Ballymun not satisfied with first Dublin title in 27 years

Paul Brennan

YOU might have thought that a county title would have been enough. It wasn't and it isn't. Having waited 27 years between the club's second and third county senior football titles Ballymun Kickhams could have been forgiven for clapping themselves on the back and revelling in their success over the winter. Not so.

Dublin county champions don't have an altogther brilliant record in the All-Ireland club championship, and that was something the Kickhams from Ballymun are determined to change this year. A tough Dublin championship saw the north Dublin club overcome the somewhat more illustrious clubs of Parnells, St Vincents and Kilmacud Crokes - who they beat in the county final by 1-12 to 0-14 - before they moved onto the Leinster championship.

A quarter-final win over Mullingar Shamrocks (2-13 to 0-7) was followed up by a 1-8 to 0-5 victory over Sarsfields of Kildare at the penultimate stage. That win booked a provincial final place against Portlaoise, who are the market leader in the province with seven Leinster club titles. Ballymun's 0-11 to 0-8 win in Mullingar in early December was their toughest contest since they left the county, but it also should serve as a warning for Dr Crokes as to the type of team this Ballymun Kickhams side is.

That day in Mullingar they were pushed hard all the way by a wily and strong and experienced Portlaoise side, but Ballymun never faltered. For a very young team - the average age is about 23 - fresh out of winning the club's first county title since before most of this team was born, 1985, their composure and determination was to be admired. That mental fortitude would seem the area that Dr Crokes might find hardest to break down.

Of course, the Ballymun players are not all wet behind the ears. James McCarthy was one of the outstanding members of Pat Gilroy's Dublin team that beat Kerry in the 2011 All-Ireland final. Philly McMahon was also a member of that panel. Dean Rock - son of Dublin legend Barney - will be a prt of the Dublin squad this year. Alan Hubbard played National League football in 2009. Beyond that they have players who have inter-county and under-21 experience. In others words they are a very talented, well balanced football team who won't be overawed by the sight of Dr Crokes or of names like Cooper, Brosnan and O'Leary.

This Ballymun team turns one the very strong three-man axis of Philly McMahon at full back, James McCarthy at midfield and Dean Rock at full forward. McCarthy - as Kerry people should know from watching Dublin - is a very dynamic, athletic footballer who is a great ball carrier and will cover a huge amount of ground. He will have no trouble in tracking Johnny Buckley for 60 minutes and, indeed, Buckley is likely to spend a good share of his game chasing McCarthy.

Rock is a tall, strong full forward who can win ball high or low, and score freely from play and is a very accurate free taker. If the Dr Crokes defence cough u0p cheap frees inside 40 metres there are few in tghe game to punish such trangressions as Dean Rock.

Enda and Eoin Dolan are tidy corners back, Hubbard will play at wing back and Karl Connolly is a decent centre back who will keep a tight leash on Daithi Casey, if he plays there. Davy Byrne will partner McCarthy at midfield, while in attack Jason Whelan is a player Dr Crokes will have to be particularly mindful off.

Ballymun don't have the star forwards that Crokes have - Cooper, O'Leary, Looney and Casey - but they are a tremendously hard working team who back each other up hugely. Expect them to provide far tougher opposition to Crokes than Castlehaven did in the Munster Final.