Ballymun produce a towering display
LEINSTER SFC QUARTER-FINAL Ballymun Kickhams 2-13 Mullingar Shamrocks 0-7:For a team venturing into the unknown, and under no great burden of expectation, Ballymun Kickhams could hardly have imagined an easier passage than this – the only danger now being their sudden emergence as favourites for the Leinster championship.
As a contest it certainly skewed beyond all predictions: only recently crowned Dublin champions, for the first time since 1985, Ballymun didn’t just rise to the challenge but utterly conquered it, in the end the only surprise being the limits of their opposition.
Mullingar Shamrocks had, after all, beat the reigning Leinster champions, Garrycastle, in winning back the Westmeath title, and have never been an easy proposition on the own turf. Instead, they were run out of it from the start, were three-quarters of the way through before scoring from play, and were lucky to get away without an even more severe hiding.
It won’t, presumably, get any easier from here for the winners, and up next in the semi-final, in a fortnight, are Kildare champions Sarsfields, and again, Ballymun will be on the road. Yet so comprehensive was this victory that manager Paul Curran found himself conceding to the greater expectations, while also trying to dampen them.
“We were worried, coming down here, because none of these fellas had played in this stage of the competition before, had no experience of it,” said Curran. “So I felt there was some uncertainty, but we just focused on our own game, and I think we played very well.
“In the end, I suppose, the score line says it was one-sided. But we just played well, in fairness, hit the ground running, and maybe with the little bit of a breeze behind us in the first half, got a great start. That gave us the bit of breathing space. But we’re not thinking beyond the next game. The Dublin title was hard to win, and we’re delighted to have won that. So we’ll just be focusing on the next game.”
What Curran also conceded, and more willingly so, was that Ballymun are far from the one-man force suggested after their Dublin championship victory: sure, Dean Rock was once again a towering and formidable presence at full forward, kicking in with 0-8, six frees, improving on the 0-7 he struck in the Dublin final.
However, Rock was possibly out-shone by the performances of Ted Furman, who chipped in with 1-2, and Jason Whelan, who set up both goals. Midfielder Davy Byrne also proved his worth alongside Jamie McCarthy, and while Philly McMahon was again central to their defence, Alan Hubbard and James Burke were very busy on the wings, and goalkeeper Seán Currie also stepped up for the one important block on front of goal.
Rock struck three frees in the opening 10 minutes, before Whelan set up Byrne for their first goal, on 12 minutes, with a perfectly timed pass. Already up 1-5 to no score, Ballymun also kept Mullingar scoreless from the play until the break, with frees from Seán Daly, Ciarán Curley and Lorcan Smyth all they could offer in resistance.
Ballymun were winning ball all over the field with ease, Mullingar’s midfield challenge being particularly disappointing, with former county standout Donal O’Donoghue later replaced. And whatever hopes the home crowd might have had of a spirited comeback in the second half soon died with Whelan set up Ballymun’s second goal just three minutes after the restart, this one coolly blasted home by Furman.
Eventually, after 46 minutes, Mullingar scored from play through substitute Anthony Clinton, and their only other point from play also came off the bench in the form of Darragh Daly. With that went their surprisingly tame and unceremonious exit from the provincial championship, with manager Ray Smyth suggesting his team had perhaps been content with the county title.
“We’re are a young team, they won the county final, and maybe they thought that was their year finished,” he conceded. “And I think maybe they did like. In training we didn’t do the work we should do. I can’t blame them, because them young fellas none of them had a senior championship medal. Now they have a senior championship medal and they’re happy. Maybe they were satisfied with that. Ballymun were hungrier, a better team.”
Indeed Smyth predicted they would win the title outright: “I would be very surprised if they don’t win the Leinster championship. Maybe if the real Shamrocks team showed up today we would have had a chance. But I hope they win the Leinster championship.”