Sport Gaelic Football

Saturday 18 November 2017

Ballymun stun Crokes

BALLYMUN KICKHAMS qualified for their first AIB All-Ireland Club SF final with a well-deserved win over a fancied Dr Crokes side at Thurles yesterday evening.


BALLYMUN KICKHAMS qualified for their first AIB All-Ireland Club SF final with a well-deserved win over a fancied Dr Crokes side at Thurles yesterday evening.

Even allowing for 11 wides, the Dublin side had enough defensive clout, physicality, hunger and fitness to defeat their accomplished opponents and reach the decider against St Brigid's on St Patrick's Day, when all four finalists will be bidding to win a first title.

It was an intense display by Ballymun, who seemed to win every breaking ball in the first half. They put up a defensive screen from the off and scarcely allowed their opponents beyond half-way.

In the second period it was more of a case of doing enough to get by as they forsook a number of golden scoring opportunities to make life very difficult for themselves.

But heroic displays by Alan Hubbard, Philly McMahon and Dean Rock – allied to a spirited finale – were enough to get them past the finishing post.

It was a frustrating afternoon for the Kerry side, who looked tired and laboured at times, but at least produced a decent fightback in the end.

Colm Cooper, their dangerman, was kept almost totally of the game in the first half and he was forced to withdraw deeper in the second. Daithi Casey did his best to keep them in the hunt but overall they can have no complaints about this result.

Maybe word of Crossmaglen's demise seeped through to Semple Stadium and affected them. It's unlikely that it did but, favoured by most people to win, they looked trapped in the headlights as the game opened up.

The Dublin champions, meanwhile, looked the only ones capable of taking advantage of the Ulster giants' exit. Kickhams bossed the game at midfield in the early exchanges and they never took their foot off the pedal for the entire first half.

In front of a paltry attendance of 2,278 they deployed a defensive wall, with Sean George shadowing Cooper, and Enda Dolan sweeping frequently. McMahon moved to midfield and at all times Ballymun kept seven to eight defenders roaming in rotation.

It left Dr Crokes extremely frustrated. By the end of the first 30 minutes, with the Dublin side leading 1-4 to 0-4, Cooper had only just managed his first point. When he did get the ball he looked his usual classy self, setting up Chris Brady for a smashing score in the opening half, but more often than not he was swarmed and forced out of possession.

Ballymun, with seven of their players called into the Dublin set-up, won kick-out after kick-out and only for their wayward shooting – seven wides in the first half – they would have been out of sight by the interval. Had Kevin Leahy not seen his fisted effort from two yards brilliantly saved by David Moloney it would definitely have been curtains.

The Kerry side weren't helped when they missed a couple of '45s' but as the game wore on they still managed to stay in touch. Casey's long-range point possibly showed them a route to attack Ballymun in the second half. With their star man and other forwards completely out of the game it looked like long-range points were their only way to survival.

Cooper retreated way deeper for the second half but still the pressure kept coming from the Ballymun men. John Payne was the next to save the Kerry champions' bacon when he prevented a certain goal from McMahon soon after the restart. Rock failed to point the resultant '45' but the ball broke to Jason Whelan who did the honours as Kickhams tore into a 1-6 to 0-4 lead.

Then it was Sean Currie's turn to produce goalkeeping heroics. Crokes were awarded a penalty but Currie produced a smashing, diving save to keep out Brady's effort. Three more wides followed for Ballymun which prevented them from wrapping this semi-final up.

Inevitably, then Crokes came back and a couple of Casey scores left just a goal between the sides, 1-7 to 0-7, with 13 minutes to go. Crokes reduced the arrears to two moments later but that's as close as they came and Ballymun ran out deserving winners.

Scorers – Ballymun Kickhams: D Rock 0-5 (3f), T Furman 1-1, D Byrne, P McMahon, J Whelan, D Byrne 0-1 each. Dr Crokes: D Casey 0-3, C Cooper 0-2, J Doolan, C Brady, J Buckle, F Fitzgerald 0-1 each.

Ballymun Kickhams: S Currie; E Dolan, E Dolan, S George; A Hubbard, K Connolly, P McMahon; J Burke, J McCarthy; D Byrne, K Leahy, J Whelan; T Furman, D Rock. Subs: E Reilly for C Weir (46), D Byrne for K Leahy (55), S Forde for K Connolly (56), A O'Brien for T Furman (61).

Dr Crokes: D Moloney; J Payne, M Moloney, F Fitzgerald; L Quinn, E Brosnan, S Myers; A O'Donovan, J Buckley; K O'Leary, D Casey, B Looney; C Brady, C Cooper, J Doolan. Subs: S Doolan for A O'Donovan (inj, 18), D O'Leary for S Myers (43), K Ward for L Quinn (45), G O'Shea for C Brady (55).

Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo).

Irish Independent

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