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Mun heroes ready for the road ahead

AWAY the lads. Hill 16 on tour always had a special ring to it. The vast Blue Armada brought a touch of the carnival to provincial towns on championship days.

It doesn't happen much anymore. Dublin and Croke Park are now the preferred fit.

Ballymun's three Leinster Championship matches were all on the road. Their centre half-forward, Kevin Leahy, welcomed the travel.

"It was a blessing in a way that the games were outside of Dublin. It added to the sense of occasion.

"It gave people a day out and I have to say I was amazed at the level of support we have got.

"People really got behind us. It was such a lift when you could hear the Ballymun chants going up in Mullingar and Newbridge.

"Our success this year has certainly made a huge impact on the entire club and the community.

"And being away from home in the Leinster campaign has given something extra to the whole experience," reflects Kevin.

The 'Mun will have to stock up on the petrol again for the trip to Tipp and their intriguing All-Ireland semi-final against The Gooch and Dr Crokes in Semple Stadium on Saturday, February 16 (4.0).

"Having a big game like that to prepare for makes going back to training that bit easier. You have something definite to focus on.

"At this time of the year, you are going to be doing pre-season training anyway, but working towards an All-Ireland semi-final is something different entirely."

It will be the biggest hour in Ballymun Kickhams' history. The Dublin-Kerry backdrop will loom large.

Producing your best on the day is where it's at, and hoping for a kindly roll of the dice.

"Our biggest challenge was getting out of Dublin. That was the hard bit. Once we did that, the shackles came off to some degree.

"We probably relaxed a little more and played better in Leinster. But the Leinster final against Portlaoise was so demanding physically.

"I know James McCarthy was quoted as saying that it was tough going, and I felt the same. I was very tired at the end of it."

Ballymun's impressive fitness has been central to their success.

"Training has been great this year. Ken Robinson has come in and he has had us tremendously fit," states the accomplished right half-back, Alan Hubbard.

"It was brilliant for the club to win Dublin for the first time in almost 30 years.

"And then to get our first Leinster title was another proud moment for us," adds Alan.

"As Kevin says, there is such a wonderful buzz around the place and hopefully we can build on the Dublin and Leinster victories.

"In recent years, St Vincent's and Kilmacud Crokes have won the All-Ireland. That reinforces how strong Dublin football is."

Both Alan and Kevin will be among the strong Ballymun contingent that will be playing for the Dubs Stars against Jim Gavin's Dublin footballers on New Year's Day at St Peregrine's (2.0).

Ballymun boss, Paul Curran, graced the Dublin jersey for many seasons. His colleagues in the Páirc Ciceam dugout include Ken Robinson, Joe O'Dwyer, Gerry Dolan, Tommy Hennessy, Anto Welby and physio Louise Kearns, who managed Na Fianna to the All-Ireland senior ladies final two years ago.