On a wet and mucky day in late November, it’s all about progression and the Dublin champions achieved that crucial bottom line with a victory for substance over style.
The stats alone tell the story at Newbridge’s St Conleth’s Park; 23 wides between the two teams, just seven points from open play and a litany of frees and handling errors.
The game’s decisive score was the 47th minute goal by Ballymun corner-forward Ted Furman. The destroyer of Mullingar Shamrocks in the quarter-final, he’d been well held by Conor Duffy until he finally escaped with a breaking ball in his grasp and slid it low past the goalkeeper and a despairing defender.
Ballymun were leading by a single point, 0-5 to 0-4, beforehand and in a low scoring game the four point advantage ultimately decided the contest.
Had Sarsfields not kicked so many terrible wides yesterday, 15 in total, it could be John Crofton’s side looking forward to the decider.
Still, in full-forward Dean Rock, Ballymun had a player who married industry with style, booting over some sublime points and getting through a ton of work. County defender Philly McMahon was impressive too and did a good man-marking job on Kildare forward Alan Smith until the forward’s unfortunate exit with a knee injury.
Admittedly, Smith kicked all of Sarsfields’ scores from play. But consider that his tally amounted to just 0-2 and you get a good reflection of both McMahon’s tidy defending and Sars’ general ineptitude in attack.
As their manager John Crofton said afterwards, in previous games they’d lived off scraps and put up big scores. Yesterday, they had lots of possession but did very little with it. Wing-forward Declan McKenna kicked five of their wides while captain and former Kildare player Padraig Brennan was held scoreless and hauled off, much to his apparent dismay.
Crofton described Ballymun as physically more powerful and noted how they’re ‘two years in the making’, describing his team as only 11 months down that same development road.
“We are happy to be in a final but we know we have to improve now [because] we are playing Portlaoise who have come out of Laois six times in-a-row,” said Ballymun boss Paul Curran.
“And I know they weren’t too happy the last couple of years (in Leinster) because they had eyes on bigger prizes. They are a big step up for us.”
Sars kicked nine wides in the first-half but some were only half chances and the worst of their wastage really came in the second-half. So Ballymun were pretty good value for their 0-5 to 0-2 half-time advantage thanks, in part, to two fine points from Rock.
Dublin’s All-Ireland medallist James McCarthy, playing at midfield, opened the scoring for Kickhams while Karl Connolly and Kevin Leahy were also on the mark.
Sarsfields, at home in Newbridge for the second game running after beating St Pat’s of Louth, dominated the first 20 minutes of the second half.
But they will rue their profligacy in front of goal in this period and only managed three points from converted frees in the entire second-half.
Ballymun weren’t much better at times, going 21 minutes without a score until Furman’s 47th minute goal. It wasn’t surprising that Curran hauled off four of his six starting forwards.
Still, when Ballymun finally got going late on they looked a stylish outfit. Rock converted a tricky 45 and then curled over a beautiful free from a tight angle beneath the main stand. And Davy Byrne’s point deep into injury-time that closed out the scoring was a fine effort from distance.
Scorers for Ballymun Kickhams: D Rock (2f, 1 45) 0-4; T Furman 1-0; J McCarthy, K Connolly, K Leahy & Davy Byrne 0-1 each.
Scorers for Sarsfields: A Smith & R Cahill (2f) 0-2 each; P Brennan (1f) 0-1.
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.
Subs: Derek Byrne for Forde h/t, A O’Brien for Derek Byrne (48), S George for Reilly (50), J Small for Leahy (57), F Andrews for Furman (61).
SARSFIELDS: P O’Sullivan; S Hurley, S Campbell, C Duffy; D McDonnell, N O’Callaghan, C Tiernan; M Byrne, G White; C McDonnell, R Cahill, D McKenna; P Brennan, A Smith, R Confrey.
Subs: C Walsh for Smith (40), D Nea for Brennan (50).
Referee: E Kinsella (Laois).