Ballymun Kickhams 0-11 Portlaoise 0-08
Joy quickly turned to hysterics in Cusack Park yesterday as Ballymun Kickhams managed to break a handle off the Sean McCabe Cup just a couple of minutes after it came into the possession of captain Davy Byrne.
As the silverware was passed around, the centrepiece came apart much to the amusement of the players. Even the Leinster officials could afford a chuckle.
In time, it’ll be fixed. This being their first ever Leinster title, such matters are trivial. But for Portlaoise it was an afternoon when another provincial title went a begging.
They can have no complaints. Their ambition was lacking when it mattered and their nine wides to Ballymun’s one told a similar story to the one conveyed by the scoreline.
On top for the first quarter of the game, they found themselves one point behind by the end of it and four at the break as the Dublin champions eventually found the feet through a succession of Dean Rock frees.
Indeed, bar Kevin Leahy’s 29th minute score, it was on Rock whom Ballymun depended for their scores and left Portlaoise ruing their indiscipline.
Nine minutes into the second half, Ballymun, so more dynamic in the middle of the field and marvellously calculated at the back, were six points to the good.
Triggered by Cahir Healy, Portlaoise stirred themselves and somehow managed to garner three points without reply.
In a claustrophobic middle, Paul Cahillane and Craig Rogers engineered frees in cul de sacs, which were converted, after Brian McCormack had minutes earlier finished off a tremendous solo effort.
Ballymun restored order in the 55th minute when Jason Whelan struck over a free after the dashing Alan Hubbard had been upended by Eoghan Whelan.
As well as costing Portlaoise a free, the substitute was booked for the transgression, one of nine yellow cards in a tense albeit dour affair.
The forceful Healy, with his second point of the game, put one score between the sides again with three minutes of normal time left.
But the score was hard won and nothing as economic as what they needed for an all-important goal.
Tipperary midfielder Hugh Coghlan, who had been dogged by James McCarthy and Byrne in the first half, was moved into Portlaoise’s full-forward line in the hope of getting the vital score.
But no high ball came his way as his team were forced to combat wave after wave of bodies.
Afterwards, Paul Curran made a point of complimenting his defence, who conceded just four points from play, two more than the total against Sarsfields in their semi-final. An impressive record with bigger fish ahead.
They gave away a third free, which was sent over by Barry Fitzgerald in the last minute of injury time, but just prior to that Rock had added his sixth free of the game.
It turned out to be the slog Ballymun anticipated but they had three goal chances all the same, two from McCarthy who was negated by Michael Nolan on both occasions.
His first opportunity came in the 31st minute when the Portlaoise goalkeeper was equal to McCarthy’s shot although Karl Connolly kicked over the rebound soccer-style.
The ever-running Dublin defender, giving some food for thought with another exciting performance in midfield, was denied again seven minutes into the second half when Nolan reacted rapidly to the threat.
Rock had given Portlaoise the first fright in the ninth minute when he collected a Philly McMahon high ball only for his shot to find Nolan’s knee.
Given the form he had coming into this game, Rock was subdued, a good proportion of that down to Healy’s marking of him.
With more of an impetus needed further outfield and after fisting over his team’s second and last point of the first half to make it 0-6 to 0-2 at the break, Healy was pushed to centre-back in the second-half.
While he proved himself capable of breaking most tackles, the idea of playing through the hands constantly worked in Ballymun’s favour as they routinely had enough time to get defenders into position.
After they got over what seemed like early jitters, this Curran-managed team showed a maturity belying their first foray outside Dublin since 1985.
Afterwards, McCarthy described it as “one of the most physical games I’ve played”.
He added: “It was the hard balls, we pride ourselves on them, getting in there, we always pride ourselves on getting in there and winning the physical exchanges and I think that just got us over the line.”
It’s a perseverance that shouldn’t be underestimated in the new year.
BALLYMUN KICKHAMS: S Currie; Enda Dolan, P McMahon, Eoin Dolan; A Hubbard, K Connolly, J Burke; D Byrne, J McCarthy; E Reilly, K Leahy, J Whelan; T Furman, D Rock, S Forde.
PORTLAOISE: M Nolan; B Mulligan, C Healy, T Fitzgerald; P Cotter, K Lillis, C Rogers; C Boyle, A Kelly; H Coghlan, B Fitzgerald, B Glynn; P Cahillane, B McCormack, B Smith.
Scorers for Ballymun Kickhams: D Rock 0-6 (all frees); J Whelan (one free) 0-2; K Leahy, K Connolly, T Furman 0-1 each.
Subs for Ballymun Kickhams: D Byrne for Forde (39); S George for Reilly (44); A O’Brien for Furman (60); J Small for Leahy (64).
Scorers for Portlaoise: B McCormack, C Healy, B Fitzgerald (two free) 0-2 each; B Glynn, P Cahillane (free) 0-1 each.
Subs for Portlaoise: K Fitzpatrick for Kelly (h-t); B Gaynor for Mulligan (inj, 42); E Whelan for Smith (45); R Maher for Cahillane (60).
Referee: David Gough (Meath).
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