Impressive Ballymun looking the part
LEINSTER CLUB SFC FINAL Ballymun Kickhams 0-11 Portlaoise 0-8:In Ballymun this morning, they’re on the hunt for a metalworker. No sooner did they get their hands on the Seán McCabe yesterday on becoming Leinster Club champions for the first time than they broke one of the handles clean off it. “Lifting too many weights,” shrugged the backroom staff.
All accidental, of course. Still, you wouldn’t be altogether surprised if it turned out that these players didn’t know their own strength.
They put Portlaoise in a vice yesterday and squeezed the fight out of them, finishing the day three points to the good but never once looking like they’d be going back to Dublin’s northside without the pot.
“One of the most physical games I’ve played,” puffed James McCarthy afterwards.
“There was hitting going in there like I’ve only experienced a few times. I’m knackered. But delighted to get over the line.”
In the Dublin colours McCarthy is a galloping wing-back but for Ballymun he covers the ground with the number eight on his back.
For strength and stamina, the combination around the middle third of him, captain Davy Byrne, wing-back Alan Hubbard and wing-forward Jason Whelan takes some matching and Portlaoise just weren’t able to keep pace once this game settled down.
Despite the sides being level at a point apiece on 15 minutes, Ballymun went in at half-time 0-6 to 0-2 ahead. The difference between the sides in that second quarter was pretty straightforward – a surfeit of possession in midfield, an inside forward who was giving his marker a chasing and drawing frees in Ted Furman and a freetaker who didn’t miss in Dean Rock. Rock kicked five frees in 15 minutes, during which time Portlaoise didn’t trouble the scoreboard. It was the winning of the game.
In all honesty, they’d have been value for a bigger lead at the break and should have stuck a fork in it directly upon the restart but they let a couple of goal chances go spare. On both occasions, Portlaoise goalkeeper Michael Nolan kept his side in the game with smothering saves – the first from Rock and the second from McCarthy.
It meant that for all the Dublin side’s dominance, they weren’t quite able to cut the cord. They turned the four-point lead into five at the start of the second half but Portlaoise tugged them back with the next score, a fine Brian Glynn point.
The Laois champions had come out reconstituted for the second half.
They overhauled their midfield, taking off Adrian Kelly and moving Tipp midfielder Hugh Coghlan to centre-back. In their stead went centre-back Kieran Lillis and wing-forward Glynn. It stopped the bleeding to begin with and then even got some blood flowing in the other direction. They laced together a necklace of points of their own, three in succession to leave the scoreline at 0-9 to 0-6 with 14 minutes to go. If Ballymun were ever going to wobble, it was now.
“We just needed to get our hands on the ball around the middle of the field,” said Paul Curran of that period, the closest the game came to being a real contest.
“We were losing the breaks and they came at us. But we’d expect that from Portlaoise. They kicked three or four wides at crucial times that might have brought the margin down to two or even one. But they were difficult chances, from far out.
“I never felt we’d lose it I have to say. Because I know the quality that we have. We just needed to get on the ball and we got on enough ball in the end to close it out.”
They came through thanks to a defence that constantly pushed Portlaoise wide and only conceded three scoreable frees all day and haven’t seen a green flag raised against them in Leinster. They also owed thanks to a forward line that registered just a single wide throughout – and that a stray pass from McCarthy that could never have been construed as a kick at the posts.
Discipline and organisation at the back, strength and power in the middle, no silly shooting in attack. It’s a potent combination at any level. In club competition, it’s irresistible and it has turned them into worthy champions.
Now. Anyone got the number of a trophy repair man?