do is put our faith in it again."


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