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Shamrocks ace Gavin braced for Ballymun battle

IT has been a strange week for Mullingar Shamrocks' Kieran Gavin.

The captain and full-back was following tradition and bringing the cup around the schools in the town. It's not ideal preparation for a Leinster club SFC quarter-final clash with Ballymun, but they had secured their first title in 12 years so duties had to be fulfilled.

There was also the small matter of a graduation from DCU at the same time as Philly McMahon.

The newly-appointed Shamrock Rovers strength and conditioning coach will likely line out in the No 3 shirt for Kickhams when the sides meet at Cusack Park tomorrow.

"We had a quick chat about the game," said Gavin. "I played with him in DCU for a few years and he's a serious operator."

It's a mark of the esteem in which Gavin is held that DCU appointed him skipper of a star-studded side that included Dublin's Paul Flynn and Donegal's Michael Murphy.

Gavin led them to Sigerson Cup glory and he also played with Ballymun's James McCarthy and Dean Rock, whom he'll likely be marking.

After starring for Ballymun in their county final win over Kilmacud Crokes, Rock was part of the extended squad that met new Dublin manager Jim Gavin last week.

"Dean is a great player. He's definitely good enough to play inter-county. I wouldn't be surprised if he is flying for Dublin next year," said Gavin.

His own inter-county career stalled due to a quad injury and he didn't feature in the championship, but his gradual recovery coincided with a change in Shamrocks' fortunes.

Having lost their first two group games, Shamrocks recovered to reach the final, in which they met Garrycastle for the third year running.

"We probably weren't good enough to win it the first two years. We were unlucky in that we came up against probably the best side ever to come out of Westmeath," he said.

By winning Leinster last year and going on to the All-Ireland club final and taking Crossmaglen to a replay, Garrycastle broke new ground for clubs from the county.

"I spoke to a few of the Garrycastle lads after the final. They said they just approached each game with confidence. We got the monkey off our backs by winning the final and we have a bit of confidence too," said Gavin.

"It used to be a case where Westmeath teams would win the championship and then it'd be mission accomplished. But we can just play the game and see where it takes us."

Seanie Daly and Lorcan Smyth provide the firepower, while veteran Donal O'Donoghue marshalls the midfield. They go into this game as outsiders against a Ballymun side who aren't overly familiar with the Leinster club competition, having not come out of Dublin in 27 years.

"They are obviously a very strong side. But this is football in November. Neither of us are used to it so anything can happen," added Gavin.

Irish Independent