That such an established club should experience such a famine reflects the misfortune that has accompanied their championship campaigns, especially in recent times when they have been beaten at the last-four stage in three of the past four years. However, there have been signs during their unbeaten league campaign that Ballymun have addressed some of the defensive issues that undermined their challenges in the past and Dublin senior Philly McMahon has excelled in a full-back role previously held by club legends Gerry Hargan, Dermot Deasy and Paddy Christie.
It is in the half-back line that Kickhams have proved most dominant and the collective contribution of Alan Hubbard, Karl Connolly and James Burke was pivotal in their facile 1-16 to 1-7 win over St Jude’s on Sunday.
Hubbard’s attacking forays have been curbed somewhat this year but he remains a vital cog in Ballymun’s set-up and his anticipated battle with Adrian Morrissey could have a huge bearing on the outcome.
Morrissey was a revelation in Kilmacud’s comeback win over St Brigid’s eight days ago, kicking four points from play while 19-year-old Paul Mannion has blossomed as the campaign has evolved.
A former schoolboy soccer international, Mannion was a key figure in Dublin’s run to the All-Ireland MFC final in 2011 and has assumed the role of attacking talisman with Brian Kavanagh, kicking six points in the semi-final in addition to the crucial goal in their narrow last-eight win over St Sylvester’s.
That Crokes were required to make up such ground in the semi-final was down to an uncharacteristically shabby defensive display and Ballymun will hope that the likes of Ted Furman, Dean Rock and Kevin Leahy will exert a more concerted pressure on what is widely acknowledged as the most accomplished back six in the country. Rory O’Carroll, brother Ross, Cian O’Sullivan and Kevin Nolan are unlikely to repeat such a showing this evening and Kickhams will need to take full advantage of the limited opportunities expected to come their way.
Kilmacud were installed as the bookies’ favourites before a ball was kicked in anger and the momentum generated by last Sunday’s second-half display could be enough to make the difference.