Sunday 21 January 2018

Challenge to repeat historic success brings new pressure, admits Kickhams boss Curran

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

FIRST came the history and the glory, when the kids that Paddy Christie first nurtured finally became men and brought home Ballymun Kickhams' first Dublin SFC title in 27 years.

Ballymun Kickhams v St Vincent's, Parnell Park, tomorrow, 3.0

FIRST came the history and the glory, when the kids that Paddy Christie first nurtured finally became men and brought home Ballymun Kickhams' first Dublin SFC title in 27 years.

Now comes the difficult title defence and when St Vincent's come gunning for the crown tomorrow, a titanic Northside derby is expected.

Yet Ballymun manager Paul Curran says his team just keep on surprising him. Last year's odyssey took them all the way to Croke Park on Paddy's Day and, though they lost to St Brigid's (Roscommon), it was only their fifth loss in 45 games in a 14-month run.

Curran quickly realised the difficulties of repeating that, not least having to operate in the county's AFL 1 league without a handful of key men whose brilliant season had drawn them into the inter-county net.

"Four of them were with Dublin and James Burke was drafted back in by Mayo, so suddenly you're five players down and Dublin's club scene is so competitive," he explained.

"But that gave us the opportunity to give some of the younger lads a go and they've stepped up to the mark. If we win our last game we'll make the league play-offs (last four), we won the Vincent de Paul Cup and we're in the county final. This year gave us completely new challenges but they've met all of them so far."

The reigning champions have had little change since and Curran appreciates that their geography helps.

Collie Midleton got promoted from their intermediates, Burke's brother Cian has joined them this year and they have acquired a useful wing-back, Mickey Brady, from Cavan.

"One of the changes we've made is definitely resting them a little more while still getting the necessary hard work done," Curran explained.

"We've also done more individually with them, working on the areas they needed to personally improve."

Ballymun haven't conceded more than nine points in their four championship games but they've lost a key man (Jason Whelan) to suspension and tomorrow's opponents were the last side to beat them.

"The last time we lost was to Vincent's, in the league, in June," Curran recalled. "We were quite short and they didn't have (Diarmuid) Connolly and (Ger) Brennan either but they did have Mossy (Quinn). We got a bad start... and lost by a point.

"They've got a young team with a lot of fellas playing in their first county final and, of course, have two match-winners in the lads up front (Connolly and Quinn).

"They are a different animal this year and also their club lost one of their greats in Heffo. They'd love to win it for him. His name has been mentioned in their dressing-room a few times and that undoubtedly gives them some special motivation, but we have a decent record against them in the last two years."

In Dubs like James McCarthy, Philly McMahon and Dean Rock, Ballymun have their own class acts plus the likes of Davey Byrne, Alan Hubbard and Ted Furman. McCarthy lines out with Byrne in midfield in what Curran accepts is not your traditional looking partnership – "Davey's only 5'9" or something but he's a giant on the field" – and that could be a pivotal area

Like many, Curran believes this has the makings of a great Dublin final, not least because of the extra spark added by the battle to become top dog in the latest home to Sam Maguire.

"Vincent's have all that tradition and history, we're the defending champions... the Dublin final always attracts a fair few neutrals so I'd expect Parnell Park to be thronged and have the feeling it will be a good one."

Irish Independent

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