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Ballymun emerge from Crokes test and red mist

Ballymun Kickhams 1-18 Kilmacud Crokes 2-12, Dublin SFC semi-final

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Ballymun’s Davey Byrne receives a red card after getting shirty with Cillian O’Shea of Kilmacud Crokes. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Ballymun’s Davey Byrne receives a red card after getting shirty with Cillian O’Shea of Kilmacud Crokes. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Ballymun’s Davey Byrne receives a red card after getting shirty with Cillian O’Shea of Kilmacud Crokes. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

When it was all over at Parnell Park, Brendan Hackett sounded almost drained by what he termed a "really emotional game."

The key for his Ballymun charges is that they are still riding the crest of that emotional roller-coaster. Whereas a season of rich promise is over for Kilmacud Crokes, their rivals are now just an hour away from a first Dublin SFC title in eight seasons.

Or perhaps more like 70 minutes, for this semi-final of endless ebbs and flows contained nine minutes of injury-time, and those additional minutes prolonged by an ugly brawl could yet prove very costly for the winners here.

They lost two players to straight red cards - Davey Byrne and Leon Young. The video won't do former Dub Byrne any favours, but his manager was mystified by Young's dismissal and strongly indicated that this will be appealed ahead of their final showdown with the holders, Ballyboden St Enda's.

More of that red mist later. The most important thing for Ballymun, long labelled as serial underachievers, was that they showed the grit and patient game-management when it mattered.

"I wouldn't say mission accomplished. Obviously we've won five games - the whole thing is all hinging on game six," Hackett stressed. "I always said that this is the championship to win: 2020 will be remembered as the hardest championship that there's been in Dublin because every club has had all their players. There's no excuses."

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Ballymun’s Davey Byrne is shown the red card by referee James King. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Ballymun’s Davey Byrne is shown the red card by referee James King. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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Ballymun’s Davey Byrne is shown the red card by referee James King. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Hackett pinpointed Ballymun's fitness and "huge desire" as pivotal, yet he could never be sure of the outcome given the twists - including spurned first-half penalties at either end.

Briefly, it seemed the 2018 champions were about to time their run perfectly when Dara Mullin's free and Hugh Kenny's mark restored a one-point cushion on 52 minutes. But Ballymun didn't panic and clipped the next 1-3: a Dean Rock free brought forward for dissent, followed by 1-2 from their bench.

Jason Whelan's second point edged 'Mun back in front; then Dillon Keating struck impressively with the outside of his right boot; and then, just shy of the hour, county stars John Small and James McCarthy combined to release Andrew McCaul, whose blocked goal attempt fell kindly for fellow sub Cathal O'Tighe to bundle home.

Five up should have been game over but, in a madcap finale, there was time for that nasty melee and lots more.

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Ballymun’s Carl Keeley gets hands on with Crokes’ Dara Mullin during yesterday’s Dublin SFC semi-final. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Ballymun’s Carl Keeley gets hands on with Crokes’ Dara Mullin during yesterday’s Dublin SFC semi-final. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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Ballymun’s Carl Keeley gets hands on with Crokes’ Dara Mullin during yesterday’s Dublin SFC semi-final. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"It wasn't a Ballymun player that started it, that's all I'll say," Hackett ventured. But after Whelan and Kilmacud's Cian O'Connor were yellow-carded, referee James King brandished straight reds to Byrne and Young.

"I've an issue with Leon's red card," said Hackett, saying his wing-back "hadn't a clue what it was about. So I think that's probably a mistake. If the other one's a strike, which I'm told it is - look, you can't appeal a strike."

From there on, Ballymun blocked a Pat Burke goal attempt; then Rock miscued a point attempt with the unmarked McCaul awaiting a pass that never came; and finally Mannion's drilled cross was finished, first-time, by Burke on 67 minutes.

Slippery

But 13 men held on, Rock converting a free for his eighth point at the death.

Long before that, the first half had proceeded at a breakneck pace, both defences on the back foot.

Mannion won a fifth-minute penalty but will rue his weak attempt, easily repelled by Evan Comerford. With Paddy Small slippery as an eel and banishing any hamstring doubts, Ballymun hit the next four points. But then Dan O'Brien's bullet of a goal, via the bar, kick-started an unanswered 1-4 before Ballymun riposted with the next 0-3.

On it continued in that vein, with Paddy Small's kick-out turnover initiating the move that ended in McCarthy firing to the net, only for the referee's early whistle to call back a penalty. Rock hit it low but Conor Ferris saved with his legs, at the expense of a point, before Rock's mark left Ballymun 0-10 to 1-6 ahead at the break.

Scorers - Ballymun: D Rock 0-8 (3f, 0-1 pen, 1m); P Small 0-3 (1m); C O'Tighe 1-0; C McCormack, J Whelan 0-2 each; C Keeley, J Small, D Keating 0-1 each. Kilmacud: D Mullin 0-5 (3f, 1m); P Mannion 0-3 (1f); D O'Brien, P Burke 1-0 each; H Kenny 0-2 (1m); S Horan, S Cunningham 0-1 each.

Ballymun Kickhams- E Comerford; E Dolan, P McMahon, D Conlon; L Young, J Small, C Keeley; A Elliott, J McCarthy; F Andrews, D Byrne, B Ashton; P Small, C McCormack, D Rock. Subs: J Whelan for Ashton (37), D Keating for Andrews (37), A McCaul for Elliott (48), C O'Tighe for McCormack (58), J Burke for P Small (69).

Kilmacud Crokes - C Ferris; R O'Carroll, L Flatman, C O'Shea; C O'Connor, C O'Sullivan, A McGowan; C Dias, C Casey; S Horan, S Cunningham, D O'Brien; P Mannion, D Mullin, H Kenny. Subs: C Pearson for O'Brien (45), C Kinsella for Horan (45), P Burke for Cunningham (51), M O'Leary for Mullin (60).

Ref - J King (Garda)

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