Ballymun emerge tall from the rubble
DUBLIN SFC FINAL Ballymun Kickhams v Kilmacud Crokes:THEY DIDN’T see it coming. How could they? As they walked out of Parnell Park in July 1989, Ballymun Kickhams and their people were chastened but they were a million miles from despair.
They’d just taken a 2-10 to 0-10 collaring from Thomas Davis in the Dublin county final but it wasn’t cause for a week-long wake or anything. Thomas Davis were a crowd of newbies and this was their first county title and sure who were Ballymun to be begrudging anyone a first county title? There’d always be next year.
That’s how it had been for the best part of a decade anyway. Always next year. This was the Ballymun of Barney Rock and Dermot Deasy, of John Kearns and Anto McCaul and Gerry Hargan. That 1989 final was their fourth in nine seasons, with two county baubles collected along the way. They’d won four league titles in six years as well. They were who they were. Top dogs.
Until, all of a sudden, they weren’t. They fell off a cliff and tumbled down into a ravine that they’re only just now scrambling their way out of.
Thomas Davis went on to win three titles back to back and Ballymun Kickhams just ebbed and atrophied and melted away. A couple of years earlier, they’d lost Frank McCaffrey, one of those club lifers who bound it all together.
It wasn’t the only blow the club took but it was the most damaging one.
“He was a remarkable man,” says current chairman Tom O’Donoghue. “When he died, the arse fell out of everything. Almost overnight we lost four teams and hurling went into total decline in the club. We were stretched all throughout the club and it was often just a matter of keeping the thing on the road and no more.
“It almost went into terminal decline after Frank died. Well, maybe terminal decline is overstating it a bit but it was very, very bad.”
How bad? By the mid-1990s, there was just a single underage team in the club. You can’t plan for a future when the present doesn’t exist and to the teenage population of Dublin’s northside, Ballymun Kickhams just didn’t exist. Na Fianna and St Vincent’s gathered them up and found them a home instead. Had nothing changed, the club would have died.
Enter a 19-year-old DCU student in 1995 who took it upon himself to be the one who shouted stop. Paddy Christie was just starting out as an intercounty footballer but the ragged state of his club’s underage structure ate away at him.
He’d made it onto the Dublin team because of the work of the likes of Val Andrews and Anto McCaul yet there was nobody around to do the same for the next generation.