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Mun game for battle

FIRST Dublin. Next - the world. Or, at least, Leinster for newly crowned capital kingpins Ballymun Kickhams.

Global domination can go on the long finger for the time being.

When you endure 27 years bereft of a county title, then beat one of the country's premier clubs by the tightest margin, you're entitled to enjoy the afterglow of such a successful and as yet, unbeaten year in league and championship action (20 games - 14 AFL1, six SFC).

That's the thing about club football, a stark contrast to its more illustrious yet less busy inter-county relation: there's always another match.

Towering

You reach one great summit only to find another one towering immediately upwards.

Tellingly though, the Kickhams men were very much 'on message' about their immediate ambitions directly after their Bank Holiday 'Mun-Day to remember.

"It was in the back of our minds from the start of the year," revealed Dean Rock after his scoring heroics propelled Ballymun to a first Dublin title since well before he was a glint in Barney's eye.

"We've two weeks now until the match against Mullingar Shamrocks. We'll be going full steam ahead. We'll enjoy the few days now and from Thursday onwards, we'll be concentrating fully on winning Leinster."

Historically, the indicators are good. Whether they're relevant or not remains to be seen.

Dublin clubs have won five of the last nine Leinster titles, a record which should have stood at six from nine had St Brigid's finished the job against Garrycastle in last year's breathless provincial decider.

The beaten All-Ireland finalists were felled at the second attempt last weekend by Mullingar Shamrocks, Ballymun's opponents in Cusack Park in two Sundays time, but their total lack of experience at this particular level won't unduly deter a group who have grown visibly in confidence and organisation over the past three seasons.

"You just have look at the changing room and look at the medals that are in there," mused Philly McMahon, another of the 'Mun heroes on Monday night.

"There are All-Irelands, Sigersons, there's All-Ireland under-21s and I suppose you have to have that belief that what we have will be as good as anyone else going into Leinster."

Despite the seemingly ever-presence of Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh), Dr Crokes (Kerry) and Nemo Rangers (Cork) at the spring end of the competition, club combat post-county remains a decidedly unpredictable battleground.

For one, the teams with the appetite for the slog in the mud and sludge tend to prevail, particularly in the various provincial competitions where the rapidly dis-improving weather becomes a much more influential factor.

Motivation shouldn't be taken for granted either. Shamrocks have been striving very hard to win the Westmeath title now for three years, having fallen at the final ditch and to the same opposition each time so quite how they arrive at next Sunday week's juncture is uncertain.

Outside of that, Portlaoise represent the strongest prospect, boast huge experience and class in every line while Navan O'Mahony's should, on paper anyway (and even in the absence of Mark Ward and Kevin Reilly), fare better than most Meath representatives over the past decade or so.

Serious

"Similar to DCU winning the Sigerson and Dublin winning the All-Ireland last year, you get that same sense of feeling that there is something serious here," reflected McMahon. "That we could do something this year and hopefully, it's only the start of the journey."

Clearly, Ballymun are a tight-knit bunch. That they haven't lost a single match in Dublin league or championship all season also suggests consistent performance and bodes well for the high and varied hurdles to come. "We just had a real bond this year, a real togetherness and a never-say-die attitude," Rock explains. "There was no way, when it came to the nitty-gritty at the end, that we were going to lose that game. We had it built up all year, all through the league games; confidence, confidence and there was no way we weren't going to win it."

Attitude, of course, comes from the top and again, Ballymun are in good shape. Paul Curran has been through three Leinster club campaigns as a player, winning two with Thomas Davis in 1990 and '91 and driving them on to an All-Ireland final the following year, where they lost to a Dr Crokes team that famously, had a mascot by the name of Colm Cooper amongst their number.

"Paul Curran and (selector) Ken Robinson," noted Rock, "they've done tremendous work all year. They've honed it into us, that belief. The word was 'belief' the whole time and we just believed we were going to get the result the whole time. The last time we won or were in a final, a lot of us weren't born so it had no relevance to us," he added.

"We were just concentrating on our year this year, to make 2012 the year Ballymun Kickhams won the championship."


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