Rock knows better than most what Kickhams have to beat
GAELIC GAMES:Now seems as good a time as any to touch base with Barney Rock. Dublin’s marquee forward throughout the 1980s has knowledge of the opposition his beloved Ballymun Kickhams must overcome on Sunday to reach the Leinster club football final.
Rock guided Celbridge to their only Kildare championship title in 2008, beating current champions Sarsfields in the decider.
“I would know a little about them as I was down with Celbridge,” said Rock. “They have only been beaten once this year. They’ve won the league, the championship and the cup down there so there are similarities in form to Ballymun, except they have been even more successful.”
The Kildare club have inter-county talents, like Gary White and Alan Smith. So do Kickhams, albeit they have more defensive Dublin regulars in Philly McMahon and James McCarthy.
However, it is the coming generation of Ballymun forwards who have proved so effective this season. Barney’s son Dean looks poised to break into Jim Gavin’s Dublin set-up and he is joined in a stellar attacking line by Jason White, Ted Furman and Shane Forde near the square.
“There were four of them that actually came along altogether all the way up; Dean, Ted Furman, Jason Whelan and James McCarthy.”
Rock remembers them as part of an excellent underage side and even though not victorious as minors they contributed to two under-21 titles.
“Then there were five or six of the current senior team off the same under-21s team. A lot of the lads would’ve played on that under-21 team when they were 16 or 17 just to make up the numbers, because we wouldn’t have had the numbers.
“But the core of the current team – Philly McMahon, Enda Dolan, Elliot Reilly, Alan Hubbard – were all there. They came in two bunches, really. Philly is still only 25 and Dean’s group is only 22, so it is a young team.”
They are a young team that finally lost a serious game of football last week when St Sylvester’s beat them in the Dublin League Division One semi-final. Granted, neither Furman nor Whelan were considered fit enough to start, but after a near flawless league and championship run this was a dip in standards.
“They will be disappointed about being beaten by Sylvester’s, even though they had four fellas unavailable to them,” Rock continued.
Reilly and Eoin Dolan also missed out, while former Laois and Dublin under-21 player Seán George is due to return on Sunday.
“Still, it was a setback for them. They went 14 matches unbeaten up until the championship final. They were beaten the following week with just two players from the Kilmacud match starting and they were already in the semi-final.”
Still it was a defeat.
“It would have been nice to win the league but the disappointment will be pushed aside quite easily if they get into a Leinster final.”
And does Barney, having seen these men grow from infancy to Dublin champions, believe they can emulate the likes of Kilmacud Crokes, St Vincent’s and St Brigid’s this century by adding the provincial crown at the first attempt?
“I think Kickhams have it in them. They are playing with confidence and have had no one injured up until last weekend against Sylvester’s.
“Their minds are off the league campaign now so everything goes towards getting to a Leinster final. I think they can do it.”
Sarsfields, the dynasty that is Portlaoise, or Longford’s Emmet Óg, will have something to say about that.