Ballymun and Portlaoise's final renewal
GAELIC GAMES:BY ONE of those quirks of fate, this year’s AIB Leinster club football final has turned out to be Ballymun Kickhams against Portlaoise and comes on the 30th anniversary of the clubs’ previous meeting in the provincial final.
Exactly three decades ago tomorrow the clubs met in Carlow and it was the Laois champions who ran out winners after surviving a poor first half, which saw them harness a strong wind for a lead of just a point. A young Ballymun side couldn’t capitalise and lost out in the second half.
Val Andrews, former county manager with Louth and Cavan and minor manager with Dublin, has spent a lifetime with Ballymun in a variety of coaching and development roles. He remembers the 1982 final.
“We played Portlaoise but I’d say they were a far more intimidating side back then. They had Colm Browne at wing back (who captained Laois to the NFL in 1986 and was included in that year’s All Stars) and Tom Prendergast (top scorer on the day) so they were a serious outfit. Thirty years later would be a good time to put that to bed.”
Portlaoise went on the make an indelible impression that season and within three months would be crowned All-Ireland club champions. The Ballymun team featured players who would also have a memorable 1983.
Barney Rock, Gerry Hargan and John Kearns would all play for Dublin in the following September’s controversial All-Ireland final success against Galway. Others who would make a mark with the county included Anto McCaul, David Sheehan and Dermot Deasy, who was Dublin full back in the 1995 All-Ireland-winning season but missed the final because of injury.
The club hasn’t come as close to provincial honours since and as was well documented this year, reached a last Dublin final in 1989 – until this season when a win over Kilmacud captured a first county title in 27 years.
“I suppose it’s cyclical and the generations come around,” says Andrews trying to explain the decline in the club’s fortunes. “There’s a Rock and a McCarthy on the team. Paddy Christie produced six or seven from the one team who came up the ranks. Funnily enough Dean Rock and James McCarthy, who would have played a lot of soccer in his teens, came up on a team that didn’t win anything but in fairness it kept going until they came through the other end.
“Getting kids through to adult takes so long anyway and it takes 30 years or so to build a system that that will keep that going”
Christie’s name is unanimously cited when the reasons behind Ballymun’s return to prominence are offered. Like his club-mate Deasy, he had bad luck in 1995 having started the summer as a likely starter for Dublin at corner back. But a broken thumb ruled him out just as the championship was getting under way.
Back on track
His work in rebuilding the club’s juvenile section is the foundation on which the current success is built. With a full set of academy and under-age teams and three adult sides, the club is back on track and the week after next in Cusack Park, Mullingar, is in a position to travel farther than the distinguished predecessors of 30 years ago.
The Leinster Council has announced that the provincial hurling semi-final between Oulart-The Ballagh and Ballyhale Shamrocks, postponed on Sunday because of torrential rain and a waterlogged pitch, will take place at the same venue, Wexford Park, next Saturday, 1st December, at 2.0.
There will be no admission charge even though some attempts were made on Sunday to take names and addresses from those present after the match had been called off just 25 minutes before the scheduled throw-in.
It had originally been thought that the refixture would be played on Sunday but following discussions with the clubs, the provincial council decided to bring the fixture forward by 24 hours, which will allow an extra day’s preparation for the final against Kilcormac-Killoughey of Offaly, which goes ahead on Sunday, December 9th in Portlaoise if Ballyhale win and Nowlan Park, Kilkenny if Oulart qualify.